(1842-1914), consisting of four early society awards verified to General Chaffee, two verified military campaign medals, plus Chaffee’s attributed Military Order of the Carabao (society) Medal. High ranking Spanish-American War Veteran’s medals (unnumbered and not verifiable) with an attributed variant Imperial Order of the Dragon Medal numbered 1005 being an honorary enlisted version of the Military Order of the Dragon. The verified society awards consist of a typical enameled MOLLUS Medal numbered 11698. A Military Order of the Dragon (serpent worked in gold relief) engraved on reverse, “Major General Adna R. Chaffee U.S.A. No. 1.” According to the roster, Military Order of the Dragon No.1 was issued to Joseph A. Dory, however protocol would have been to issue it to Chaffee and we attribute the discrepancy to a clerical error. A beautifully enameled and engraved Society of the Army of Santiago Medal, delicately inscribed, “Maj. Genl./A.R. Chaffee./No. 8./El Canay/July 1, 1898” on reverse. According to the official Quartermaster record, Chaffee received medal No.7. for El Canay. By proximity, we attribute this one-off to an error in the issue records. Also, his enlisted counterpart Imperial Order of the Dragon Medal having “Not To Conquer But To Save” motto, number 32 on reverse, verified to Chaffee, with Chaffee’s attributed Military Order of the Carabao Medal. The Order of the Carabao was founded in 1900 during the Philippine insurrection by army officers in Manila purposely to satirize the Chinese Order of the Dragon, created a year early by a clique of officers associated with the Boxer Rebellion. This uncommon society medal is unnumbered and to the best of our knowledge untraceable. The verified military campaign medals include Chaffee’s Army China Campaign Medal No.3 (authorized January 1905) and Philippine Campaign Medal No.2050 (authorized January 1905), both issued to A.R. Chaffee. Rounding out the group are two attributed Spanish-American War veteran’s medals, unnumbered and untraceable.
Adna Romanza Chaffee was a celebrated army officer who achieved the rank Lieutenant General, Army Chief of Staff, in 1902 after an illustrious career that spanned nearly 40 years and included five brevets for “gallantry” in the field. Ohio-born Chaffee enlisted as a private in the 6th US Cavalry in July 1861 and earned commendations for his conduct at Gettysburg and Dinwiddie Court House ending the war as a twice-wounded captain. The 6th Cavalry transferred to Texas and in March 1868 Captain Chaffee and his troop doggedly pursued and engaged a band of marauding Comanche Indians at Paint Creek earning the young officer another well-deserved brevet to major, his command having acquired the name “Chaffee’s Guerrillas” for their aggressiveness. In August 1874, Major Chaffee led another charge against a superior band of Cheyenne on the Red River in Texas. A stellar action against hostiles at Big Dry Wash, Arizona Territory on July 17, 1882 culminated in Chaffee earning the rank of brevet lieutenant colonel in 1890.
Major Chaffee had transferred to the crack 9th US Cavalry in July 1888 and was promoted to full lieutenant colonel, 3rd US Cavalry in June 1897 and colonel, 8th US Cavalry in April 1899. Made brigadier general of volunteers at the start of the Spanish-American War, Chaffee went to Cuba in command of the 3rd Brigade and fought at the battle of El Caney on July 1, 1898, gaining a “victory” on the northwestern flank of Santiago. Despite overwhelming numerical superiority, the Americans were held at bay for nearly 12 hours by a small force of 500 Spanish regulars before El Caney was finally carried and captured. Chaffee was quickly advanced to major general for the costly, indecisive affair largely because the newspapers had trumpeted the battle to the American public and the army preferred heroes. Now a household name, Major General Chaffee was put in command of the 2,500 man American expeditionary force sent to China during the Boxer Rebellion and when his troops stormed the Imperial Gate at Peking and relieved the besieged embassies in August 1900 he was lauded with international acclaim. Following his success in China, Chaffee was appointed Military Governor of the Philippines and commanded US occupation forces against the spirited Auqinaldo insurrection until 1902.
At the pinnacle of his career Chaffee was appointed to the coveted position of Army Chief of Staff with the rank of Lieutenant General in 1904. Based on his China experience and contact with British Army officers, Chaffee was instrumental in creating the concept of the army campaign medal with Brigadier General James T. Kerr modeled on the colorful awards long coveted in the British Army. In 1905, the War Department agreed to Chaffee’s proposal and in January general orders were officially promulgated establishing the issue medals that would became a part of “marking a soldier as a veteran of a campaign.” In March 1905, Chaffee was feted as the grand marshal of President Theodore Roosevelt’s inaugural parade and the President’s personal ambassador on a summer goodwill trip to Europe. Chaffee retired from the army on February 1, 1906 and lived the reminder of his life in Los Angeles. He died on November 1, 1914, three months after the start of the First World War and is buried at Arlington beside his son Major General Adna R. Chaffee, Jr. and second wife.
On judgment, the group appears not to be Chaffee’s full medal entitlement, one consultant commenting that “Adna R. Chaffee should have been issued the first type Civil War, Indian War and Spanish campaign medals. It’s hard for me to imagine that he didn’t apply for them (especially since he did apply for the Boxer medal), but wouldn’t have applied for either the M. No. or later contract pieces.” Had he applied for the missing medals it may be possible to confirm Chaffee’s full entitlement from existing army records but this was not an imperative. A 1970s Kodak print of an Adna Chaffee display appears to document the same eight society/campaign medals indicating, at least, that nothing has been added or subtracted since the consignor came into possession of the group sometime in the '70s.