The Mysterious Sugden Medal

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    fred j borgmann

    The Mysterious Sugden Medal

    The Mysterious Sugden Medal first surfaced on eBay about three years ago when it was listed as a Wisconsin Civil War medal. The seller was a gold and silver dealer who described the medal as 10k unmarked gold, 12.2 grams in weight and 2 ¾ inches tall. The medal is an ornate heart shaped pendent on which is depicted an advancing soldier firing his rifle in a very awkward position almost as though he is shooting over a high barrier. In front of the soldier is “Co. F.” above “WIS.” The reverse is blank and the medal is suspended by two chains from a gold ribbon shaped brooch inscribed “SUGDEN MEDAL.” The back of the brooch originally had a T-bar pin with a C-catch.
    The name of the medal on the brooch “Sugden Medal” is the name of the medal itself and not the name of the recipient. The name would indicate that the medal was funded by or named in honor of someone named Sugden which was a common practice for Wisconsin National Guard awards in the 1880’s through the early 1900’s The uniform worn by the soldier is also correct for the time from the Civil War to the early 1900’s.

    Also of note is the lack of a regimental identification on the medal. Just “Co. F.” and “WIS.” are mentioned. Wisconsin had 52 infantry regiments during the Civil War and nearly every one had a company F so with no mention of a regiment this could not be a Civil War related medal. Since only a Company F is listed, that would indicate that at the time of issue the Wisconsin National Guard had only one Company F. That would only have been possible as of April 6, 1881 when the Racine Light Guard was established as Company F of the first regiment. As listed in the 1883 Wisconsin Blue Book, Co. F. was the only active and functioning Company F in the entire Wisconsin National Guard. By the 1885 edition of the Wisconsin Blue Book two more Company F’s are listed which would date the creation and issue of this medal to some time between 1881and 1885.
    So what was this medal awarded for? Judging from the soldiers stance I would guess this was a prize for the best skirmisher in the company.

    The Wisconsin National Guard was always strapped for cash. Medals and awards were rarely funded in the budgets and all military officers since Napoleon know the motivational value of a few well placed medals. To quote the 1905 Wisconsin Adjutant General’s report. “Competitive drills, target practice and proficiency in the manual of arms is stimulated by medals offered by company commanders.” Private donors were always welcome too.

    Who sponsored this award? There were a lot of Sugdens in the Racine area. One served in the unit during the Spanish-American War and was very involved in veterans organizations. The family was apparently successful and his father or family probably sponsored this medal.

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