“Courage isn’t a brilliant dash A daring deed in a moment’s
flash; It isn’t an instantaneous thing Born of despair with a sudden spring. But
it’s something deep in the soul of man That is working always to serve some plan.”
-Edgar A. Guest.
“Honorary Badges of distinction are to be conferred on the veteran Non-commissioned
officers and soldiers of the army who have served more than three years with bravery,
fidelity and good conduct; for this purpose a narrow piece of white cloth of an
angular form is to be fixed to the left arm on the uniform coats;
Non-commissioned officers and Soldiers who have served with equal reputation more
than six years, are to be distinguished by two pieces of cloth set in parallel to
each other in a similar form…..
The General, ever desirous to cherish a virtuous ambition in his soldiers, as well
as to foster and encourage every species of military merit, directs that whenever
any singularly meritorious action is performed, the author of it shall be permitted
to wear on his facings, over his left breast, the figure of a heart in purple cloth,
or silk, edged with narrow lace or binding. Not only instances of unusual gallantry,
but also of extraordinary fidelity and essential service in any way shall meet with
a due reward….The road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is thus opened
to all. “Thus, George Washington established the “Badge of Merit”. In its shape
and color, the Badge anticipated and inspired the modern Purple Heart. In the exceptional
level of courage required to be considered for the Badge, however, it was the forerunner
of the Medal of Honor. This year we celebrate its 150th anniversary.
Hasbrouck House, Newburgh, New York, Wednesday, 7 August 1782. George Washington,
the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, sat at his desk in what had once
been the Hasbrouck family kitchen. The intense summer heat was relieved only by
the gentle breeze from the Hudson River about 400 yards away. This grey dressed
stone and rubble Dutch vernacular style house had served as Washington’s headquarters
since 31 March when he had returned north to the strategic Hudson Highlands after
his victory at Yorktown.
By 7 August 1782, hostilities had ended and peace talks were under way in Paris.
That day, George Washington’s thoughts were with his men camped nearby at New Windsor.
They had suffered appalling privations for over six years. His officers were on
the verge of mutiny because of lack of pay, rations and supplies withheld by a corrupt
and negligent Congress. Worse, Congress had taken away the authority of his general
officers to recognize their soldiers’ courage and leadership by awarding commissions
in the field. Congress simply could not afford to pay their existing officers let
alone any new ones. As a result, faithful service and outstanding acts of bravery
went unrecognized and unrewarded. George Washington was determined to end that.
So from his headquarters perched 80 feet above the Hudson, he issued a general order
establishing the “Badge of Distinction” and “Badge of Merit.”: