Skip to comments.MI: Washington honored soldier he sent to spy on British
Posted on 06/24/2012 6:42:26 PM PDT by SandRat
WASHINGTON HEADQUARTERS, NEWBURGH, N.Y. On Aug. 7, 1782, General George Washington issued an order for the establishment of The Badge of Military Merit.
Part of his order for the badges creation was it would be in the shape of a heart and made of purple cloth on which the word merit would be embroidered.
It was to be worn on the left breast of the recipient.
Only three are known to have been awarded by Washington, all in 1783 at his Newburgh headquarters with one on display at the New Windsor Cantonment.
All involved bravery.
Two were awarded for what can be considered traditional battle actions and one for long-term service in the midst of the British stronghold in New York City.
It was under Washingtons direct orders that Sgt. Daniel Bissell deserted the American Army and offered his services to the British.
Bissell, was a spy, on a personal assignment for Washington, who for more than a year gathered information about the British and loyalist forces and fed the material to Washington.
The 28-year-old sergeants work was not without hazard, for he was subject to being impressed into the British Navy which would have meant he could not have done his assigned mission for his boss, the commander-in-chief of the American Army.
Instead, Bissell enlisted in Benedict Arnolds corps of loyalists from where he did his spy work until he found the opportunity to flee British control and report back to Washington.
In the citation for his award, presented on June 8, 1783, it stated: Sergeant Bissell of the 2nd Connecticut Regt. having performed some important service within the immediate knowledge of the Commander-in-Chief in which fidelity, perseverance and good sense of the said Sergeant Bissell were conspicuously manifested, it is therefore ordered that he be honored with the Badge of Merit
So, Bissell was the first spy individually recognized by the Armys top soldier for his actions in ferreting out the strength of British forces and their intentions.
Of course another spy, Nathan Hale, a Continental Army officer, met his death at the end of a British noose on Sept. 22, 1776, after being arrested when apprehended while wearing civilian clothing.
Like Bissell the other two recipients of the Badge of Military Merit Sgt. Elijah Churchill, cited for bravery while attacking two British forts on Long Island and Sgt. Daniel Brown who led a successful forlorn hope attack, meaning a suicide mission, on one of the British redoubts at Yorktown were also members of Connecticut regiments.
And, so was Hale.
Another person from the Constitution State Connecticut who organized a special unit, to gather information for Washington, which can be considered the forerunner of todays intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions was Lt. Col. Thomas Knowlton.
The Knowltons Rangers consisted of elite individuals from three New England states, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, who became known as Americas first official spies.
On Sept. 16, 1776, while leading a scouting mission for Washington at Harlem Heights in New York the rangers came upon the elite British Black Watch and a detachment of Hessians.
After retreating, Washington ordered the Knowlton Rangers to hit the enemys rear, as others attacked the British front.
During the battle Knowlton was shot in the back by an enemy soldier, dying six days before Hale was executed as a spy.
Sources: Numerous ones, including the Sons of the American Revolution.
And that is the reason why the Army and Congress created in 1934 the Purple Heart medal to be awarded to those wounded and/or died of wounds in combat. In honor of General Washington’s “badge of merit.”
If you find yourself in Newburgh, New Windsor Cantonment is worth a visit.
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Thanks for the ping. I didn’t know this.
Thanks for the ping!
That’s quite interesting! Thanks!