Union Corps Insignia at Gettysburg

Tom Elmore

2nd Lieutenant
Member of the Year
Jan 16, 2015
The Union Army of the Potomac introduced the concept of distinctive corps insignia in a March 21, 1863 circular. While on the march to Pennsylvania, soldiers of the Second and Third Corps often referred to their respective corps badges in connection with a playing card suit, namely the trefoil and diamond. If men of the Second Corps passed an encampment of another corps on the road, they would invariably shout “clubs are trumps” as a friendly taunt.

Some other mentions:

Christ (Lutheran) Church, the college church, which had been occupied since the first day’s battle by First Corps, Second Division [was] designated by the white lozenge on a red flag. (Hospital Scenes After the Battle of Gettysburg July 1863, by Patriot Daughters of Lancaster, 1864.)

The Spheres, Cross, Maltese Cross, Diamonds, Trefoils and above all the Crescents, were the most numerously represented [among Union prisoners behind Confederate lines]. (From Ball’s Bluff to Gettysburg … and Beyond: The Civil War Letters of Private Roland E. Bowen, 15th Massachusetts, ed. by Gregory A. Coco, Gettysburg: Thomas Publications, 1994)

Yesterday [July 1] we drew our corps badge; I will send you one home for a sample. [Willard’s brigade joined the Second Corps on June 26.] (Letters of Corporal Manley Stacey, Company D, 111th New York)

On April 20 our corps badges were issued to us … we wore a red star … second division a white star, and third division a blue star. Much pride and enthusiasm were awakened by these corps badges. … [They were] eventually placed on wagons, ambulances, hospital tents, markers, headquarters flags, etc. (Twenty-Seventh Indiana Volunteer Infantry in the War of the Rebellion, by Edmund Randolph Brown, pp. 302-303)

June 24, there [are] signs of another hard battle and I suppose the Twelfth Corps will have a ticket to go in, as it is the star corps. We all wear a star on our caps. The Eleventh Corps wear a half-moon. Some wear a square. [It seems Engle mistook the diamond of the Third Corps for a square.] (Civil War Letters of Charles Engle, Company B, 137th New York)