GREENVILLE — To dispel the misconceptions on the history of military uniform buttons, Dr. David Cox has penned the book, “A Gathering of Eagles: The Study of 1792-96 Wayne Legion Button Types.”
“We were trying to find history on it and read the works of other writers, but the first guy got it wrong and the rest of them copied it,” Cox said.
“Until now, button historians have had almost no records or archaeological material to help define the use, styles and dates of military uniform buttons used in the Ohio campaigns against the Indians,” he said. “The archaeological digs in recent years at Greenville, Fort Loramie and Fort Jefferson settle those questions.”
Cox reports that more than 1,200 buttons have been recovered at these three different sites which were built and used at different periods during the 1790s.
“By comparing the buttons found and used by the different armies at each site, we are now able to determine what the Wayne Legion button style actually is,” he said. “Eleven variations of the ‘frog-legged eagle’ Anthony Wayne Legion button have been discovered and are shown in color in the 36-page book.”
Why the book?
“We were trying to dig up artifacts of Fort GreeneVille over 20 years,” he said. “They told us stories about buttons and the artifacts wrote the book in a sense. The St. Clair Army had no eagle; the Wayne Legion button was with an eagle but no stars; and the Regimental Army has an eagle button with stars. There were two different types of buttons. We wanted the correct information on it and we wanted to correct misconceptions or the confusion. That was the reason for the book.”
According to Cox, a legion was the U.S. Army at the time formed for Wayne from 1792 to 1796
“The Treaty of Greenville went back to the Regimental Star Army, and changed buttons,” he said. “We found more than 600 buttons in Greenville; eight with stars. The Regimental Army was a completely different style.”
He said two-thirds of the military buttons with stars were found at Fort Loramie.
“The fort at Fort Loramie stayed open until 1812, and the Greenville fort was closed in 1797,” he said. “That makes Greenville a time capsule for the Wayne Legion. I compare it to a time capsule.”
Cox, who did the research and writing for the book, went on digs all over Greenville with a few more people, including the late Tony DeRegnaucourt, a local archaeologist.
“We all worked at Fort Jefferson,” said Cox, who helped DeRegnaucourt with some of his books.
“I teamed up with Tony in 1990,” Cox said. “This is a significant find and we published it like Tony told us. It’s only fitting that this book should be dedicated to Tony, who emphasized that we should ‘dig for knowledge, document all findings and publish results’ so others may use our work to continue where we left off.”
DeRegnaucourt died Oct. 17, 2001 at the age of 58.
And, yes, they are still getting buttons.
“The book is an easy read,” said Cox, who indicated he has never seen a gold Eagle Legion button. “It focuses on the silver and gold-colored officer buttons and the pewter buttons the soldiers had.”
The book is available for $12 at the Garst Museum and from the Greenville Treaty Bicentennial Commission.