BEAUTIFUL JEWELER-MADE SILVER AND BLUE ENAMEL FIRST RHODE ISLAND DETACHED MILITIA BADGE

$1,500.00

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Item Code: 286-1088

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This silver badge is intricately engraved with a double border and bears the Rhode Island state seal at top: a blue enamel anchor underneath the motto “HOPE,” also in blue enamel, on a banderole, alluding to the biblical quotation from Hebrews referring to hope as the anchor of the soul, along with flourishes at the sides and bottom. In reference to the importance of the ocean to the state, the engraver has added water, waves and a sailing ship at right, as well as two seagulls at left. The waves and water fill the upper angle of a crossed rifle and cannon barrel, both filled with blue enamel, under which the blue enamel letters, “F.R.I.D.M.” are carried on a banderole. Five-pointed leafy stars appear at the upper corners and midway at left and right.

In the wake of Fort Sumter and in response to the President’s call for 75,000 militia for three-month’s service, Rhode Island formed a composite regiment using various independent militia companies that were “detached” from the state militia to serve the U.S. government. These mustered into service starting on April 17 and the first elements left for Washington April 20. The unit eventually comprised ten companies along with a battery of artillery, and a company of “carbineers” added in June for skirmishing duties. A regimental history notes that plans for two balloonists among the men to provide aerial reconnaissance were frustrated by accidents to their balloons.

At Washington the regiment camped at Camp Sprague, named after the Governor, who accompanied them. They took part in an expedition toward Harpers Ferry in June and on July 16 moved toward Manassas with McDowell’s army as part of a brigade commanded by their Colonel, Burnside, and under the immediate command of Major J.P. Balch. They were accompanied by Governor Sprague, acting as a volunteer, who had his horse shot out from under him in the fighting, which cost the regiment 17 officers and men killed or mortally wounded. They returned to Rhode Island to be mustered out soon after, but scores of officers and men re-enlisted in other units and saw service throughout the war with their initial service as first responders not only saving the Union, but giving them valuable experience for their subsequent service.

The badge is in excellent condition with better than 95 percent of the blue enamel in place and with good color, showing just some microscopic chips on the rifle butt and the unit abbreviation. The use of a cannon and rifle is a nice reference to the infantry and artillery contingents. The engraving and enameling are high quality and the badge still retains its T-bar pin on the reverse. We know of two examples preserved on blue ribbons with a silver top bar with floral elements and blue enameled lettering “BULL RUN / JULY 21st 1861.” We do not know the date of manufacture or distribution to the veterans, but Jewelers Potter & Buffington are potential makers, if only because Potter seems to have been a member of the unit. This is one of most beautiful veteran badges we have seen.   [sr] [ph:L]

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