Elaborate Civil War Corps Badges Belonging to Jewish Officer Aaron Lazarus

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Elaborate Civil War Corps Badges Belonging to Jewish Officer Aaron Lazarus
Historical artifacts
3 pages | SMC 1078

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      Military medals and insignia would seem to go back so far in time that, odds are, no sooner had someone first picked up a club, then insignia was invented to designate the club-wielder. American Civil War Corps badges originated, in fact, along those lines: as a means of identification, first, and an expression of pride, later. Major General Philip Kearney ordered Corps badges throughout his Division in May 1862, and the practice was widened when Army of the Potomac Major General Joseph Hooker issued a circular March 1863. Soon the entire army was wearing Corps badges - enlisted men, of cloth, and officers, of metal - on the tops of their kepis, the left sides of their hats, or over their left breasts. The badges featured here belonged to a Jewish officer from Philadelphia, Aaron Lazarus who, historian Simon Wolf recorded in his epic work The American Jew as Patriot, Solider and Citizen, rose through the ranks to Brevet Captain. Outside of that chronicle, all that is known of Lazarus was that he was well regarded by (most of) his comrades. Indeed, one of them wrote, in a letter home, that "Lazarus is a very Independent man, he acts and speaks as he thinks." He noted in this connection, that although Lazarus was a favorite of the 28th's commander, Colonel Thomas Jefferson Ahl, he clashed with the Regiment's Irish-born Captain, John H. Flynn. "He can not get along with Paddy Flynn, does not like him."

      It would seem, however, that Lazarus' dislike of comrades was untypical: after the War, he was devoted to veteran's organizations.

      3 Civil War badges, as follows:

      a) Silver and gold 12th/ 20th Corps badge. The corps badge measures a 2 inches from tip-to-tip and consists of a gold five pointed star with the center cut to reveal an embellished regimental number "28" in a circle. Rays emanate from a band around that circle in which is engraved "LT. AARON LAZARUS. Co. D. 28th P.V." This star is set on a larger silver star with decorative border. On the back of the badge, along the points of the silver star, are engraved the battle honors "Bolivar Heights/ Rappahannock/ Sulphur Spg/ Cedar Mt/ Antietam/ Chancellorsville/ Gettysburg/ Lookout Mt/ Mission Rdg/ Ringgold." The badge is suspended by a bar measuring nearly 1.5" x 0.5" with gold plating and blue enamel simulating a captain's shoulder strap and complete with its original t-bar pin back. It most likely dates from December 1863 or very early 1864 with the current suspension added around the time of the officer's discharge in the summer of 1864.

      b) Lazarus' bronze unit veteran's medal. Measuring about 2.25" x 1.5", the 12th/ 20th Corps "star" emblem bears in relief "28th & 147th" over "P.V." under which is "Knap's Battery," signifying the units that spun-off the original 28th Pennsylvania. It is suspended by chains from a top bar embellished with crossed muskets and cannon.


      c) Badge representing a veterans' organization known as the "Old Guard." The device is an embellished yellow metal Maltese cross in the center of which is a deep blue enamel circle bearing the Old English letters "OG." It is suspended by a red, white, and blue ribbon from a simple brass pin and, like the other insignia, is in excellent condition.


      Replete with d) an original sepia-toned photograph of Lazarus, postwar.

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      Co. D. 28th P. V.

      [engraved verso] 

      Bolivar Heights


      Sulphur Spg

      Cedar Mt




      Lookout Mt

      Mission Rdg


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      Page 2 transcript

      O G 

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      Page 3 transcript

      28TH & 147TH  

      P. V.


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      Page 4 transcript

      Lt. Aaron Lazarus [post war]