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From the Editor 3
Indian Peace Medals (by John W. Adams) 3
MCA Oral History Project
(by John Sally) 3
Mechanics of Oral History Interviewing (by Mark Schlepphorst) 4
Oral History Test Interview
(by Dick Johnson ) 5
Webmaster’s Report (by Ben Weiss) 5
John Eager Howard (by Tony Lopez) 6
Letters to the Editor 19
From the Editor
This issue features a truly splendid article on the John Eager Howard medal by Tony Lopez. Rarely does a researcher succeed in presenting so many different dimensions of the subject.
For the better we’re sure, the Club has entered an active phase. In the pages that follow, you will read about the Oral History Project. Basically, a small group of members has devised an easy and economic means of conducting oral interviews and posting these to our website. This is an objective toward which many in our hobby have strived because of the obvious desirability of preserving the wisdom as well as the persona of those who have been active in collecting. We are indeed blessed to have this capability now. We salute and thank those responsible: John Sallay, Bob Fritsch, Mark Schlepphorst, Ben Weiss, and Dick Johnson.
A fascinating account of an MCA field trip at this year’s ANA meeting will appear in the October issue. Next year’s meeting will be in Los Angeles. By a most fortuitous coincidence, it is the Los Angeles County Museum that now holds the superb medal collection of our recently deceased member, Kahlil Gibran. Through the courtesy of Mrs. Gibran and Stuart Denenberg, a close family friend, we hope to arrange a field trip for members to view these treasures. More to follow but this is certainly a good reason to make the trek to Los Angeles if we can pull it off.
Indian Peace Medals (by John W. Adams)
It is with a mixture of pride and regret that I announce the sale of my Indian peace medals from the colonial period. The collection will be offered by Stacks’ in January, 2009, in tandem with that firm’s annual Americana Sale. I am delighted that both Michael Hodder and Dave Bowers will be involved in the preparation of a special catalogue.
Why sell? Very simply, I have been collecting these marvelous symbols of our heritage for 26 years but have been unable to make any additions for the past eight. Clearly, I have reached a point from which it is difficult to move forward and, given that the medals have provided me with so much psychic income , it is logical to share with others my collecting experience.
I have written extensively on the subject of Indian peace medals. Some of you will have read various articles that have been published or the book, The Indian Peace Medals of George III. Ironically, the divestiture of the collection has re-kindled my interest in writing about aspects not heretofore covered. The Advisory should prove an ideal venue for such work.
The field of Indian peace medals attracted my interest because I am part Native American. My focus on the colonial period followed because it was during this era that the Indian s held the balance of power. European nations actively sought diplomatic and military alliances with the various tribes and peace medals were the tangible evidence that agreements had been reached. Peace medals from later periods more typically were used to facilitate land grabs or other such skullduggery.
MCA Oral History Project
(by John Sallay)
The MCA Board has recently been meeting monthly via conference call, with much discussion focused on expanding our organization’s range of activities and more deeply involving a larger number of members. One idea that generated immediate support – and then took on new urgency with the recent passing of a few very prominent long-time collectors and medalists – was the MCA Oral History Project.
The idea is to interview “old-timers” in order to capture the knowledge they’ve never had time to write down and record their recollections of the people and events that got us collectively where we are today. The concept is as old as written history itself, but taking oral histories has become a much more widely used tool with the advent of tape recorders, film, and videotape.
The MCA is a geographically dispersed organization presenting some challenges. First, we wrestled with how to get one or more enthusiastic members to meet with interesting subjects on a more than one-off basis. We’re rarely together and when we are, like at the ANA Convention or an auction, there are always other things going on.
We also discussed how best to capture and share the interviews, since we didn’t want to have either one person responsible for a single recording device or have to deal with multiple recording formats. Finally, we talked about what to do with all of these recordings, since the MCA doesn’t have a central library.
Dick Johnson, who is an expert in taking oral histories, introduced me to Mark Schlepphorst, a relatively newer MCA member whose professional activity has overlapped with our various technical challenges. Mark initially suggested buying a device similar to what police departments use to record 911 calls. We could conduct the interviews over the phone, record them in a digital format rather than on tape, edit the recordings, and then post them on our MCA website.
That way, anyone could listen to them on his or her computer or even download them onto an iPod or similar device. At this point, MCA webmaster Ben Weiss got more deeply involved in the project, and we discussed how exactly the process would work from beginning to end, both technically and practically.
At the recent MCA meeting held during the Baltimore ANA, we outlined the project and mentioned the concept of buying the phone-recording gizmo, perhaps sending it around by mail to members who wanted to conduct interviews. Bob Fritsch raised a key idea that he had raised previously on one of the board calls, only this time it registered. Why not use just a web-based conference calling service that offers recording capability?
While there would be per-minute toll charges to the MCA, we would save all of the up-front cost and wouldn’t need to hassle with any physical machinery. Any member with a phone, computer and the necessary dial-in code could simply conduct an interview and arrange with Ben to post the recording on the MCA website.
Mark explored a number of conference calling services and found one that seems like it will best suit our needs. More important, he has agreed to coordinate the project from here, with Ben still involved in editing and posting the interviews. Dick Johnson has volunteered to summarize his experience in conducting these sorts of interviews and outline a standard approach for all of us to follow. He has also volunteered to conduct the first few interviews, to show us how it’s done.
What follows below is more detail from Mark, Ben, and Dick on where we go from here!
Mechanics of Oral History Interviewing (by Mark Schlepphorst)
Two pieces of technology have been selected for conducting the telephone interviews and editing the resultant audio recording. The first is an online teleconferencing service that allows the interviewer and interviewee to use toll free access numbers to record their conversation.
The service doesn’t require a reservation; instead both parties call the same number, each using access codes to connect to the conference bridge. The call is recorded, and when completed, the audio recording is available for download from the teleconferencing website. The teleconference service selected also offered MCA a non-profit rate discount; we will be billed only for minutes used.
After downloading the recording to a PC, an audio editing tool can be used to remove any unwanted conversation, extraneous noise, or distracting silence. The same tool can ‘chop’ the interview into shorter conversations, with the resulting smaller files offering convenience for downloading via slow internet connections.
Once the appropriate files have been edited, Ben can upload the files to the MCA website to be downloaded by members or visitors.
Oral History Test Interview
(by Dick Johnson)
After a false start or two on a Sunday last month, Mark Schelpphorst finally set me straight. You have to dial in 18 numbers to get connected to a unique login page at the firm that furnishes the recording service.
We tried it again on the next day, Monday, and I got all 18 numbers correct. This was done before Mark left for work, so we did not have a lot of time. This time it worked and this brief interview, a 10-minute segment, was edited by Mark and passed on to Ben Weiss, who in turn placed it on MCA’s web site.
Everything worked and the Test Interview was on the web for a brief time. Okay, now we know how to do it and how it works.
We are ready for the Big Time. I have chosen who I would like to interview first of all: Alan Stahl. He has been involved with medals in so many ways this will be an easy interview.
In an article in E-Sylum two years ago (1 Oct 2006*) I listed eight tips for an oral interview. I wish to modify the second tip in which I said plan for an interview no longer that an hour.
Now I want to change that to 45 minutes. The hand gets tired holding the phone and the butt gets tired setting in one spot. I would like to interview Alan in two sessions.
Tip one was do your homework. So I want to compose enough questions for a total of about an hour and a half. The questions don’t have to be a full fledged question with a question mark at the end. They can be subjects you want to discuss. State the question as the interview is in progress. That adds a little more spontaneity to it. I triple space between question/subject to aid reading in a hurry and get about 10 questions to page. Figure about 3 pages to an hour recording.
Finally, I drafted an MCA Interview Release Form for the interviewee to sign. I am not a lawyer but I play one on my computer. I will pass this draft on to President John Adams for him to have a lawyer look this over. When we get the green light from the attorney this form can be used for every new interview in the future.
I am looking forward to conducting an interview or two. I hope other MCA members will do the same.
*To read chick on: www.coinbooks.org/v09n40a11html
Webmaster's Report (by Ben Weiss)
The MCA is to launch a new feature on its MCA Website. The Medal Collectors of America will be posting on its website a new feature, Oral Histories of Medallic Art, based on interviews of prominent medal collectors, dealers, curators and other historians of medallic art. The interviews will be available for listening by logging on to our website at: www.medalcollectors.org.
The Oral Histories feature will be set up in a similar way as that which links to MEMBERS' CORNER currently on the site. By clicking on the ORAL HISTORIES link, the viewer will get a new page with introductory remarks, a list of the interviewers, the medallic historian being interviewed and brief descriptions of the content of the interviews. If the interview is very long, it would likely be broken up into sections so the download time is reasonable. The link to ORAL HISTORIES will be available on every page of the website.
The Oral Histories Project is the result of a close collaboration between your webmaster and several other members of the MCA, notably, John Adams, John Sallay, and Bob Fritsch. Special thanks go to Mark Schlepphorst, who did most of the initial work in setting up the technical aspects of the project and who has so generously offered to do the very large job of editing the interviews before they are posted, and to Dick Johnson, who not only provided several useful suggestions concerning the interviews but will also serve as an early interviewee as well as an interviewer.
This novel project will constitute an important new addition to our body of knowledge of the History of Medallic art. The Internet is uniquely suited for this project for it allows rapid and readily accessible dissemination of this information. By posting the interviews on our website it will place the MCA at the forefront of documenting the early history of the field of Medallic Art and making it readily available for all to hear and view.
John Eager Howard (by Tony Lopez)
On the morning of January 17, 1781, on a pasture located in northwest South Carolina near modern day Spartanburg, a critical turning point took place in the balance of fortunes in the American war for independence. On the battlefield known as the Cowpens, roughly 1,600 American Continental soldiers, militia, and cavalry1 were engaged in an epic battle against the British army, whose cavalry was commanded by the notorious Major Banastre “Bloody” Tarleton. Little known or remembered today, the leader of the third line of Continental Infantry was a Marylander, Lieutenant Colonel John Eager Howard, rallying his troops on horseback, on the brink of changing the course of History.
Amidst the human carnage, the disorder and confusion of battle, and surrounded by blinding smoke, the burning smell of gunfire, the deafening thunder of weapons discharging, and the horrified screams of those stricken, an order was given for Captain William Wallace’s unit of Virginia Continentals to wheel 90-degrees right, and regroup to protect the American flank. The command was misinterpreted as an order to retreat, and the Virginians turned and ran. As Wallace’s unit retreated, the American extreme right flank was exposed. 2 Other American units followed, and the retreat of the main line of American infantry was underway, pursued by the advancing Royal Fusiliers of the 71st Infantry Regiment. This elite Scottish unit of “Fraser’s Highlanders” was no stranger to chasing American troops across the South Carolina battlefields.
The retreat was orderly, and the Continentals were disciplined and well trained.
The Americans had a distinct advantage; they were rested and well fed after camping overnight near the battlefield. The opposing British forces had endured a grueling 5-hour overnight march to the Cowpens prior to the battle and, from the 1794 account of contemporary British historian Charles Stedman, were “enfeebled by their fatiguing march in the morning”.3 They were not only tired, they were hungry as well. Food had been severely rationed as they followed the American troops through South Carolina, with the British discovering that their route had already been foraged and pilfered of most food sources by the movements and needs of the American Army.
The retreating American infantrymen quickly distanced themselves from the pursuit of the fatigued Scots who, according to Stedman “by their subsequent exertions in the action, were unable to come up with the flying enemy”4. After they had covered 80-yards to the rear of the field,5 Colonel Howard, alarmed at the unplanned withdrawal, galloped over to his troops, ordering the officers to halt the retreat. Greatly respected by his men, the Continental Infantry followed Howard’s instructions flawlessly when he commanded them to turn about, reform their line at the rallying point, and fire at close range into the enemy. The American volley of .69 caliber musket balls found its mark with devastating results,6 tearing into the advance of the weary 71st Regiment. Howard then ordered an immediate counter-attack with bayonets, and the Scots, decimated and in shock by the sudden and vicious turn of events, had no choice but to turn and run for their lives, routed. For the first time in their history, Fraser’s Highlanders were retreating on the battlefield.
Lieutenant Colonel William Washington’s Cavalry soon charged in to join Howard and the Continentals in the fray, slashing at the Highlander infantrymen with their broadswords. Thirty-five minutes after the British fired their first shot near dawn, the battle was over, with the Americans victorious. In the end, nearly 1,000 British casualties were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner.7
Colonel John Eager Howard fought with gallantry on the battlefield that day. Howard personally accepted the surrender of seven British officer’s swords. Even more significant, Howard ordered his men to give quarter and accept the surrender of any soldier who requested it. In the heat of the battle, Howard personally protected an enemy British officer who had attempted to surrender, only to be attacked by aggressive American infantrymen and their bayonets. The British officer was rightfully fearful for his life; the soldiers had no intention of accepting his surrender. The British commander on the other side of the field, Major Banastre “Bloody” Tarleton, had earned this nickname by his reputation of giving no quarter on the battlefield, and killing any American soldier who surrendered. Many of the American soldiers, especially the South Carolina Militia, took on a battle cry of “Tarleton’s Quarter!” intending to kill any enemy who surrendered as revenge for the ravages dished out to their families and their brother combatants under “Bloody Tarleton’s” mistreatment in the British southern campaign.8 When Howard ordered that his soldiers stand down, he saved the British officer’s life.
Colonel Howard is Awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor
On March 9, 1781, In recognition of his bravery and leadership in the victory at the Cowpens, John Eager Howard was awarded a silver Congressional Medal of Honor by Resolution of the United States Continental Congress. This was a great and significant honor; the young United States Congress awarded a total of only eleven Medals of Honor to their military leaders during the entire Revolutionary War. These medals are known collectively as the “Comitia Americana” medals, Latin for “Congress of America”, and also an inscription which appears in the exergue (below a line at the base of the medal’s design) on most of the medals.
Three of these eleven Comitia Americana medals were awarded to military leaders at the Battle of Cowpens, a testament to the importance of the victory in the revolutionary cause. In addition to the silver medal awarded to Howard, Congress awarded a gold medal to General Daniel Morgan as the American Military Commander at Cowpens, and a silver medal to the leader of cavalry, Lieutenant Colonel William Washington. They join a small but historically significant group of fellow Comitia Americana medal recipients, some legendary, and some not so well known. This illustrious group includes George Washington, John Paul Jones, Nathaniel Greene, Horatio Gates, “Mad” Anthony Wayne, John Stewart, Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee, and the French Colonel, Francois Louis Teisseidre de Fleury.
Medal expert, author and collector John W. Adams and Massachusetts Historical Society Numismatic Curator Anne Bentley recently released their long awaited masterwork “Comitia Americana and Related Medals, Underappreciated Moments of our Heritage”. Their opus is by far the most complete study of the history of the Revolutionary War Comitia Americana medals. Much of the history of these medals discussed in this article was gleaned from the pages of Comitia Americana, and the detailed research of Adams-Bentley. In focusing on the John Howard medal, this article cannot come close to doing the entire medal series justice. I highly recommend that anyone interested in Revolutionary War history, or learning more about these important artifacts of our battle for freedom obtain a copy of Comitia Americana for their library.
Howard’s Comitia Americana Medal: A Witness to American History
At the time that the resolutions for the eleven Revolutionary War Comitia Americana medals were passed by Congress, the United States Mint had not yet been established. Despite the lofty intentions of Congress, the new country did not have the technological means or equipment to strike any of the medals. The United States was at war with England, so by necessity it was arranged that most of the medals be designed, engraved, and struck in France by the very capable Monnaie Du Paris (Paris mint), including the Howard Cowpens medal.
The responsibility to arrange for the engraving of the dies and striking of the medals was at first given to none other than Doctor Benjamin Franklin, who was the unofficial Ambassador and Minister in France on behalf of the American cause. Franklin, a true Francophile--perhaps to a fault--gave highest priority to the striking of the De Fleury medal for the French Colonel, and ultimately managed to have only the De Fleury medal completed.9 This was a serious violation of protocol, considering the fact that five of the medals were for Generals who outranked De Fleury, including the Commander-in-Chief of the American troops, General George Washington, and De Fleury’s Commanding Officer, General Anthony Wayne.
Despite his failings, Franklin did manage to arrange for the design and striking of the stunning and important Libertas Americana medals during this time, though likely at the expense of rightfully giving the Revolutionary War Congressional awardees their timely honors. After Franklin’s failure, David Humphries, and ultimately Thomas Jefferson, were given the duty to procure the medals. Humphries and Jefferson’s inaction added years of delays in completing the medals, but Jefferson finally accomplished the task, and personally brought the John Eager Howard medal with him, along with five other completed Comitia Americana medals on his return to the United States in 1789.10
The medals nearly met an early demise before their arrival on American soil. Jefferson left Paris on September 26, 1789, and sailed aboard the Clermont with a group which included two of his daughters and his well-known slave and mistress Sally Hemmings. After waiting offshore for three days for a thick fog to abate, Captain Colley chose to attempt the dangerous blind trip into the Capes of the Chesapeake. The ship soon encountering vicious winds as detailed by Jefferson’s daughter, Martha Jefferson (Randolph) who was 17 years old at the time: “After beating about for three days, the Captain…determined to run in at a venture...the ship came near running upon…the middle ground when anchor was cast...The wind rose and the vessel drifted down, dragging her anchors one or more miles. But she got within the Capes, whilst a number which had been less bold were blown off the coast, some of them lost…We had to beat up against a strong head wind which carried away our topsails; and we were very near being run down by a brig coming out of port, which…was almost upon us before we could get out of the way. We escaped, however, with only a loss of a part of our rigging. We arrived in Norfolk in the afternoon, and in two hours after landing, before an article of our baggage had been brought ashore, the vessel took fire and seemed on the point of being reduced to a mere hull. They were in the act of scuttling her, when some abatement in the flames was discovered, and she was finally saved. …everything in her was saved…Our trunks…had been put in our stateroom and incidentally the doors had been closed by the Captain…and the thickness of our trunks alone saved their contents from the excessive heat.”11
Jefferson’s group of Comitia Americana medals were personally delivered to President George Washington when Jefferson reported to him as Secretary of State on March 21, 1790,12 including the other two Battle of Cowpens medals for Daniel Morgan and William Washington. Most significant, at this point Jefferson presented Washington with his gold Comitia Americana medal, the infamous original “Washington Before Boston” gold medal awarded to Washington for commanding the American units which forced the March 17, 1776 evacuation of Boston by the British occupying forces. This precious artifact of our nation’s history currently resides in the permanent collection of the Boston Public Library, its single most prized possession. The gold Washington Comitia Americana medal is arguably the most valuable numismatic treasure in existence. Valued conservatively at ten million dollars,13 but never to enter the marketplace, the medal is truly a “priceless” piece of American history.
Jefferson also presented another treasure to Washington on that day in 1790, a cased collection consisting of eleven medals, all struck in silver. This included silver strikes of George Washington’s medal and eight other Comitia Americana medals (missing only Henry Lee and John Paul Jones), and also a silver 1786 Natus Boston medal honoring Benjamin Franklin, and finally a silver Libertas Americana medal. Through a series of events, this set of medals finally made its way to the collection of Daniel Webster, and today resides intact and in the original case in the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society.14 This is another priceless American treasure, referred to now as the Washington-Webster set of Comitia Americana medals.
On March 25, 1790 nearly 10 years after Congress had originally passed the Resolution to award him the medal, George Washington forwarded the silver Comitia Americana medal to John Eager Howard with this note, “You will receive with this a medal struck by order of the late Congress in commemoration of your much approved conduct at 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. This medal was put into my hands by Mr. Jefferson and it is with singular pleasure that I transmit it to you now. I am Sir, With very great esteem, Your Most Obedient Servant, George Washington.”15
The Howard medal was engraved in Paris by the noteworthy French medalist, Benjamin DuVivier, as were the Washington Before Boston and William Washington Cowpens medals. Arguably, this is the best effort of DuVivier among the three medals. The design on the obverse of the medal presents a detailed high-relief allegorical depiction of Howard’s military triumph; Colonel Howard mounted with sword in hand in pursuit of a fleeing enemy bearing a flag, with winged Victory descending in the background above Howard, holding a palm branch in one hand, and a laurel wreath over Howard’s head in the other. Measuring 46mm in diameter, it bears the surrounding legend in Latin: "JOH•EGAR•HOWARD, LEGIONIS PEDITUM PRAEFECTO” 16 (The American Congress to John Eager Howard, Commander of a regiment of Infantry), and below the exergual line is the inscription: “COMITIA AMERICANA”, above the exergual line at left appears the engraver's name: "DUVIV". The reverse features a laurel wreath surrounding a descriptive seven-line inscription in Latin: “QUOD IN NUTANTEM HOSTIUM ACIEM SUBITO IRRUENS, PRAECLARUM BELLICAE VIRTUTIS SPECIMEN DEDIT IN PUGNA. A.D. COWPENS, XVII JAN. MDCCLXXI” (Because, rushing suddenly on the wavering line of the foe, he gave a brilliant example of martial courage at the battle of Cowpens, 17th January 1781).
John Eager Howard: Soldier, Public Servant, & Philanthropist
John Eager Howard was a distinctive and highly respected warrior and military leader, who fought and led his men in the Revolutionary War battles of Monmouth, White Plains, Germantown, Camden, Hobrick’s Hill, Ninety Six, and Guilford Courthouse. Finally, at the Battle of Eutaw Springs, he sustained a severe injury to his shoulder, requiring surgery, and his return home to Baltimore for recuperation. The injury was debilitating, ended Howard’s military career, and causing him discomfort for the remainder of his life.17
John Eager Howard was known to be a calm and soft-spoken, yet competent and fierce military leader; these abilities earned him the deep respect of many of his contemporaries. The most notable of his admirers was the newly elected President George Washington who in 1795 offered him the lofty position of Secretary of War, and later a commission as a Brigadier General in 1798, when war with France seemed imminent. Howard turned down both of these honorable positions, 18 believing that his health was detrimentally affected by his war injury, sufficiently so that he could not manage the demands of either job.
Among Howard’s military contemporaries, Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee spoke highly of Howard’s leadership in battle: “We have seen him at the battle of Cowpens seize the crucial moment and turn the fortune of the day; - alike conspicuous, although not alike successful at Guilford and the Eutaws; and at all times, and all occasions eminently useful. He was justly ranked among the chosen sons of the south.”19 General Nathaniel Greene, Commander of the American Southern Force at the time of the Battle of Cowpens, also praised Howard in stating that “Colonel Howard is as good an officer as the world afforded, and deserves a statue of gold, no less than the Roman or Grecian heroes”.20
John Howard’s ferocity in battle is memorialized in his home State’s Official Song, “Maryland, My Maryland”:
“Thou wilt not cower in the dust,
Thy beaming sword shall never rust,
Remember Carroll's sacred trust,