Exactly 235 years ago on August 7, 1782 General George Washington – then the Commander-in-chief of the Continental Army – created the “Badge for Military Merit”, also referred to as Badge for Merit, by order at his New Burgh, New York Headquarters. The decoration consisted of a purple, heart-shaped piece of silk, edged with a narrow binding of silver, with the word ‘Merit’ stitched across the face in silver.
Next to the awarding of the badge, the honoree’s name and regiment were also recorded in the Book of Merit.
According to evidence, there are only three soldiers known to have been decorated with the award:
- Sergeant Daniel Brown born December 30, 1754 and died August 21, 1824. Acted as a soldier and spy for the Continental Army. He was a member of the 5th Connecticut Regiment. Brown is also the last known recipient of the Badge for Military Merit.
- Sergeant Daniel Bissell born in 1759 and passed away in 1808, who was a member of the 2nd Connecticut Regiment.
- Sergeant Elijah Churchill born in 1755 and passed away in 1841. He was a member of the 2nd Continental Light Dragoons.
After the American Revolutionary War, the Badge of Military Merit fell into disuse although it was never officially abolished. On October 10, 1927, Army Chief of Staff General Charles P. Summerall directed that a draft bill be sent to Congress in order to revive the Badge of Military Merit. On February 22, 1932, marked as the 200th anniversary of George Washington’s birth, General Douglas MacArthur, Army Chief of Staff, issued the following General Order:
“By order of the President of the United States, The Purple Heart established by General George Washington at Newburgh, August 7, 1782, during the war of the Revolution, is hereby revived out of respect to his memory and military achievements.”
Badge for Military Merit (Credits: Wikimedia Commons)The Purple Heart (official successor of the Badge for Military Merit) is considered the oldest U.S. military decoration – although the Fidelity Medallion was created on 1780, it quickly became regarded as a commemorative award – is awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces who have been killed or wounded in action against an enemy (including terrorist attack).
Notable: The most single individual awarded Purple Hearts is recorded to Marine Sgt. Albert L. Ireland who was awarded a total 9 Purple Hearts (5 during World War II and 4 during the Korean War). In May, 2006, Staff Sgt. Phillip Trackey gave away his Purple Heart to a 13-year old girl who won a contest for writing letters to American troops out of gratitude, she wrote “I give you great respect because you had a choice to join the military and because of your bravery and courage you decided to join.” In May, 2007, US Marine Jerrell Hudman and Vietnam War veteran announced to send one of his 3 Purple Hearts to the owner of dog ‘George’, after George saved 5 children from being attacked by two Pitbulls but lost his life doing so.