Antique Appraisals

What’s It Worth?: Medal rewards military service by descendants of Confederate soldiers

What’s It Worth?

One of these medals is from a nation which no longer exists. One has high value, the other not so much.
One of these medals is from a nation which no longer exists. One has high value, the other not so much. Contributed photos

Today’s What’s It Worth? investigates the backgrounds and values of two medals that were awarded for military service. Interestingly, both involve a nation or entity that no longer exists, and both of those places are integral to the American experience.

Q. My family is from the Old South, and a long-departed relative was awarded this medal for his military service in World War I. The accompanying paper says it is the “Cross of Military Service” and was presented by a group called the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The ribbon is red and white stripes with a small green center stripe. What can you tell me about it? — Libby in Walla Walla

A. This is an interesting medal with a very interesting story.

First presented in 1900, it was originally called the Southern Cross of Honor. It was given to men who served for the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.

But it wasn’t presented by the Confederate government, and was not even in existence until almost the turn of the 20th century.

The Cross of Honor was conceived in July 1898 after a reunion of Confederate veterans in Atlanta. Mrs. Mary Erwin of Georgia came up with the idea. Two other Southern women designed it, and the United Daughters of the Confederacy then authorized it to be awarded to any Confederate veteran who had provided “loyal, honorable service to the South and given in recognition to this devotion.”

Libby’s ancestor’s medal was not for service, however, in the Civil War. It is for a member of her family who served in World War I. Here is how that came to be.

Following initial distribution to Confederate Civil War veterans, the Daughters of the Confederacy decided to make the award available for service in the United States military.

After World War I, the name of the medal was changed to the “Cross of Military Service,” and the award was made available — by application — to those who could show a direct lineal descent from a Confederate Civil War veteran.

That is, if you served in WWI and your Confederate grandfather served in the Civil War, you were eligible to receive the Cross of Military Service. The WWI award is no longer presented, as there are no living veterans of that conflict.

The awards did not end when the last World War I veteran with Confederate lineage died. Today, the Daughters of the Confederacy make the medal available to veterans of World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars, and what they refer to as the “Global War on Terror.” The U.S. has multiple medals covering those conflicts, but the Daughters have but the one medal.

According to their website, the United Daughters of the Confederacy is the outgrowth of many local memorial and Confederate veterans’ home associations, as well as women’s auxiliaries to “camps” of Confederate soldiers that were organized after the Civil War.

This is an unusual item to find in any Western state. Most of these medals are in the South. It is also rare that the original paperwork has survived. It adds greatly to the value, which is in the $350 to $500 range.

Q. For service in Vietnam — almost 50 years ago — I received this medal from the South Vietnamese government. I think everyone who was “in country” got one. Is there any value here? — Robert in Benton City

A. First, thank you for your service.

Yes, you are correct. Practically everyone who served there did receive this medal from the government of South Vietnam. It is called the “RVN Campaign Medal.” (RVN for Republic of Vietnam.)

Instituted in 1966, it was awarded to all American military members who served for six months or more in Vietnam between 1960 and 1973. It was also presented to all those wounded, killed in action or captured during that period.

This medal is among the most common you’ll ever see. More than 2 1/2 million Americans served in Vietnam. Almost every one of them received this award.

Near the end of the conflict, the government of South Vietnam became very generous in presenting other medals and citations to American service personnel. Commonly seen are the RVN Civil Actions Unit Citation, RVN Gallantry Cross and South Vietnam’s Presidential Unit Citation.

As to value for the RVN Campaign Medal — there isn’t much. A replacement can be purchased online for between $10 and $25.

Terry K. Maurer, 15-year senior member of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America, is a personal property appraiser in the Tri-Cities. For possible use in a future column, direct questions on your antiques and collectibles to What’s It Worth? by email to tchwhatsitworth@gmail.com.

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