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The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 32, August 12, 2007, Article 29

THE CURIOUS HISTORY OF THE PURPLE HEART

American Heritage has published an interesting article on "The
Curious History of the Purple Heart" on August 7th, the 225th
anniversary of its creation.

"The Purple Heart is known among servicemen as the “medal no one
tries to earn,” yet hundreds of thousands have been awarded. It
is the oldest military decoration still in use in the world,
having been established by Gen. George Washington at a moment when
he feared losing his army to mutiny or revolt, yet for a century
and a half it was all but forgotten, only to be reborn in the 1930s.

"Washington personally awarded the badges—small hearts of
purple-sprigged silk edged in silver thread, purportedly designed
by Pierre L’Enfant, who would later plan the city of Washington, D.C.
—to Brown and Churchill at his headquarters in Newburgh on May 3,
1783... On June 10, Washington presented a third badge to Daniel
Bissell, Jr., another sergeant with the 2d Connecticut.

"And that’s where the official chronicle ends. In his original orders,
Washington had directed that each recipient’s name be “enrolled in the
book of merit which will be kept at the orderly office.” The book, if
it ever existed, seems to have become a casualty of the haphazard
storage of records in the nineteenth century.

"Although no other documentation exists, it’s unlikely that Washington
awarded only three Badges of Merit, and all to Connecticut residents.
For one thing, a fourth badge later turned up in a New Hampshire barn.
In the 1920s, an officer of the New Hampshire Society of the Cincinnati
found a dust-covered, moth-eaten Continental Army uniform coat hanging
limply from a peg in a Deerfield stable. On the left breast was a
heart-shaped silk badge, believed by experts to be a genuine Badge
of Merit. The original owner is unknown, but he could not have been
Churchill (whose badge is in a New York State museum), Bissell (whose
badge was destroyed in an 1813 fire), or Brown (whose badge was stolen
in 1924 and had a different design)."

To read the complete article, see:
Full Story

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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