December 2013 - Captain William Boyce’s Wings and Epaulette
Epaulettes and wings are forms of shoulder decoration that can range from very simple to quite ornate (such as those seen here), and are generally used to designate the soldier’s rank or some other aspect of status. Beginning with regulations established on 2 March 1821, company grade officers (Lieutenants and Captains) were to wear wings with silver or white worsted braids as exemplified by the pair exhibited here. These wings in particular were worn by Captain William Boyce beginning as a lieutenant in the 1820s. Captain Boyce, originally from Maryland, had been a graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point in 1822, and served in the Army until his resignation in 1836. When then-Lieutenant Boyce began serving as aide-de-camp to Major General Macomb in 1828, regulations allowed that he wear a single epaulette on his left shoulder as part of the general staff uniform. The single epaulette seen here is the one he wore in that capacity, which he served in until May 1829. After this he returned to his post in the 1st US Infantry and went back to wearing the wings. He was promoted to Captain in 1835, a year before resigning to join the US Coast and Geodetic Survey.
The pair of wings features a blue wool base with a silver bullion edge formed by two rows of cord. A double row of tassels hangs off the shoulders, and three pairs of silver plated chains are sewn onto the top of the wings. A single raised silver bullion dot sits in the center.
The single epaulette features gold bullion lace with a gold plated button at the neck end. Other decorations include a gold sequin and bullion arch from which hangs a double row of gold tassels. The bottom is padded and covered with yellow silk.
The box on display is the original container used to hold the single gold epaulette. Scripted on the box is the name “Lieutenant Boyce.”