Flags, Uniforms & Insignia

    Corps Badges  "Emblems Of Pride"

By mistake, Union Gen. Philip Kearny once reprimanded officers not under his command during a battle. To avoid making that error again, he had all the officers in hid division sew a two-inch square of red cloth on their hats. Shortly after Gen. Joseph Hooker assumed command of the Union Army of the Potomac, he decided to expand on Kearny's idea so that the unit of any soldier could be identified at a glance. The identification would be a great asset on the battlefield, as well as an aid in identifying killed and wounded and stragglers and deserters. Hooker assigned Gen. Daniel Butterfield the task of designing a distinctive shape of badge for each corps. Going a step further, Butterfield made the badge of each division in the corps a different color.

On May 21, 1863, the corps badges were officially authorized in orders; before the war ended, they were a part of the U.S. Army regulations. They allowed instant unit identification, with a white diamond shape, for instance, indicating membership in the 2nd division of the III Corps, or a red circle symbolizing the 1st division of the I Corps.

Soldiers wore the badges on their hats or shirt fronts, and the emblems quickly became popular morale-boosting symbols of unit pride. Many soldiers fashioned ornamental versions of their badges out of bone, flattened bullets, or other materials. Elaborate badges of gold, silver, and enamel could be purchased from Tiffany in New York; others were available in embroidered material. A metal badge could be engraved with the owner's name, unit, and even battle honors, then suspended by means of a metal pin. Often the number of the regiment would be pinned, embossed, or embroidered in the middle of the badge.

The Confederacy never initiated a badge system for identifying their soldiers' units. On several occasions Confederate units attached distinctive strips to their uniforms, but only so that they could distinguish their soldiers from the enemy.

Fascinating Fact:  Regimental badges had sometimes been worn before the Civil War, but there had never been a similar system on the corps level.

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