Posted 07 September 2007 - 11:50 AM
Posted 07 September 2007 - 03:04 PM
The suggestion of the Bald Eagle as the Cincinnati insignia was made by Major Pierre L'Enfant, a French officer who joined the American Army in 1777, served in the Corps of Engineers, and later become a member of the Society. He noted, in making his suggestion: "The Bald Eagle, which is peculiar to this continent, and is distinquished from those of other climes by its white head and tail, appears to me to deserve attention." In 1783, Major L'Enfant was commissioned to travel to France to have the first Eagle badges made, based on his design. Major L'Enfant later planned and partially laid out the city of Washington, DC.
The medallions at the center of the Cincinnati Eagle depict, on the obverse, Cincinnatus receiving his sword from the Roman senators and, on the reverse, Cincinnatus at his plow being crowned by the figure of Fame. The Society's colors, light blue and white, symbolize the fraternal bond between the United States and France.
A specially commissioned "Eagle", encrusted with diamonds, was presented to George Washington by the French Navy, and has been worn by each succeeding President General. This "Eagle" is now at the National Headquarters of the Society of the Cincinnati at Anderson House on Massachusetts Avenue (Dupont Circle) in Washington, D.C.
The Cincinnati Eagle is displayed in various places of public importance, including the city center of Cincinnati, Ohio (named for the Society) at Fountain Square, alongside the Stars and Stripes and the official City of Cincinnati flag. The flag of the Society displays blue and white stripes and a dark blue canton (containing a circle of 14 stars around the Cincinnati Eagle) in the upper corner next to the hoist. Refer to the section below on "The Later Society" for the city's historical connection to the Cincinnati.
The concept of the Society of the Cincinnati probably originated with Major General Henry Knox. The first meeting of the Society was held at a dinner in Fishkill (now Beacon, New York near Newburgh), in May of 1783, before the British withdrew from New York City. The meeting was chaired by Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hamilton, and the participants agreed to stay in contact with each other after the war. Membership was generally limited to officers who had served at least three years in the Continental Army or Navy but included officers of the French Army and Navy above certain ranks. (Later, membership was passed down to the eldest son after the death of the original member; present-day hereditary members generally must be descended from an officer who served in the Continental Army or Navy for at least three years, from an officer who died or was killed in service, or from an officer serving at the close of the Revolution.)
The Society is named after Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, who left his farm to accept a term as Roman Consul and then served as Magister Populi for a short time, thereby assuming lawful dictatorial control of Rome to meet a war emergency. When the battle was won, he returned power to the Senate and went back to plowing his fields. The Society's motto reflects that ethic of selfless service: Omnia relinquit servare rempublicam - He relinquished everything to serve the Republic. The Society has from the beginning had three objects, referred to as the "Immutable Principles":
* To preserve the rights so dearly won;
* To promote the continuing union of the states; and
* To assist members in need, their widows, and their orphans.
Within twelve months of the founding, a constituent Society had been organized in each state and in France. Of about 5,500 men originally eligible for membership, 2,150 had joined within a year. King Louis XVI ordained the French Society of the Cincinnati, which was organized on July 4, 1784. Up to that time, the King of France had not allowed his officers to wear any foreign decorations; but he made an exception in favor of the badge of the Cincinnati, and membership in the Society was so eagerly sought that it soon became as coveted as membership of certain orders of knighthood in France.
George Washington was elected the first President General of the Society. He served from December, 1783, until his death in 1799. The second President General was Alexander Hamilton.
The Society of the Cincinnati is generally considered the premiere American hereditary society. Its members have included many of the most distinguished military leaders and civil servants in the history of the country, beginning with twenty-three of the fifty-four signers of the U.S. Constitution. The Cincinnati is the oldest military society in continuous existence in North America.
Posted 05 September 2009 - 03:17 PM
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