Struck at the Philadelphia Mint and mounted by Bigelow & Kennard of Boston, these medals were issued by the Union General Benjamin Butler to members of the African American battalions that fought under his command at The Battle of Chaffin’s Farm and Newmarket Heights on September 29 and 30, 1864.
Selected for bravery
Butler – who read the battlefield reports with great care – was moved to commission this medal, a hybrid of a campaign and a gallantry award, for an estimated 197 selected men.
It comes with a printed card reading: This medal I designed and caused to be struck in memory of the valiant charge of the Colored Troops at New Market Heights and Chaffins Farm on that day…Please accept this as the First and only Medal ever struck to commemorate the bravery of Negro Soldiers by the white man…You know how well deserved.
Offered with an estimate of £8000-12,000 at the auction on September 23, it got away just below expectations at £7000.
That the recipient of this Salisbury Butler medal was unknown counted against it in purely commercial terms. An example sold by Skinner in Marlborough, Massachusetts, in 2017 for $17,000 was identified through the inscription.
It read: I present this medal of my husband to Samuel B. Bancroft Lt. 38th NYCT for his Bravery in the War of 1861 and many Kindnesses to the Widow of his dead comrade Margret Minetar Buffalo, NY 1881.