The history of the button starts with Henry Christophe, king of Haiti in 1807. For 12 years prior to Christophe’s kingship, Haitian slaves revolted against their European masters and defeated the English, Spanish and French. In 1802 the French anchored 225 ships in the harbor with 60,000 troops to put down the revolt.
The Haitians were greatly outmanned and out gunned, but defeated the French, and by 1803 the French army was spent. Thomas Jefferson quickly took advantage of Napoleon and a French army in desperate need of cash, and convinced him to sell the Louisiana territory for 15 million dollars. Known as the Louisiana Purchase.
Christophe reigned as king until 1820 when he became ill, and was too weak to put down a coup. He committed suicide that same year. The phoenix was Christophe’s coat of arms. All of his troops were outfitted with uniform buttons and buckles with this phoenix design. The numbers at the bottom of the buttons denoted the regiment number. The buttons are numbered 1-30 with 11-13, 15-19 and 21-24 being skipped. One theory is they were skipped intentionally to fool enemies into believing the army was larger than it really was.