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Martin Weiser's Medal

Martin Weiser

Martin Weiser, 1837-1917

Martin Weiser, my mother's great-grandfather, is wearing a medal in this photo, cropped from a portrait taken with four of his five children. He served the Confederacy in the "Wythe Grays," a company of the 4th Virginia Infantry, and was wounded at the First Battle of Manassas in 1861. I wondered about this metal, and my internet research has borne fruit.

At the start of the Civil War the United States did not have any medals that were regularly awarded for valor. This led to the creation of the Medal of Honor in Dec. 1861, and it remained the only medal awarded throughout the war. The Confederacy never managed to create a similar award. A medal "or badge" was authorized, but never actually bestowed. Even the designation of soldiers in acknowledgement of their valor did not become routine, although it was done after Gettysburg. (The Only Medal, by Michael Musick)

Southern Cross of Honor

So what is this medal? A little more digging turned up its origins. A member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy realized after attending a reunion of Confederate veterans that the UDC itself could bestow a medal. The first Southern Cross of Honor was presented (to her husband) in April 1900. Over 78,000 were awarded by 1913.

© Footie Lund 2006