A rare early U.S. military medal connected to the treason of Benedict Arnold has been donated to the New York State Museum. Thanks to Stephen Searle and Arthur Shippee for passing along this New York Times article. Here's an excerpt - see the complete article online.
The American militia men were hidden in the bushes having lunch and playing cards when they heard the horse galloping toward them. Springing from their lookout post near Tarrytown, N.Y., they confronted a stranger who was seemingly in a great hurry.
He was Maj. John André, head of British secret intelligence. But on this day, Sept. 23, 1780, he was disguised as a civilian,
Stuffed in André's boot were papers that laid out how to successfully take the American fort at West Point. He had only received the information two days earlier from Benedict Arnold, the commander of the fort, and André now was riding south in the hope of getting back behind the British lines.
But the militia men, John Paulding, David Williams and Isaac Van Wart, questioned André, realized he was a spy and arrested him. West Point was never attacked, André was later hanged and Arnold, whose name became synonymous with treason, fled.
The medal awarded the three militiamen in 1780 was made of silver. On one side it carried the Latin words
Vincit Amor Patriae, or
Love of Country Conquers.Credit...
Paulding, Williams, and Van Wart were recognized by the Continental Congress with hand-wrought, silver military medals, now considered to be the first ever awarded to American soldiers. Two of the three were stolen from the New-York Historical Society in 1975. But the third, held by the Van Wart family for more than two centuries, has now been given to the New York State Museum in Albany, where it will go on display this fall.
As the only one of the three out there, it's such a unique medal, said Sara Mascia, the executive director of The Historical Society of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown.
It's invaluable. I don't think you could put a number on it.
After Van Wart died in 1828, the medal was passed down in his family until it reached Rae Faith Van Wart Robinson, a descendant living in White Plains. It became her prized possession, and until she died in 2020, she kept it in a shoe box under her bed, taking it out occasionally to display at events hosted by the historical society.
It was the one thing she cared about, said Henry Neale, the lawyer representing the executor of her estate.
Neale donated the medal to the New York State Museum in February, based on Robinson's wishes that it be given to a museum where it could be seen by the world.
If Washington and the American patriots had lost West Point, we would have lost our independence, said Cole Jones, associate professor of history at Purdue University.
To read the complete article, see:
He Foiled Benedict Arnold. His Medal Is Now Out From Under the Bed.
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