After the battle of New Market Heights, Gen. Benjamin F. Butler commissioned a medal of honor to be awarded to African American soldiers for bravery. Officially known as Army of the James Medals, these are the only U.S. medals designed specifically for African American troops.
The medal was designed by Anthony C. Paquet, whose name is inscribed on the obverse, and realized in silver by the United States Mint in Philadelphia. The medal consists of a silver medallion suspended from a silver ring fixed to a silver eagle-claw-covered ball and loop, through which a red, white and blue stripped grosgrain ribbon (most likely silk) was treaded, in turn suspended from an oak-leaf-decorated silver pin.
The obverse of the medallion depicts a bastion fort being charged upon by a pair of musket-bearing African-American soldiers. The Latin inscription “FERRO IIS LIBERTAS PERVENIET” (freedom will be theirs by the sword) is in raised letters on a banner around the upper part of the medallion, and “US COLORED TROOPS” is in raised letters below the image. The reverse is decorated with an oak leaf wreath tied with a bow at bottom center, raised lettering reading “DISTINGUISHED FOR COURAGE” around the perimeter, and raised lettering reading “CAMPAIGN FOR RICHMOND 1864” in the middle. “ARMY OF THE JAMES” is inscribed in raised letters on the pin.