"Prior to the early 19th century, medals and decorations were only awarded to ranking officers; occasions existed where medals were presented to soldiers, but these were often private efforts."
Well, well... I am neither a historian nor a military guy but I think I remember that in "Die Wahlverwandtschaften" (written in 1808 but clearly set in pre-1789 Europe) Goethe mentions the bestowal of a decoration on a common soldier in terms suggesting that this is no more than a usual recognition of good conduct. Any opinions on that? --Sanctacaris 07:05, 2 December 2006 (UTC)
From my interpretation of the source I used, prior to the 19th century, medals were awarded (a) by the government for something spectacular, or (b) by a concerned citizen saying thanks. After Waterloo, it became increasingly common for the government to recognise service (nothing more) iduring a certain campaign or event. Mind you, the original edition of my source was published in the early 1900s (the edition I used was the one cited), and this article is a history of the medal bar, not the medal. If you can source it, change it :) -- saberwyn 08:20, 2 December 2006 (UTC)