George Washington Security Medal

Do you subscribe to the Numismatic Bibliomania Society‘s electronic newsletter, E-Sylum? We do. It’s delivered to your email inbox every Sunday evening and is full of useful and interesting numismatic information. An exciting part of dealing with coins in a retail auction environment is that you never know what could come in the door next. That was the case recently when an unfamiliar piece was brought to us, so we reached out for assistance and below is what we found out.

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Engraved ID discs are unique items invested with personal history beyond the medal’s generic image and legends. Those owned by a soldier layer military history of the unit the soldier served under on top of typically scant personal history. We may find and can read accounts of what hardships and historic scenes the person wearing the disc must have seen as a member of a fighting unit. Counterfeit ID disks are known but they typically list semi-famous folks killed-in-action, making it hard to refute whether the ID was theirs during the war or a complete fantasy made for collectors of items once owned by famous folks.

This disk is listed in Neil Musante’s Medallic Washington, Volume 1, Page 320., as “GW-262.” The obverse die with George Washington and “SECURITY” was created by Robert Lovett Jr.  The obverse die survived long after the Civil War and was used by Thomas Elder as a model for a WW I dog tag that was not adopted by the Army, according to Neil Musante.  These artifacts were not called “dog tags” until WW I.  The reverse with four stars would be blank until engraved.

This Federal ID Disc was struck in pewter or white metal, is holed as most all were, and has an iron bale ring for suspension. Engraved upon the reverse is:

SGT. G. R. LEONARD.
Co. C.
29 TH O. V. I.
12 TH A. C.
CEDAR MTN.
CHANCELLORVILLE
GETTYSBURG.Having battle honors on an ID disc is something that typically happened late in the war and may indicate the item is a post-war issue, made for reunions and Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) functions.  According to Wikipedia, the 29th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, in the Army of the Cumberland, were at Cedar Mountain, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg at Culp’s Hill.  This disc might have been punch inscribed as Sgt Leonard recuperated from Gettysburg in late 1863 or later. Soldiers in the 29th Ohio volunteered to serve a three-year term. They were at Winchester, Virginia early in the war and saw action in Virginia.

After Gettysburg they reconstituted their muster and fought in the Atlanta campaign.   Giles R. Leonard survived the war which is a good thing for him and for authenticity of this ID Disc.  See National TribuneA Balky Mule. A Prescription which Started him Running Down the Mountain, from May 14, 1891, Page 3., by Giles R. Leonard, 1st Lieutenant, 29th Ohio, (then living at Rushmore, Minnesota) who recounts his war experiences for the newspaper. All in all, this is the kind of provenance I like to find for ID disks that really brings history to life.

We’d like to extend a huge thank you to E-Sylum editor Wayne Homren and Tom Kays for helping us with this historic piece.

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