A silver marksmanship badge awarded to N.B. Irwin, a member of the
Union Army’s 11th New York Infantry Regiment known as
“Ellsworth’s Fire Zouaves,” during the Civil War crosses the auction
block Feb. 5 in New York.
The badge, in Extremely Fine without hanger, is one of 2,756 lots to
be offered Feb. 5 and 6 by Stack’s Bowers Galleries in their February 2015 Americana Auction. Additional lots
are being offered Feb. 10 by Internet only.
The public auctions sessions are in Stack’s Bowers’ galleries at 110
W. 57th St. in New York City.
Irwin’s third place marksmanship award was presented by Capt. E.F.
Brand of the U.S. Light Infantry for Irwin’s skill at a June 25, 1863,
contest at Forest Bay.
An unusual feature of the obverse design is the gold-inlaid lion's
head, in the center of the large star that dominates the design. The
reverse bears the recipient's engraved name and presentation information.
Although the marksmanship contest was held while the Civil War was
still on, it came after the 11th Regiment had mustered out, which took
place June 2, 1862.
Col. Elmer Ellsworth initially commanded the
11th New York Infantry Regiment that he mustered in May 7, 1861, soon
after President Abraham Lincoln’s call to arms.
The regiment became known as “Ellsworth’s Fire Zouaves.” The unit was formed
from volunteer New York City firemen, and Ellsworth, a student of
military history, admired the Zouaves, Algerian troops fighting with
the French Army in North Africa. He used their training methods with
his cadets and designed a uniform with baggy trousers in the Zouave
style, according to the SmithsonianMagazine.com.
Ellsworth, an attorney before the war’s outbreak, was shot dead May
24, 1861, by the owner of the Marshall House hotel in Alexandria, Va.,
after Ellsworth removed a Confederate flag from the front of the hotel.
One of Ellsworth’s men, Cpl. Francis E. Brownell, avenged the
officer’s death by shooting the hotel owner, an action for which
Brownell was awarded the Medal of Honor on Jan. 26, 1877.
For more information on the badge, visit the auction lot
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