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."
Depicted at the center of a circular brass plate is a spread eagle bearing
three arrows in his proper right claw and an olive branch in his proper left claw. A pair of raised circles decorates the edge. A pair of eyehooks on the reverse indicates that the plate was attached to a leather cartridge box belt. Two holes would have been punched in the belt and a leather tie was threaded through the eyehooks to secure the plate. In 1862, the U.S. government contracted for the purchase of cartridge box belt plates at a cost of $.06 per item.
The eagle plate, often referred to as a Dingee eagle plate for its first manufacturer, became part of military equipment for enlisted men and non-commissioned officers beginning in 1833. At first it was made in white metal but yellow metal was designated for use in 1839. In 1865, soldiers were ordered to remove the plates in the field, since they provided targets for enemy fire, but they continued to be worn on dress uniforms until 1873. The eagle plate was worn on the strap at the center front, as can seen in the ambrotype just described, although the eagle decoration is obscured by the musket in the ambrotype.