The badge of the 17th Army Corps of the Department of the Tennessee was adopted on March 25, 1865 by a General Orders, Number One of Major General Francis B. Blair. This was the second corps badge design used by the corps. The original design was a star, usually with three smaller additional floral-like projections appearing between the lower points and flanking the upper point of the star. This was dropped in favor of the arrow because it was too similar to the Twelfth Army Corps badge.
William Alden Fairfield was born on October 7, 1847 in Massachusetts, the son of William B. Fairfield and Mary Butman Ross. In 1864 they were living in Cedarville, Stephenson Co., Illinois. William A. Fairfield enlisted on March 30, 1864 in Company G of the 15th Illinois Infantry Regiment. The unit had existed since 1861 and most of the men's term of service was about to expire. On July 20, 1864 the remaining members of the 15th, including William Fairfield, were consolidated into a battalion known as the 14/15th Illinois Infantry Battalion. On July 22, 1864 William Fairfield was captured and became a prisoner of war. He was sent to the infamous camp at Andersonville. On November 11, 1864 he was transferred to the Confederate prison camp at Millen, Georgia. It appears he remained on Army rolls and on March 24, 1865 was transferred again to the reconstituted Company B, 15th Illinois Infantry Regiment and remained in the service until mustered out on September 16, 1865.
William Fairfield's corps badge is a private purchase type, which would have been made by a jeweler. It has a pin back and may have been worn either on his coat or hat. Period photographs show 17th Corps soldiers with similar badges worn various ways. It is interesting that his initials have been engraved on the badge. One problem with his particular design was that unlike many other badges it did not allow space to engrave a soldier's full name and unit.