Insignia Why did the Confederacy not issue many medals?

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

major bill

Colonel
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 25, 2012
Messages
16,271
In October of 1862 the Confederate Congress authorized President Davis to "bestow medals with proper devices upon". It appears the Davis was reluctant to do so. Davis was said to issue The Davis Guards of the 1st Texas Heavy Artillery 42 medals for distinguished service. So in President Davis' mind no other Confederate unit deserved a distinguished service medal?
 

Polloco

Sergeant Major
Joined
Sep 15, 2018
Messages
2,255
Location
South Texas
I've always heard it was the medals themselves. The metal to make medals just wasn't available. Scarcity of the metals/medals prevented their being handed out. Skilled craftsman who knew how to make medals were either drafted into the army or busy making useful items that really were needed. That and it was a "European" thing.
 

Waterloo50

Major
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Jul 7, 2015
Messages
4,854
Location
Blighty.
I've always heard it was the medals themselves. The metal to make medals just wasn't available. Scarcity of the metals/medals prevented their being handed out. Skilled craftsman who knew how to make medals were either drafted into the army or busy making useful items that really were needed. That and it was a "European" thing.
I guess the confederate roll of honor was used instead of medals. One of the articles that I was reading on this very subject said that the confederacy used the soldiers vote to identify those whom should be named on the the roll of honor. The soldiers vote strikes me as a very honest way of acknowledging brave deeds, it’s a far better method than having to depend on an officer to make the choice. I wonder if there is any truth that Robert E Lee disliked the handing out of medals, he apparently believed that medals issued during wartime would be awarded inequitably.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Frederick14Va

Sergeant Major
Joined
Oct 14, 2013
Messages
1,756
Location
Virginia
Service related awards and medals simply wasnt a common habit like they are today. During that era it was in many European countries, but not so much here. The initial results of the act in 1862 didnt gain much ground. Gen Lee himself was stated to be opposed to such during wartime, due to likelyhood it could be besowed inequally. The Confederate Govt did later followed up in 1863 with what they called the "Roll of Honor". This providing recognition for those that displayed courage and good conduct in battle. Nominee's were to be recommended by their officers and the soldiers themselves voted upon those worthy, and the list published.
 

Waterloo50

Major
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Jul 7, 2015
Messages
4,854
Location
Blighty.
One thought I had was to compare how many the Union handed out. That could help understand if handing out medals was just not done in the day or was it because metal was scarce in the Confederate states.
Apparently there was a shortage of metal and those who could work with metal had their skills put to better use.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Coonewah Creek

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 1, 2018
Messages
1,263
Location
Northern Alabama
With respect to the Roll of Honor, they were voted upon by the enlisted men for one man from each company in the regiment to receive the honor after a significant battle. Unfortunately, not all regiments apparently responded to voting for their members to be placed on the ROH. Apparently Col. Stone must have been insistent his men always conduct the vote. The 2nd Mississippi has more men (141) with more listings named to the ROH than any other regiment in the Confederate armies (153) [Some men were named more than once...Private Samuel G. Neely of Company A took the record. He enlisted at age 19. He was named to the ROH five times, finally being mortally wounded at the Weldon Railroad on August 19, 1864, dying on August 21st] I am fairly confident they conducted the vote for every engagement they were eligible for.
 

James N.

Lt. Colonel
Forum Host
Civil War Photo Contest
Annual Winner
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Feb 23, 2013
Messages
12,122
Location
East Texas
In October of 1862 the Confederate Congress authorized President Davis to "bestow medals with proper devices upon". It appears the Davis was reluctant to do so. Davis was said to issue The Davis Guards of the 1st Texas Heavy Artillery 42 medals for distinguished service. So in President Davis' mind no other Confederate unit deserved a distinguished service medal?
The medals for the Davis Guards were made from smoothed-down Mexican silver dollars and no doubt made locally in Texas; I seriously doubt the President had anything to do with their issue.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

James N.

Lt. Colonel
Forum Host
Civil War Photo Contest
Annual Winner
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Feb 23, 2013
Messages
12,122
Location
East Texas
One thought I had was to compare how many the Union handed out. That could help understand if handing out medals was just not done in the day or was it because metal was scarce in the Confederate states.
As @Frederick14Va has indicated, there was a deliberate avoidance of anything suggesting royalty and nobility among most republican Americans (not talking about members of the eponymous then-new political party!) who instead stressed their plebian origins and resistance to the British Crown during the Revolution. True, there had been stirrings of interest in medals and heraldry following the Revolution among veteran officers who formed the Society of the Cincinatti - for whom the town was named - and also during the War with Mexico and the creation of the so-called Aztec Club with its associated medals; however, these were both relatively small veteran's associations and had not really caught on with the general public. Real interest in medals was instituted in early 1862 by President Lincoln and War Secretary Stanton as a means to promote the already-flagging interest in prosecuting the war.
 

Carronade

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 4, 2011
Messages
4,712
Location
Pennsylvania
One thought I had was to compare how many the Union handed out. That could help understand if handing out medals was just not done in the day or was it because metal was scarce in the Confederate states.
When the United States first created the Medal of Honor, there were no clear criteria for awarding it, and they were given rather indiscriminately. Most notably, one entire regiment was promised MoHs just for reenlisting, receiving over 800. In the early 1900s a review was conducted and many of the early MoHs were rescinded.

On the Confederate side, I can see why they didn't consider production of physical medals a priority, and preferred to give recognition through the Roll of Honor. Does the actual wartime Roll of Honor still exist?
 

James N.

Lt. Colonel
Forum Host
Civil War Photo Contest
Annual Winner
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Feb 23, 2013
Messages
12,122
Location
East Texas
When the United States first created the Medal of Honor, there were no clear criteria for awarding it, and they were given rather indiscriminately. Most notably, one entire regiment was promised MoHs just for reenlisting, receiving over 800. In the early 1900s a review was conducted and many of the early MoHs were rescinded...
Actually, members of the 27th Maine were issued the medals not to reenlist, but for merely postponing their imminent discharges until the Gettysburg crisis was over - and they were nowhere near the battlefield! About half of them agreed, but records were inadequately kept and the government simply issued the medals indiscriminately to ALL who had been members of the unit at the time. The full story was told interestingly in A Shower of Stars by John Pullen, famous as the author of the classic The Twentieth Maine.
 
Last edited:
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Waterloo50

Major
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Jul 7, 2015
Messages
4,854
Location
Blighty.
Does the actual wartime Roll of Honor still exist?
Here’s some of it...
The following acts of Congress, having been approved by the President, are published for the information of the army:

* * * * * * * * * *

No. 27.--AN ACT to authorize the grant of medals and badges of distinction as a reward for courage and good conduct on the field of battle.

The Congress of the Confederate States of America do enact, That the President be, and he is hereby, authorized to bestow medals, with proper devices, upon such officers of the armies of the Confederate States as shall be conspicuous for courage and good conduct on the field of battle, and also to confer a badge of distinction upon one private or non-commissioned officer of each company after every signal victory it shall have assisted to achieve. The non-commissioned officers and privates of the company who may be present on the first dress-parade thereafter, may choose, by a majority of their votes, the soldier best entitled to receive such distinction, whose name shall be communicated to the President by commanding officers of the company; and if the award fall upon a deceased soldier, the badge thus awarded him shall be delivered to his widow, or, if there be no widow, to any relative the President may adjudge entitled to receive it.

Approved October 13, 1862.
 

Coonewah Creek

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 1, 2018
Messages
1,263
Location
Northern Alabama

Polloco

Sergeant Major
Joined
Sep 15, 2018
Messages
2,255
Location
South Texas
Jefferson Davis supposedly had one of the medals that was awarded to the "Davis Guards"' at Sabine Pass. Any truth to the story of this medal being taken by a yankee soldier after Davis's apprehension? And was it the Confederate dime or half dollar that was also taken? Some sort of coin, the medal was originally a coin also. Somewhere up north these "souvenirs" are possibly collecting dust.
 
Last edited:
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Rusk County Avengers

First Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Apr 8, 2018
Messages
1,743
Location
Coffeeville, TX
Jefferson Davis supposedly had one of the medals that was awarded to the "Davis Guards"' at Sabine Pass. Any truth to the story of this medal being taken by a yankee soldier after Davis's apprehension? And was it the Confederate dime or half dollar that was also taken? Some sort of coin, the medal was originally a coin also. Somewhere up north these "souvenirs" are possibly collecting dust.
Yes there is truth to it. As the unit's namesake he was something of an honorary member, and one medal was sent to Richmond for him, with it taken away when he was captured. He actually searched for years trying to find it, I think at one point he took out a newspaper ad trying to find it and other stolen items. As for the medal he never found it, but in 1876 at Houston he was presented with a replacement that he treasured, though I think he still hunted for the original. I think the little improvised locally made medals appealed to him, especially since there is evidence he would have preferred being in the military than President.

Medals weren't an American institution, and before the War several in the military and government tried to institute some medals, but the efforts were torpedoed with a vengeance by Winfield Scott. He (rightfully so in my view) was adamant that medals smacked of European militarism and had no place in the US Military as ours was supposed to be of citizen soldiers (it was actually mostly German and Irish immigrant enlisted men with American officers before the CW, such was the American tradition of deep distrust of regular standing armies) and not conscripts with officers drawn from nobility. For example the MoH wasn't instituted till after he was gone, and the Purple Heart later as well. It should be no surprise Robert E. Lee felt the same way, and while I rarely find myself agreeing with the philosophy of Robert E. Lee or Winfield Scott, I will have to say I agree a hundred percent with them here. I think there still shouldn't be medals in the US Military, but we are a substantially different country now with a whole new philosophy.
 

Mark F. Jenkins

Colonel
Member of the Year
Joined
Mar 31, 2012
Messages
13,163
Location
Central Ohio
As noted above, it wasn't yet common American custom to give medals. The practice was too close to aristocratic orders of knighthood and such, that the traditional European versions were connected to, and American society (and Congress) was generally hostile toward that... the idea of a medal as just an individual honor to wear on your uniform was just beginning at that point.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

bdtex

Brigadier General
Moderator
Silver Patron
Civil War Photo Contest
Annual Winner
Regtl. Quartermaster Chickamauga 2018 Vicksburg 2019
Joined
Jul 21, 2015
Messages
9,047
Location
Houston,TX area
The medals for the Davis Guards were made from smoothed-down Mexican silver dollars and no doubt made locally in Texas; I seriously doubt the President had anything to do with their issue.
Some ladies in Houston raised the money for them and had them made.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Top