Army of the James Medal

Butler medal

  • Image for Army of the James Medal
  • Image for Army of the James Medal
  • Image for Army of the James Medal
  • Image for Army of the James Medal
4 images
Created by
United States Mint, American, founded 1792
Commissioned by
Gen. Butler, Benjamin Franklin, American, 1818 - 1893
Designed by
Paquet, Anthony C., German, 1814 - 1882
silver and silk (textile)
H x W: 5 1/2 x 1 5/8 in. (14 x 4.1 cm)
medallions (medals)
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.
African American
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865
Credit Line
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of the Family of Irving and Estelle Liss
Object number
Restrictions & Rights
Public domain
See more items in
National Museum of African American History and Culture Collection
Awards and Medals
Double Victory: The African American Military Experience
On View
NMAAHC (1400 Constitution Ave NW), National Mall Location, Community/Third Floor, 3 053
Data Source
National Museum of African American History and Culture

NOTE: Cataloging is an ongoing process and we may update this record as we conduct additional research and review. If you have more information about this object, please contact us at