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Butler Medal
US Army Butler Medal
Butler Medal, obverse and reverse
Awarded by United States Army
Type Medal
Status Obsolete
US Colored Troops medal - 1865 - Smithsonian Museum of American History - 2012-05-15

U.S. Colored Troops Medal issued by General Benjamin Butler.

The Butler Medal, also known as the Colored Troops Medal, was a military decoration of a unit of the United States Army which were issued in 1865.[1] The medal was commissioned by Major General Benjamin Butler and was intended to recognize meritorious or heroic acts of bravery performed by African American soldiers at the Battle of Chaffin's Farm and New Market Heights.[1] Fourteen African Americans had earned the Medal of Honor in that engagement, but Butler wished to further recognize his African American troops involved in the battle, and he paid for the Butler Medals out of his personal funds.[1]

In May 1865, and later that year, the Butler Medal was presented to nearly two hundred African American Union soldiers. The medal was originally known as the Colored Troops Medal but the name was changed to Butler Medal after the close of the Civil War.

The Butler Medal was solid silver, suspended from a red, white, and blue ribbon meant to worn around the neck. Attached to the ribbon was a wreath reading "Army of the James". The obverse of the medal depicts African American trooops moving forward in battle, below an inscription in Latin which reads, Ferro iis libertas perveniet: "Freedom Will be Theirs by the Sword." [2]

In the modern military, the Butler Medal is considered obsolete. Like the Gillmore Medal, the Kearny Cross and a number of other awards of the conflict, it was a unit-specific Civil War medal. As it was a privately issued award, by army standards it is an unofficial decoration, although one of the oldest issued to members of the service.[3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Price, James S. (2011). The Battle of New Market Heights: freedom will be theirs by the sword. Charleston, SC: The History Press. pp. 86, 87. ISBN 978-1-60949-038-6. 
  2. Virginia Historical Society click on "Men of Color to Arms" to see the medal. Retrieved 2012-09-22
  3. The Butler Medal

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