BEAUTIFUL GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC GOLD PRESENTATION BADGE OF JOHN BAYLIS, Jr., 15th PA CAVALRY, PAST POST COMMANDER

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This beautiful, gold G.A.R. badge is about 4 ¼ inches long and is a special presentation variant of a past officer’s badge, which would use the rank bar of the officer’s former rank as a central ribbon clasp. In this case, Pennsylvania G.A.R. Post 8, the Edward Baker Post in Philadelphia, presented this gold and enamel badge to their “Past Post Commander,” John Baylis, Jr., with an inscription on reverse of the planchet reading: “Presented to / -> P.P.C. <-/ JOHN BAYLIS / BY/ E.D. BAKER POST. No. 8 DEPT OF PA/ G.A.R. / Jan. 2, 1924”.

The upper bar of the badge has a blue enamel central panel with the date 1923 in gold, presumably the year he held the office. The central bar, with a miniature colonel’s shoulder strap is the insignia of a Post Commander. The planchet is in the form of a G.A.R. badge, but with the post name and number in gold on a blue enamel band. The badge has been further personalized with the acorn badge of the 14th Army Corps, rendered in gold and red, hanging from the officer’s rank badge. Baylis had served in the 15th Pennsylvania Cavalry, whose first assignment was in the reserve cavalry brigade of the 14th Corps in the Army of the Cumberland.

Similarly, the top bar has been personalized with an oval disk bearing a delicate rendering of  the 15th PA Cavalry veteran’s insignia: a cavalry saddle and arms with the letters P.V.C. for Pennsylvania Volunteer cavalry on a red background. From this hangs an open work monogram of Baylis’s initials “J.B.” Good intentions often go astray, however, and there was an error on the jeweler’s part, for those two elements are mounted upside down, the monogram either having been meant to suspend the regimental badge or the suspension loops being incorrectly placed. It was likely an error produced by supplying separate drawings of the constituent parts to the craftsman.

John Baylis, Jr., enlisted on 8/9/62 at Philadelphia and mustered in as a private on 8/22/62 in Co. B of the 15th PA Cavalry. The regiment was recruited from the state at large starting in late August 1862, with members carefully selected to be an elite organization for escort and headquarters duty. It saw action even before being fully organized, with some 250 men taking part in the Antietam campaign. Once fully organized, the regiment was sent in early November 1862 to Louisville, KY, to be mounted and sent to Nashville, where it was assigned to Stanley’s cavalry division on the eve of the Stones River Campaign in December, in which they lost 5 killed, 6 wounded and a number captured. Baylis was discharged for disability on 1/16/63 and returned home, but enlisted again in Pennsylvania’s emergency troops, serving from 7/2/63 to 9/16/63 in Hummell’s Company, Pennsylvania Independent Cavalry.

Baylis married in 1864. In 1900 we find him listed as a merchant in Philadelphia, his household consisting of his wife, their daughter, and her children. He must have had some social prominence to be in the 15th PA Cavalry and to have been a Post Commander, especially one worthy of this badge. His wife died in 1916 and is buried in West Laurel Hill cemetery in Bala Cynwyd, PA, but we have as yet found no death date or burial listing for him. The E.D. Baker Post was named after Lincoln’s friend and politician Edward Baker, commander of the 71st Pennsylvania, who was killed leading troops at Balls Bluff in October 1861.    [SR]

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