Thursday, January 24, 2013

Artifact Spotlight: Aztec Club Medal, c. 1880

Reverse of Medal
(ribbon was secured backwards)
The Aztec Club was founded on October 13, 1847 by the officers of the United States Army fighting in the U.S.-Mexican War (1846-1848). The purpose of the club was to remember the service and traditions of the officers who served in Mexico.  At first, membership in the society included only the original 160 members from 1847. After the Civil War, the club, now called "the Aztec Club of 1847,"extended membership to officers in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps who served in Mexico, the descendants of those killed before it was formed, and the descendants of those deceased officers who were eligible for membership while living. 

Members included U.S. Presidents Franklin Pearce and Ulysses S. Grant, and Civil War generals George B. McClellan, Robert E. Lee, and William Tecumseh Sherman. Naval War College founder Rear Admiral Stephen B. Luce became a member in 1894. While planning a display of the insignia of various veterans' organizations, we stumbled on this treasure in the museum collection.

Obverse of Medal
Those admitted were entitled to wear the insignia of the club: a medal in the form of a Maltese cross. The medal's obverse featured an enameled image of an eagle fighting a serpent surrounded by the words "CITY OF MEXICO/ARMY OF OCCUPATION." The reverse side bore an enameled image of an eagle perched above a shield with the words "AZTEC CLUB/U.S. ARMY 1847." The ribbon, a modern replacement secured backwards, has two blue stripes flanking a broad green stripe with white edges.  The medals, first made by the firm of Bailey, Banks and Biddle of Philadelphia, were issued in 1869.

This particular medal is attributed to Silas Casey (1807-1882) who was admitted in 1880 as the 172nd member. A native of East Greenwich, Rhode Island, Casey graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1826 and served as an officer in the United States Army for over forty years. He served with distinction as a captain in the 2nd Infantry and was wounded at the Battle of Chapultepec. During the Civil War he led a division at the Battle of Seven Pines and wrote a widely-used manual of infantry tactics published in 1862. Another treatise, Infantry Tactics for Colored Troops, was published the following year. A colonel in the Regular Army, he received a brevet promotion to major general in 1865 and retired three years later. After his death in 1882, the old officer was buried on his family farm in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. His son Silas Casey III (1841-1913), also a veteran of the Civil War, rose to the rank of rear admiral in the U.S. Navy.


Gift of Captain F.W. Pennoyer, USN (Ret.)                                                                              78.10.03

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