Named Union Army Michigan 5th Corps Commemorative Gold Honor Cross

Another exceptional lot brought to Sunflower Auction during the summer of 2007 was this Union Army Civil War honor cross named to William A. Throop. For context see my remarks preceding my post about the Jeremiah Paul (American, ? – 1820) ‘Washington Leaving His Family’ oil on canvas from last June. 

William A. Throop joined the 1st Michigan Infantry as a Second Lieutenant and was mustered out on August 1861. Honorably discharged 1865.

Even before army corps cap badges were conceived by General Daniel Butterfield, a Mr. E. Harmon had outlined a similar system to the Secretary of War Simon Cameron in a letter dated August 2, 1861.

Sir: I would respectfully invite your attention to a new method of distinguishing the Federal troops from those of the rebels in battle, of which I am the inventor.

It consists in the use of badges of different colors or descriptions any one of which can be selected by the commander previous to any engagement thus preventing the knowledge by the enemy of the particular colored badge which shall be worn by our troops so that they cannot be decoyed within the range of the enemy’s batteries as they were in the battle of Bulls run by the display of the Federal flag. In other words the badge will answer the purpose of a countersign addressed to the eye

After General Butterfield made his similar recommendation to General Joseph Hooker in early 1863, Hooker issued his March 21 Circular outlining “identifying cloth badges for ready recognition” for each corps. Each Corps was assigned a specific pattern, with classes designated by color. By the war’s end, 23 of 25 army corps were officially recognized. Congress endorsed the symbolic significance of corps badges in 1866 stating:

All persons who have served as officers, non-commissioned officers, privates, or other enlisted men, in the regular army, volunteer, or militia forces of the United States during the War of the Rebellion, and have been honorably discharged from the service or still remain in the same, shall be entitled to wear, on occasions of ceremony, the distinctive army badge ordered for or adopted by the army corps and divisions respectively in which they served.

Thus, battlefield insignia became a badge of honor and distinction.

Polished cast gold cannon cross, incised edges with inset black enamel-style detail. Applied precious stones in smaller cannon cross form.

Obverse bears engraved battle honors: Occupation of Alexandra, Bull Run, Chancellorsville, Aldie Gap, Gettysburg, Wapping Heights, Brandy Station, Bristoe Station, Rappahanhock Station, New Hope Church, Wilderness, Laurel Hill, Spottsylvania, North Anna, Tolopotomoy, Bethesda Church, Siege of Petersburgh, Weldon RR.

Reverse bears engraved “1st Brigade, 1st Division, 5th Army Corps, Lt. Col. Wm. A. Throop, 1st Mich. Infantry, 2nd Lieutenant, April 19th, 1861, Captain Aug. 17th, 1861, Major August 30th, 1862, Lieutenant Colonel May 18th, 1863, Colonel December 22, 1864, Brev. Col. U.S. Vol August 1st 1864, Brev. Brig. Gen. U.S. Vol. March 13/65”

Red silk ribbon with post-war added red leather reinforcement. Etched ivy on gold pin brooch and bar. Includes Swiss-made red leatherette case with green silk lined lid with gold printed maker “Blondel & Co., Geneva,” purple velvet form fitted interior.

Includes a fantastic original CDV of Lt. Col. Throop, wearing the badge on his chest.

Condition Report: Both excellent, the original ribbon is slightly discolored and mostly detached

Size: Cross 1.9 x 2 in. inclusive of suspension (4.8 x 5.1 cm.), CDV 4 x 2.5 in. (10.2 x 6.4 cm.)

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