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Herzoglich Nassauisches Feldzeichen des Jahres 1866

Duchy of Nassau Field Decoration for the year of 1866

Instituted on August 20, 1866 by the last Duke of Nassau Adolph (Adolph Wilhelm Carl August Friedrich von Nassau-Weilburg, 24.07.1817-17.11.1905) who reigned from 20.08.1839 till 20.09.1866. Field Decoration for the year of 1866 was the last award of Nassau that was annexed by Prussia and absorbed into the kingdom as Hesse-Nassau Province (Provinz Hessen-Nassau) following the Prussian victory in the Austro-Prussian War (June 17 – July 26, 1866).

The medal was instituted by the unlucky ruler on the day of the 27th anniversary of his enthronement to commemorate participation of his troops in the Seven Weeks War during which tiny duchy fought in the side of the defeated German Confederation. By that time Adolph as well as his troops migrated to Günzburg, a city in Bavaria, Nassau’s ally in the war.

Field Decoration for the year of 1866 was issued to officers, NCOs, other ranks, military officials and non-combatants from the Nassau contingent who took part in the battles or performed their duty during the war and followed their ruler to Bavaria after the defeat. Decoration remained with the family of an awardee after his demise.

Design of an award was elaborated by a medallist from Wiesbaden Korn. Jeweler from Munich Eduard Quellhorst was chosen as an official manufacturer. Privately issued medals differed from official ones in insignificant details of both obverse and reverse.

An obverse had a crowned cipher of the Duke Adolph, gothic capital letter “A” and two dates “July and August 1866” (“Juli u: August 1866.”) placed below in two rows in capital letters.

A reverse had an inscription in two rows in capital letters “Warriors of Nassau” executed in different scripts though. A horizontal ornament with a stylized flower in its centre was situated at the bottom.

Field Decoration for the year of 1866 was worn on the left breast suspended from a silk orange 27-28 mm wide ribbon with two 2 mm wide thin vertical dark blue stripes with blue piping at edges. Circular medal with laterally-pierced loop for ribbon suspension was 29 mm in diameter, weighed 12 g and was made of bronze.

The last medal of the Duchy of Nassau was presented together with an award document (Attestat) bearing a signature of Major General and Adjutant General Hieronymus Freiherr von Ziemiecki (07.09.1817-25.02.1906) “at a highest command” and dated August 28, 1866.

Altogether 6,573 persons were acknowledged eligible for decoration, viz: from General Staff (Generalstab) – 79, 1st Nassau Infantry Regiment (1.Nassauische Infanterie-Regiment) – 1,897; 2nd Nassau Infantry Regiment (2.Nassauische Infanterie-Regiment) – 1,890; Chasseurs battalion (Jäger-Bataillon) – 754; Depot battalion (Depotbataillon) – 963; 1st battalion of the Munition supply unit (Artillerie- und Munitions-Colonne, 1.Abteilung) – 526; Medical company (Sanitäts Compagnie) – 116; Reserve artillery unit (Ersatzdetachement der Artillerie) – 90; Engineer unit (Pionier Detachement) – 81; 2nd battalion of the Supply unit (Munitions-Colonne, 2.Abteilung) – 66; Provisions supply unit (Proviant-Colonne) – 39. The following military officials were deemed deserving an award: Administrative commission (Verwaltungs-Commission) – 38; Head field hospital (Hauptfeldhospital der Herzoglich Nassauischen Brigade) – 30; War Department (Kriegsdepartement) – 6.

6,000 medals ordered by the Duke Adolph were not sufficient to decorate all those eligible for award. As a result only 5,285 decorations were presented: to military personnel of 1st, 2nd Infantry regiments and Chasseurs battalion – 4,503 altogether; personnel of two 6-pounder cannons half-batteries – 211; 5-pounder smooth-bore cannons battery – 203; Supply unit – 171; Medical battalion – 115 and Engineer battalion – 82.

Response of the Prussian king Wilhelm I to the institution of a Nassau medal commemorating participation in the war against his own troops was extremely significant. Royal decree of the future first Emperor of the German Empire stated that officers and other ranks of the former Nassau army were authorized to wear Field Decoration for the year of 1866. Former Nassau military personnel on Prussian military service were also entitled to wear that award as a token of appreciation of their bravery and courage in field. That was a decisive step by Wilhelm I who craved for the unification of Germany and have chosen to consign to oblivion hostilities of yesteryears and do away with internecine wars.

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