On the eve of the Civil War, the Union didn't have a medal for gallantry. The first such medal issued was the Medal of Honor authorised by President Lincoln on December 21, 1861, and authorised by Congress on July 12, 1862. The first recipient of this medal was Corporal Francis Edward Brownell of the 11th New York Fire Zouaves, for his action in gunning down a Virginia tavern keeper James T. Jackson who shortly before had shot the Fire Zouaves' leader Elmer E. Ellsworth dead, after Ellsworth had removed a Confederate flag flying from the roof of the Marshall House tavern in Alexandria.

Brownell's action wasn't exactly a great act of bravery, but in the wave of grief that swept across the


Thomas Francis Meagher, wears an ornamental baldric in this picture. His green frock coat was one of the several dazzling outfits he appeared in throughout the war. David Scheinnman.

Tomas Francis Meagher Artefacts


Union Army Coat

Andrew Scott, a freed save who served in the Union Army.

Peter Newark's Military Pictures.

Andrew Scott, a freed save who served in the Union Army.

Peter Newark's Military Pictures.

North after Ellsworth's demise, it was certainly a smart, politically correct move, to award him with a medal.

The Army Medal of Honor was similar to the Medal of Honor struck for the Navy, except that the Union Army's medal was attached to its ribbon by an American eagle and a crossed cannon. The Navy's had an anchor and a star.

The Medal of Honor hung from a ribbon which had 13 alternating stripes of red and white with a solid blue stripe running across the top and it was attached to a small shield. The medal featured a five pointed bronze star and on the obverse was a female warrior representing the Union, holding back an attacker carrying writhing snakes with her shield.

During the Civil War many other medals were officially proposed. The Sumter Medal, issued by the New York State Chamber of Commerce was given to the men who had defended Union Fort Sumter at the beginning of the war and more than 100 were awarded. The Butler medal for coloured Troops was awarded to black soldiers in the 25th Corps for gallantry displayed in the storming of New Market

The heroic actions of Major Robert Anderson and the men who defended Fort Sumter were the inspiration for the creation of a medal. David Scheinmann.

Heights and at the Battle of Chaffins' Farm in 1864. 200 of these medals were issued and today they are very collectable.

Kearny Medals, named after General Philip Kearny were awarded to officers and men who had served with distinction in the late General's command. The medals had a gold medal cross and an inscription in Latin and more than 300 men received them. The Kearny Cross, another medal named after the popular general, was awarded as a cross of valour by Kearny's successor Brigadier General D. B. Birney. Kearny Crosses supplemented Kearny Medals and it was ruled that soldiers could not receive both medals. The medals, which were cast in bronze, were inscribed Kearny Cross on one side and Birney's Division on the other.


Fire Zouave corporal Francis Brownell was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for gunning his commander's killer down. Here Brownell wears the Fire Zouaves' first style of uniform. Peter Newark's Military Pictures.

Union Zouave UniformsConfederate Zouave Units

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