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General George Washington, commander in chief of the Continental Army, creat- ed the Badge for Military Merit at Newburgh, New York on August 7, 1782. The badge consisted of a heart-shaped piece of purple silk, with a narrow binding of silver and the word Merit stitched across the face in silver. The badge was to be presented to soldiers for “any singular meritorious action” and permitted the wearer to pass guards and sentinels without challenge. The name and regiment of each honoree was to be inscribed in a Book of Merit. The only three known Revolutionary War soldiers to be awarded Washington’s “Purple Heart” were Elijah Churchill, William Brown and Daniel Bissell, Jr.
The decoration was largely forgotten after the Book of Merit was lost. In 1927 an unsuccessful bill was sent to Congress to revive the Badge of Military Merit. In 1931, General Douglas MacArthur took up the cause, with the hope of reinstating the medal in time for the bicen- tennial of George Washington’s birth. On February 22, 1932, the U.S. War Department announced the creation of the Order of the Purple Heart. The new version of the medal displayed a bust of Washington and his coat of arms. The Order of the Purple Heart is the oldest American military decoration for military merit. It is awarded to members of the
U.S. armed forces who have been killed or wounded in action against an enemy, as well as soldiers who have suffered cruel and abusive treatment as prisoners of war.
FROM THE JAUFLION CHAPTER NATIONAL DAUGHTERS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION