“TIFFANY GOLD” VAOR MEDAL, CUSTER’S MICHIGAN CAVALRY BRIGADE

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“TIFFANY GOLD” VALOR MEDAL, CUSTER’S MICHIGAN CAVALRY BRIGADE

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Although the Federal Government produced and distributed to individuals the renowned Medal of Honor, they did not otherwise present any other type of medals to military figures during the Civil War period.

This truly rare and historic medal specially designed and personally distributed by Custer himself is the iconic Custer “Tuebor” medal. It is truly an extraordinarily rare medal, only a small sampling of these medals are known and because of their great significance and rarity, those few previously sold have brought significant sums of money. In June of 2016, General James H. Kidd’s Custer Valor Medal together with some ephemera sold for $102,000. In March of 2013, the Julia Auction Company sold another Custer Valor Medal together with a group of ephemera which came from Col. George G. Briggs of Custer’s command. That lot not only included an identical Custer Valor Medal but also depicted Col. Briggs wearing his exact Custer Valor Medal. That lot realized $184,000.

The 14k gold Custer Valor Medal in the shape of a Maltese cross suspended from a 5-pointed star (which would represent Custer’s rank as General). Both the star and the Maltese cross are ornamented with beautiful blue enamel. Within the star is blue enamel “6” (for the 6th Michigan Cavalry). Also on the Maltese Cross outlined in blue enamel is “CUSTER” and on the bottom of the cross in blue enamel is “Tuebor” (which is Latin for “I will defend”). The reverse of the Maltese Cross is engraved “Capt. Albert T, Henshaw-6th Michigan Cav”. The star and the Maltese Cross are attached to a deep yellow colored silk ribbon which is suspended from two gold crossed sabers.
The medal was personally designed by Custer himself sometime in the Winter of 1863-1864. This is known for a fact as there were a series of rough sketches in his unpublished journal which can be seen in the Museum at the Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument. Custer contacted the foremost jeweler firm in the world, that being Tiffany & Co. of New York to create the medal. These medals were produced and awarded by him to specific members of the Michigan his Brigade whom he considered to have performed with valor or of special merit.

An identical medal, as indicated earlier, was presented to Gen. James H. Kidd of the 6th Michigan Cavalry. At that time in response, Kidd wrote a letter to the Detroit Advertiser & Tribune regarding the medal and stated “the gold in this badge is not more precious, it is not rarer, than the frankness, the generosity, the want of trust which has always characterized your intercourse with me…. the association- the Michigan Brigade of Cavalry, its leaders, Custer, his deeds and theirs, are enough to make (the) gift one of inestimable value always”.

Henshaw was born in 1835 and died in 1913. He originally enlisted from Brown, Kent County, Michigan on September 2nd, 1862 and was commissioned as First Sergeant of Company H. Later on July 1st, 1864, he became a Captain. He was mustered out in July 1865 while fighting Indians as part of the Michigan County Cavalry Brigade in Montana. Henshaw was married in 1860 to Amy B. Duel. They had two children and he was identified as “a master carpenter”. He was also a member of the GAR Post #5 (Custer) in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He died on January 6th, 1913 of heart disease and is buried in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Custer Valor Medal measures approximately .9375 1″ x 1.5”. Accompanying the gold Tuebor medal is his numbered GAR membership medal together with a Custer celluloid button with frayed yellow ribbon commemorating the “Unveiling of the Custer Monument” at Monroe, Michigan, June 4th, 1910.

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