Make your own free website on Tripod.com

The Kearny Cross.

There were several medals issued or projected during the Civil War, which, while they had not the regular authorization of the government, should still be entitled to mention, and, before proceeding with a description of the government medals, a word regarding these might be in order.

Major General Philip Kearney, commander of the First Division, Third Army Corps, was killed at the battle of Chantilly, September 1, 1862, and, on the 29th of November of that year, a meeting of officers who had served under him was held, at which a resolution was adopted to the effect that a "medal of honor" to be known as the "Kearney Medal" should be provided, to be presented to all officers who had "honorably served in battle under General Kearney in his division," this also applied to such soldiers as should be "promoted to the grade of commissioned officer previous to January 1, 1863."

The medal is of Gold, in the shape of a cross patte, in the centre of which is a circular medallion bearing the word KEARNEY in black enamel, a black line above and below, encircling this; one-eighth of an inch distant is a plain band, enameled black, with the inscription DULCE ET DECORUM EST PRO PATRIA MORI, in gold letters.

The number of the cross and the name and rank of the recipient is engraved on the reverse. The cross is 28 mm. in diameter, it is attached to a narrow gold bar and suspended from a red ribbon. It was made by Ball, Black & Co., jewelers and silversmiths, of New York. Plate I, no. 1.

On the death of General Kearney, Brigadier General David B. Birney succeeded to the command of his division. On the 13th of March, 1863, General Birney issued an order to the effect that a "Cross of Valor" to be known as the "Kearney Cross", would be bestowed upon such non-commissioned officers and privates as had "most distinguished themselves in battle." A subsequent order announced that it was the division decoration and was bestowed in honor of the former commander, General Kearney.

It is a cross patte of bronze, 42 mm. in diameter, bearing the words KEARNEY CROSS, on a ribbon, and, on the reverse, in one line, BIRNEY'S DIVISION; at the bottom, in very small letters, JACOBUS PHILA. It is attached to an oblong open clasp of fasces and suspended by a red ribbon from similar clasp pin. The dies were made by Peter Jacobus, a Philadelphia die-cutter.


The Kearny Cross - Part 2

"THE KEARNEY CROSS" * Captain Harvey May Munsell, The Medal Collector, Orders and Medals Society of America, September - October, 1953

Soon after the great battle of Chancellorsville, on May 27, 1863, General Birney presented a few of his soldiers with the Cross of Honor, called "The Kearney Cross," as follows:

"The Brigadier General Commanding Division announces the following names of merited officers and privates, selected for their gallantry, as recipients of the 'Kearney Cross,' the division decoration. "Many deserving soldiers may have escaped the notice of their commanding officers, but in the selection after the next battle they will doubtless receive this honorable distinction. "This cross is in honor of our old leader (General Kearney), and the wearers of it will always remember his high standard of a true and brave soldier, and will never disgrace it.

"Sergeant Harvey M. Munsell, Company C, 99th Pennsylvania Volunteers" [note - the author has omitted the names of the other recipients. note the name of the recipient and the name of the author - BPT]

"An official copy of this order will be given to each soldier entitled to wear the cross.

D. B. Birney "Brig.-Gen. Vols., Commanding Division."

The following order was also issued: "Headquarters, First Division, Third Corps, "General Orders, 51. May 26, 1863. "The division will be paraded to-morrow for the presentation of the medals at three o'clock P.M. A staff officer from each brigade will report at these headquarters at half-past two o'clock P.M., for instructions as to the ground. Every available man will be turned out, and particular attention will be paid to dress and accoutrements of the troops. The brigade band of First Brigade will be present, and report at two o'clock to Captain Briscoe, Acting-Assistant Adjutant-General. the drum corps of the brigades will be consolidated. "By command of Major General Birney, etc., etc."

The occasion drew together a large assembly of soldiers and civilians, in addition to the regular force of the division and the distinguished officers present by particular invitation.

The First Division, to members of which, only, the medals were awarded, was drawn up in hollow square on a beautiful meadow in the valley of the Potomac Creek. The distinguished officers present occupied the centre of the square.

When Major-General Sickles rode into the square, the whole assemblage of the soldiers broke out in the wildest cheering. An attempt was made at "three times three," but the response was more like nine times nine. It was a continuous roar for several minutes.

As soon as the party were all present, the several brigade commanders were directed to call the Roll of Honor of their several commands, and the parties designated in the above order stepped to the front. They were quickly formed in three ranks, by brigades, the representatives of each regiment carryng the regimental colors, and the brigade colors being placed in front of each rank.

At the request of General Birney, General Sickles made the presentation address. He spoke as follows:

"SOLDIERS: --- Your general of division has confided to me the most pleasing of duties -- the decoration of brave men with Medals of Honor. These medals are the gift of your fellow countrymen; they are such tokens of appreciation as a martial people should bring to the camp of their defenders. You have earned these proud emblems of constancy and valor -- more precious than riches, more honorable than office; -- they are legacies for your kindred, which niether time nor change can impair. You are Volunteers, the noblest type of an army. You have offered your lives for the preservation of a Government --- alone among nations --- of which it has been gracefully said that it's blessings, like the dews of heaven, descend alike upon all. Your power is in your bayonets. Bayonets have dethroned kings, created nations, opened avenues to civilization and religion. The sun which now gilds yours, never lighted holier paths than those you follow in battle. The steel which destroys the enemies of a good cause is consecrated. It is this, and because you know how to use your arms, which makes you invincible. On the day after the attack on Fort Sumter, April 13, 1861, I had the honor to be accepted by my late lamented friend, Colonel Vosburgh, as a volunteer in the ranks of the Seventy-First Regiment of New York Militia. Like yourselves, a citizen soldier, my military services began with the rebellion; and, if spared so long; will end when the rebels are put down. Peace, while the rebellion breathes, is dishonor. Never since Caesar led his legions to conquest; never since Rienzi, last of his tribunes, fell with the last fragments of the Roman Republic; not in the armies of Napoleon, where marshals rose from the ranks; never in any army, has promotion so generally and so surely followed merit as in ours. The genius which challenges victory, even from adverse fortune, will, sooner or later, find it's place at the head of the column. Let your motto be 'EXCELSIOR' -- the emulation of the brave for the commendation of the good. You are the Soldiers of Kearney -- that electric commander, disdaining death, whose sword yielded at last only to the Supreme Conquerer. Those medals bear his honored name and his cherished image. When I add that Birney is his fit successor, and that you are worthy of both, I hope that nothing is left unsaid which the occasion demands. The medals will now be delivered to commanding officers of regiments, who will decorate the men of their commands, named in the order."

* From "With the Colors in War Time", by Captain Harvey May Munsell, from the book "Uncle Sam's Medal of Honor (Some of the Noble Deeds for Which the Medal has been Awarded, Described by those ho Have Won It, 1861 - 1886), Collected and edited by Theo. F. Rodenbough, Brevet Brigadier-General, U.S.A., G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1886


4th Maine Winners of the Kearny Cross.

From the book "Life of David Bell Birney - Major-General, United States Volunteers", Davis; King & Baird, Philadelphia; Sheldon & Co., New York, N.Y., 1867 [reprinted by Ron R. Sickle Military Books, Gaithersburg, Maryland, 1987], Pages 387-388.

Recipients of the "Kearney Cross", from the Fourth Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment

Company "A"

Private James Gall Private Horace Speed

Company "B"

Sergeant Henry O. Kipley [1863 Maine Adjutant General's Report shows this man's name as "Ripley" - BPT] Private Robert Grant

Company "C"

Corporal George G. Gardiner Corporal Warren W. Austin

Company "D"

Sergeant James McLaughlin Corporal Henry O. Davis Private Henry Marshall

Company "E"

Corporal William Barstron [ 1863 Maine Adjutant General's Report shows this man's name as "Barstow" - BPT] Corporal Nathaniel Waters Corporal F. K. Chapman [ 1863 Maine Adjutant General's Report shows this man's first name as "Francis" - BPT]

Company "F"

Sergeant A. H. Rose [ 1863 Maine Adjutant General's Report shows this man's first name as "Albert" - BPT] Sergeant Henry Leach Sergeant F. O. J. S. Hill [ 1863 Maine Adjutant General's Report shows this man's first name as "Francis" - BPT]

Company "G"

Private Bradford Blime [ 1863 Maine Adjutant General's Report shows this man's name as "Blinn" - BPT] Private Daniel O. Howard

Company "H"

Private Horace Tellison [ 1863 Maine Adjutant General's Report shows this man's name as "Jellison" - BPT] Corporal George P. Wood

Company "I"

Corporal C. W. Gray [ 1863 Maine Adjutant General's Report shows this man's first name as "Christopher" - BPT] Private John Donaghue [ 1863 Maine Adjutant General's Report shows this man's name as "Donahue" - BPT] Private Juan Millano

Company "K"

Sergeant John A. Toothacher Private Robert Whitehead Private P. J. Carter [ 1863 Maine Adjutant General's Report shows this man's first name as "Preston" - BPT]