The Civil War version of today’s "dog tag,” these badges were privately purchased, often from local sutlers frequenting the camps of the armies. Usually made of brass, identification discs were stamped in the field with pertinent information such as the soldier’s name, regiment, company designation and hometown. The backs of these discs displayed a variety of patriotic motifs. In this case, a winged eagle stands over "United States", with "War of 1861" above. The disc is in fine, original and uncleaned condition.
The owner of this disc, Private George A. Hunt enlisted at the age of 18 with the 76th New York Infantry, mustering into company F. Leaving a rented farm where he worked with his parents, George also said goodbye to two younger sisters. In their first real action on August 28, 1862, the 76th saw hard fighting at Gainesville, Virginia, suffering 88 casualties in the battle. Private Hunt was among the wounded, having been shot through both knees. He lay on the field through the night of the 15th and on the following day, was taken captive from the battlefield by Confederate forces. He was paroled four days later, apparently in an effort to move him to where he could receive medical aid.
Private Hunt died as a result of his wounds in a Georgetown hospital the following week. At some point, likely after his untimely death, a loved one fastened a mourning ribbon through the suspension hole in his disc, which remains in place today. Time would prove that Hunt’s sacrifice was not entirely in vain. In 1867, his parents used their son's enlistment bounty and back pay to purchase their first homestead and farm.