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Curator's Corner
October 28, 2011

General Samuel Curtis Uniform Coat and Epaulettes

October 28, 2011

Samuel Ryan Curtis was born on a farm in Clinton County, New York in 1805. While he did graduate from West Point in 1831 he left the military soon after and went on to pursue a broad range of careers, including lawyer, civil engineer and Congressman for Iowa.  As a supporter of the American Central Railroad he also went on to work on the Pacific Railroad including introducing the legislation that would become the Pacific Railway Act signed into law by President Lincoln on July 2, 1862. He is however most well known for his military career.    Samuel Curtis fought in both the Mexican War and the Civil War.  He was the Union General in charge of the victory at the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, the capture of Helena, and repelling General Price’s 1864 invasion of Missouri and Kansas. 


After the Civil War General Curtis went on to promote the Transcontinental Railroad and was hired as a government consultant concerning track construction by the Union Pacific Railroad.  He died on December 26, 1866 shortly after inspecting Union Pacific Railroad track near Council Bluffs, Iowa.


The Union Pacific Railroad Museum’s collection has several items of Samuel Curtis’s; including some from his military career.  The Uniform coat pictured here, is an Officers Dress Tail Coat and was worn by Curtis when he served as a Colonel of the Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry during the Mexican War. 


The Epaulettes were also owned by Curtis and the single star indicates that he was a Brigadier General when he wore them.  It is therefore most likely that he wore them during the Battle at Pea Ridge, Arkansas, in 1862.  The 150th Anniversary of the battle is in March of 2012 and both of Curtis’s epaulettes and a sash from the Union Pacific Collection will be on temporary loan to the Pea Ridge National Monument for almost a year.

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