An Army of the James Medal, also known as The Butler Medal, consisting of an unpierced copper medal with no suspender or attached ribbon. The front of the medal contains an engraved wreath of what appears to be holly with a bow at the center and a single five-sided star flanking the lower left and right side of the wreath. Around the outside of the wreath are the words, "DISTINGUISHED FOR SERVICE." At the center of the wreath are the words, "CAMPAIGN BEFORE RICHMOND / 1864."The reverse side of the medal is engraved with a depiction of a group of African American soldiers storming a Confederate occupied military fort. Surrounding the engraving are Latin words within an unfurled banner "FERRO IIS LIBERTAS PERVENIET." Below the engraving are the words, "U.S. COLORED TROOPS."
After the battle of New Market Heights, Gen. Benjamin F. Butler commissioned a medal of honor to be awarded to African American soldiers for bravery. Officially known as Army of the James Medals, these are the only U.S. medals designed specifically for African American troops.
The medal was designed by Anthony C. Paquet, whose name is inscribed on the obverse, and realized in silver by the United States Mint in Philadelphia. The medal consists of a silver medallion suspended from a silver ring fixed to a silver eagle-claw-covered ball and loop, through which a red, white and blue stripped grosgrain ribbon (most likely silk) was treaded, in turn suspended from an oak-leaf-decorated silver pin.
The obverse of the medallion depicts a bastion fort being charged upon by a pair of musket-bearing African-American soldiers. The Latin inscription “FERRO IIS LIBERTAS PERVENIET” (freedom will be theirs by the sword) is in raised letters on a banner around the upper part of the medallion, and “US COLORED TROOPS” is in raised letters below the image. The reverse is decorated with an oak leaf wreath tied with a bow at bottom center, raised lettering reading “DISTINGUISHED FOR COURAGE” around the perimeter, and raised lettering reading “CAMPAIGN FOR RICHMOND 1864” in the middle. “ARMY OF THE JAMES” is inscribed in raised letters on the pin.