Featured The Washington Before Boston Medal – The First in a Series on the Comitia Americana Medals

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by johnmilton, Mar 18, 2019.

  1. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    A Chronicle of the Revolutionary War in Medals ...

    The Comitia Americana (American Congress) Series is a group of 13 medals that honored heroes and marked major events of the American Revolutionary War. The American Continental Congress authorized eleven medals that were awarded to military heroes. Two other pieces, the Libertas Americana medal and a Benjamin Franklin medal, were financed privately.

    The French initially made all but one of the medals. During the late 18th century the French artists produced the finest medals in the world. Proof of their preeminence is showcased by the beauty and superb execution that marks all of these pieces. It would be many years before the United States Mint would be able to rival the artistic merits of the French medallists.

    Those who collect the Comitia Americana series have several options and face great challenges if they decide to acquire the earliest mintages of these pieces. The original gold or silver medals that were awarded to the recipients are unique and are almost never available to collectors. Some of the original medals have been lost. A few reside in museums or libraries, and a couple of pieces are in private collectors’ hands.

    In addition to the original issues, the French and the U.S. Mints struck additional examples of these medals, mostly in copper and occasionally in silver. The most complete set of original Paris Mint Comitia Americana medals is now in the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society. This set of silver medals contains all but the John Paul Jones and Henry Lee pieces. Thomas Jefferson brought the set from France after he had completed his tour as our French ambassador. Jefferson awarded the set to George Washington in 1790. From Washington it passed though a number hands, including the famed 19th century statesman, Daniel Webster, before it came to reside in the Society’s collection.

    Advanced Comitia American collectors strive to acquire as many pieces as possible that have been struck from the original dies. Though out the 19th century the French Mint restruck many of the American medals. Starting in the 1840s the French marked these pieces on the edge with words and symbols that indicate the period in which they were struck.

    With a couple of exceptions, the U.S. Mint began to strike Comitia Americana medals in the mid 1800s. The earliest U.S. pieces were inferior to their French counterparts, but over time the U.S. medals did improve. In some cases these U.S. Mint issues are the only pieces that are available to most collectors. Even so these medals are quite scarce.

    General George Washington
    The Evacuation of Boston, March 17, 1776

    George Washington O.JPG George Washington R.JPG

    This is one of 50 to 60 known examples of Washington before Boston medal in bronze that was struck from the original dies.

    Following “the shots heard around the world” at Concord Bridge in April 1775, a diverse group of American militiamen and minutemen surrounded the British forces in Boston. In June the British launched a major attack on the American fortifications at Breeds and Bunker Hills. Although the British won the battle after the Americans ran out of ammunition, their victory came at a staggering cost. Over of a thousand of the 2,200 soldiers in the attacking force were killed, and many more were wounded.

    Not long after the Battle of Bunker Hill the Continental Congress appointed George Washington as General-in-Chief of the Continental Army. After consolidating his position Washington devised a plan to end the Siege of Boston. He sent Henry Knox to Fort Ticonderoga in northeastern New York State to bring back cannon from that recently captured facility.

    After fighting bitter cold and occasional thaws that made travel difficult, Knox and his party returned to Boston with 59 pieces of ordinance of various calibers. On the night of March 4, 1776, while the British responded to random cannon fire and other distractions, the colonials built breastworks on Dorchester Heights above the Boston Harbor.

    At dawn the British awoke to find that their military position had become untenable quite literally overnight. Now their only lifeline, the British Navy, could be attacked atany time by the cannon that were now trained on Boston Harbor. After a freak storm thwarted a token effort by the British to dislodge the Dorchester cannon, the British evacuated Boston on March 17, 1776. A week later Congress voted to award a gold medal to George Washington for this triumph. Washington would not receive his prize until 1790 which was a typical delay for those who would be awarded Revolutionary War medals.

    In the grand scheme of things, Washington’s victory over the British in Boston was not of great strategic significance. The British retired to Nova Scotia where they regrouped and returned with a vengeance to fight the war for another five years. Still the evacuation of Boston did build American morale, and it demonstrated that the colonists did have a chance to win their Independence.

    The Washington Before Boston Medal has become the most popular of all Revolutionary War medals among collectors. To date at least eight different die combinations have been used to strike examples of this piece at the Paris and Philadelphia Mints. The Boston Public Library now holds the gold medal that was awarded to Washington.

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  3. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    I don't usually do this, pushed to the top.

    I will cover the other Cometia Americana medals over time.

    This is in response to the interest Libertas Americana medal. This Washington medal was the first of the series.
  4. Cheech9712

    Cheech9712 Every thing is a guess

    New series. I like. Will read replys. To long
  5. Jwt708

    Jwt708 Well-Known Member

    I love these medals and your articles about them, please continue @johnmilton !
    Randy Abercrombie likes this.
  6. ldhair

    ldhair Clean Supporter

    Great threads johnmilton. Love the history.
    Randy Abercrombie likes this.
  7. Cheech9712

    Cheech9712 Every thing is a guess

    Now thar was some good read. I spent a good many lunches sitting and fishing under the Concord bridge. Worked in Bedford. Thats alot of stuff i didn't know. Thanks. @johnmilton finally read it
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