George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Eager Howard, 25 March 1790

To John Eager Howard

New York March 25th 1790

Sir,

You will receive with this a Medal struck by order of the late Congress in commemoration of your much approved conduct in the battle of the Cowpens—and presented to you as a mark of the high sense which your Country entertains of your services on that occasion.1

This Medal was put into my hands by Mr Jefferson; and it is with singular pleasure that I now transmit it to you.I am, with very great esteem, Your Excellency’s most Obedt Servt

Go: Washington

LS, MdHi.

1During the course of the Revolution, Congress authorized the presentation of fourteen gold and silver medals to specific individuals “to signalize and commemorate certain interesting events and Conspicuous Characters” (JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 33:422). A medal was to be presented to GW, commemorating the evacuation of Boston; to Horatio Gates, for the defeat of Burgoyne’s army at Saratoga; to Anthony Wayne, François de Fleury, and John Stewart, for their services at Stony Point; to Henry Lee, for the victory at Paulus Hook; to John Paulding, David Williams, and Isaac Van Wart, for the capture of Major John André; to Daniel Morgan, John Eager Howard, and William Washington, for their victory at Cowpens; to Nathanael Greene, for his victory at Eutaw Springs; and to John Paul Jones, for the victory of the Bonhomme Richard over the Serapis. See John Adams to GW, 1 April 1776, n.2. The medal commemorating the capture of André was executed in America during the war, and the one for François de Fleury was executed under Franklin’s direction in Paris, but nothing was done to procure the others until after the war, when Robert Morris, as superintendent of finance, wrote to David Humphreys, secretary to the American peace commissioners, requesting him to have the medals made in Europe. When he left Paris in November 1785, Humphreys turned the business over to Jefferson, who oversaw the completion of eight of the medals in Paris (for the details of their production, along with illustrations of all of the medals executed under Jefferson’s direction, see the editorial “Notes on American Medals Struck in France” and accompanying correspondence in Boyd, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends 16:53–79). The medals for Gates and Greene were the first completed and were sent to Congress on 6 July 1787 (William Short to John Jay, 4 May 1787, in Boyd, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends 11:345–47). Arthur St. Clair, as president of Congress, sent Greene’s medal to Jeremiah Wadsworth, one of Greene’s executors, on 9 Aug. 1787, and Gates was sent his medal on the same day (Burnett, Letters, description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed. Letters of Members of the Continental Congress. 8 vols. 1921–36. Reprint. Gloucester, Mass., 1963. description ends 8:633–34). A ninth medal, for John Paul Jones, was not complete when Jefferson left for America. Morris had neglected to include the medal for Henry Lee on the list sent to Humphreys, and no subsequent provision for this medal had been made by Jefferson. Jefferson thus brought six medals with him from France—for GW, Wayne, Stewart, Morgan, Howard, and William Washington—and presented them to GW on or shortly after 21 March. GW accepted his gold medal and assumed responsibility for distributing the other five. On 25 Mar. GW wrote letters transmitting these medals to their recipients.

GW sent three of the five medals to the heroes of Cowpens—Daniel Morgan, John Eager Howard, and William Washington. GW’s letter of 25 Mar. 1790 transmitting Daniel Morgan’s gold medal is in NN: Myers Collection, Daniel Morgan Papers. His letter to William Washington, who commanded the American cavalry at Cowpens, has not been found. The latter wrote to GW on 7 Nov. 1790 referring to “Your Excellency’s favor of March 25th accompanied with a Medal struck by order of the late Congress.” The letter was probably identical to the one GW sent to Howard.

The other two medals honored heroes of Stony Point. The first was sent to Anthony Wayne, who commanded the select force that stormed the British fortifications at Stony Point on the night of 16 July 1779. Congress voted to present Wayne with a gold medal on 26 July 1779 (JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 14:890). To his letter transmitting the medal to Wayne, GW added a postscript acknowledging receipt of Wayne’s letter of 1 Feb. 1790 (LS, CLjC). Wayne replied to this letter on 7 Nov. 1790: “I have the pleasure of acknowledging the receipt of your favor of the 25th of March together with the Medal struck by order of the late Congress—in commemoration of the Assault of Stoney Point—the polite manner in which you have transmited it, adds not a little to it’s value—& permit me to assure you, that I can much better feel—than express—the high sense I entertain of the honor done me by the late Congress—& by your Excellency upon that Occasion” (DLC:GW).

The letter accompanying the medal honoring John Stewart was the only one that differed significantly from the others. John Stewart joined the Continental army in 1776 as a lieutenant in John Allen Thomas’s Independent Maryland Company and was promoted to major before being captured at Staten Island in 1777. On the night of 16 July 1779, Stewart and François-Louis Teissèdre, marquis de Fleury, led specially picked detachments of about a hundred and fifty men each to cut away the abatis in front of the British works at Stony Point. For this service Congress voted on 26 July 1779 to award both men silver medals (JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 14:890). Stewart died in December 1782. GW transmitted the medal honoring Stewart to his father, Stephen Stewart, a planter in Anne Arundel County, Md., on 25 Mar.: “You will receive with this a medal struck by order of the late Congress in commemoration of the much approved conduct of your Son (the late Colo. John Stewart) in the assault of Stoney Point—and was to have been presented to him as a mark of the high sense which his Country entertained of his services on that occasion. This Medal was put into my hands by Mr Jefferson, and it is with singular pleasure that I now transmit it to you, as it must afford some pleasing consolation, when reflecting upon the loss of a worthy Son” (LB, DLC:GW).

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