The Uruguay Campaign Medal (1811-1812). One of the most interesting and unknown decorations from the late Brazilian colonial history and quite possibly the first decoration of the independent Empire of Brazil.
On 25th September 1822, just two weeks after the proclamation of independence, emperor D. Pedro authorized, under decree, that the badge given to the veterans of the Uruguay campaign of 1811-12 (which Spanish-speaking historians call the First Portuguese Invasion) was to be updated as a decoration, with the addition of a cross around the original circular badge issued in 1813, suspended from a yellow ribbon.
The original badge
Due to the request of veterans, the original badge decreed by the then prince regent D. João, on 20th January 1813, could now be worn as a decoration in the left chest. The 1813 decree can be found in the Gazeta do Rio de Janeiro, nr. 17, 27th February 1813.
The badge was to be used on the right sleeve, Golden for generals, Silver for commissioned officers and Tin for enlisted personnel of the Exército Pacificador do Sul (Pacifying Army of the South), commanded by the Count of Rio Pardo, D. Diogo de Sousa, then Captain-General of the Rio Grande of São Pedro, the southernest province of Brazil.
This force even threatened Montevideo, having retreated as a result of a peace treaty with Buenos Aires authorities.
The oldest independent Brazilian decoration?
Even if in practical terms we could consider it a reform of a previous award, its creation coincides with the first weeks of the independence and a deliberate valuation of the Brazilian armed forces, then more than ever due to the political separation.
The image presented just above, depicting the reverse, as well as the obverse, on top of this article, is from the Leone Ossovigi collection, in the Imperial Museum of Petropolis, which can be seen in the museum's website.
Two great military men that wear the decoration in their portraits, normally to the left of the Medal of Distinction of the Army of the South, for the 1811-1828 campaigns.
The Medal of Distinction of the Army of the South, or medal of the Baron of the Laguna, created in January 1823, was meant to cover the 1811-1812 campaign; however, the isolated use of the Uruguay campaign medal continued. The distinctive use of the two medals was accepted, if not regulated lter, even if no document can be found.
Either case, the usage of the two makes perfect sense, as they were two different campaigns, at different times of the Rio Grande province and with specific conditions. Not everyone was in both the 1811-1812 and the 1816-1820 campaigns.
José de Abreu
Wears the Uruguay campaign medal, in silver, and the Medal of Distinction of the Army of the South.
Sebastião Barreto Pereira Pinto: Wears the Uruguay campaign medal, in gold (no doubt, updated to match the rank of brigadier), and of the Distinction of the Army of the South, as well as three plaques from Imperial Orders (Rosa, Cruzeiro & non identified).
It's interesting to see the regularly small size of Brazilian decorations at the time.
Recently, I saw this b/w image of another model for this medal, with imperial crown, next to an original 1813 badge. The vague wording of the original 1822 decree allowed for a large possibility of variety, namely through the different efforts from private medals workshops.
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- ESTRELA, Paulo Jorge, Ordens e Condecorações Portuguesas 1793-1824, Lisboa, Tribuna da História, 2008.
- DIÁRIO DO RIO DE JANEIRO