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U.S. COLORED TROOPS MEDAL, 1864


[photo, U.S. Colored Troops medal, 1864] The image depicts one of approximately 200 medals commissioned by General Benjamin F. Butler for the United States Colored Troops during the Civil War after the battles for Fort Harrison and Fort Gilmer of 1864. Such medals never were officially sanctioned by the federal government, and were perhaps the only medals ever designed and awarded specifically to African-American soldiers. Butler, Commander of the James, ordered a medal to be made to award to his men for executing heroic acts. He remarked, "I had a medal struck, in solid silver, of like size, weight, quality, fabrication and intrinsic value with those Queen Victoria gave with her own hands to the distinguished soldiers of the Crimea." The medals were designed by Anthony C. Paquet and manufactured in silver by Tiffany in New York. The medals were not popular with the majority of the regular army or in political circles, at large. In fact, President Lincoln actually contacted Butler directly, to cease their creation, and following Butler's removal from command, U.S. Colored Troops were "forbidden to display (the medals) on their uniforms."

U.S. Colored Troops medal, 1864, Agnes Kane Callum Collection, Maryland State Archives (MSA SC 1090).


Photographs of the medal are part of the Agnes Kane Callum Collection at the Maryland State Archives (MSA SC 1090). The medal was in the possession of an acquaintance of Ms. Callum's whose ancestor, a Gilbert Harris, SGT, USCT, 2nd Cavalry, Company F, had been awarded it. The Latin verse reads: "Ferro Iis Libertas Perveniet". It may be translated perhaps as, "Liberty came to them by the sword."

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