The Mexican War (1844-1848) – History of Military Medals and Awards

During the time of the Mexican War and thereafter, the Federal Government still showed a great reluctance to strike medals for soldiers and sailors. However, various states showed no such resistance. For example, the state of South Carolina struck 1000 silver medals for members of the Volunteer Palmetto Regiment who served in the Mexican War. Each large silver medal was engraved with the name of the soldier and individually presented. Some cities such as Charleston, South Carolina also commissioned medals specifically for their local company. It is interesting to note that the South Carolina medals were designed for table top display but veterans immediately took to wearing them as watch fobs or hanging them from their coat lapel on patriotic occasions. After the war Regular Army officers who served in the Mexican War formed the Aztec Club of 1847 and struck a distinctive medal for their members which later was authorized by Congress to wear on their uniform. This tradition of forming military societies with special medals continued throughout the China Relief campaign and the Philippine Insurrection. Congress later approved these medals for wear on the uniform.

The Certificate of Merit was established by the Army in 1847 to reward soldiers who distinguished themselves in battle, but this was not translated into a medal until 1905. Although the United States was growing a professional army and navy, the Congress showed no desire to award the military medals. The wearing of military medals was still associated with European royalty and was, therefore, generally unpopular with elected officials. However, in the great American tradition of not waiting for Congressional action, local authorities often struck medals to honor the service of their particular volunteer units. And as a final note, regular army officers formed their own association and designed their own medal to wear.

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