And all thy slumberers with the just,
Maryland! My Maryland!”21
John Eager Howard went on to serve an illustrious career as a political and civil servant. He served his new nation diligently for decades. He was the Governor of the State of Maryland from 1789-1791, when Maryland granted a portion of their state to be used as the Nation’s Capitol. He was a delegate to the last Continental Congress in 1788, a Maryland State Senator from 1791-1795, United States Senator from 1795-1803, and was the unsuccessful Federalist Vice-Presidential candidate in the 1816 election which elected Republican James Monroe.
There is an interesting series of events relating to both Howard’s military career and personal life which is well worth revealing here, and of particular interest to numismatists. On October 4, 1777, during the battle of Germantown, Howard, at the time a Major of the 4th Regiment, fought the British at their encampment at the Cliveden estate of Benjamin Chew. In Howard’s later personal account of the battle, he describes the action at the Chew Mansion: “The enemy by this time had given way, and I pushed on through their encampment. Their tents standing, and in the road, before we came opposite to Chew’s house. . . I had orders to keep to the right of the road, and as we passed Chew’s house, we were fired at from the upper windows, but received no injuries.”22 The Chew Mansion was the British center point of the battle, and is prominently featured on the important Germantown medal, which was apparently awarded to members of the British 40th Regiment of Foot under Colonel Musgrave. Engraved by Thomas Milton and struck at London’s Tower Mint, the medal acknowledged the British defense of the Chew Mansion, and their victory at Germantown.23
At the time of the 1777 Germantown battle, Benjamin Chew was not at his estate. Chew had been under American arrest in New Jersey for perceived loyalties to the crown, and a lack of support for the Declaration of Independence. His daughter, Margaret “Peggy” Chew was at the time in British occupied Philadelphia. She was young and beautiful, and was publicly courted by British Major John Andre.24 Major Andre later played an infamous role in the most treacherous American incidence of treason; he carried Benedict Arnold’s maps and diagrams of the fort at West Point. After he secretly crossed American lines and met with the notorious traitor Benedict Arnold, he was captured by the Americans with the clandestine maps in hand. He was condemned to death for his involvement, and subsequently hung at the gallows. Of course, Margaret Chew’s involvement with Major Andre and the British soldiers was scandalous at that time from the perspective of the Americans fighting and sacrificing for liberty.
In an ironic twist of fate, on May 17, 1787, John Eager Howard married Margaret Peggy Chew, none other than the British loyalist Benjamin Chew’s once disreputable daughter. (Both Benjamin Chew, and his daughter Peggy had long since recovered their respectability.) Ten years earlier, little did Howard realize that he was under fire by British soldiers in front of his future wife’s family home. Add to this an implausible historic and numismatic coincidence; John Eager Howard and Peggy Chew Howard’s personal history ties them and their families to both the Germantown and John Howard Comitia Americana medals. Stranger yet is the fact that these two medals were given by the opposing sides in the Revolutionary War conflict.
The links between Revolutionary War medals, John Howard, and Peggy Chew Howard do not end there. In all, during a six and a half year bloody war for independence, there were only 13 important military medals awarded to military leaders and other military personnel. This includes the 11 Comitia Americana Congressional Medals of Honor bestowed upon important American military leaders, and the Germantown medal awarded to British officers and soldiers. The thirteenth medal was also awarded by a resolution of the United States Congress, a silver medal25 to be bestowed upon John Paulding, David Williams, and Isaac Van Wart, the three captors of British Major John Andre, Benedict Arnold’s co-conspirator, and, of course, one time escort and romantic interest of Peggy Chew Howard! In all, out of the 13 medals, John Eager Howard has close ties to three of them, a historic superstar to numismatists collecting early American or colonial era medals.
Ultimately, the John Eager Howard – Peggy Chew Howard union was fruitful; they had nine children (including their last daughter who died at three months old), and fifty-three grandchildren.26 Their legacy includes one son, George Howard, who later served as Governor of Maryland, and another son, Benjamin Chew Howard, who served in the United States Congress. Four of their sons were involved in the defense of Baltimore during the War of 1812. They married into the most prominent families in Baltimore, and John Eager Howard and Star-Spangled Banner author Francis Scott Key were in-laws.
As an important and unselfish philanthropist, John Eager Howard’s generous legacy remains today. Many of the parks and public lands in downtown Baltimore were donated by Howard during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, and Howard County, Maryland is named after him. Land donated by Howard was used for Baltimore’s Washington Monument, the Lexington Market, University of Maryland Medical School, St. Paul’s Parish House, and the Catholic Cathedral. A large equestrian statue of Colonel John Eager Howard on horseback is prominently located in Washington Square, adjacent to the colossal Baltimore Washington Monument.
Finding a Treasured Revolutionary War Relic
The other two original Cowpens Medals of Honor awarded to General Daniel Morgan and Lieutenant Colonel William Washington for the Battle of the Cowpens have apparently gone missing, and their location is completely unknown today. The original gold medal awarded to General Daniel Morgan was stolen from the bank where it was stored, so Congress passed an act in 1836 to strike another gold medal from replacement dies for the heirs of Morgan. New Morgan Comitia Americana dies were engraved by Barré in Paris and the replacement gold medal was struck and presented to Morgan’s grandson Morgan L. Neville in 1840. The last known report of the location of the Barré replacement gold Daniel Morgan medal appears in the August 3, 1885 edition of the Saratoga Journal (New York), where the Journal announces that the gold Daniel Morgan Comitia Americana medal, then the property of “Jesse B. Neville, of Columbus, Ohio” was to be “on exhibition at the E.R.Waturbury’s Jewelry store.” 27
The pivotal moment in Colonel William Washington’s military career occurred as his cavalry pursued and captured the retreating British soldiers scattering from the Cowpens battlefield. Washington spotted and caught up with Major Banastre Tarleton along Green River Road, and engaged him, only to become outnumbered; battling Tarleton and two other British Officers who came to his aid. In the fray, Washington injured Tarleton’s hand, and it is reported that he slashed off one of Tarleton’s fingers while defending himself. Attacked from all sides, and fired upon by Tarleton’s pistol, Washington did managed to escape with his life, and most accounts claim that his horse was shot and killed, but Washington was uninjured.28 After his death in 1810, it was discovered that his body had the “ghastly scar of a terrible wound” across his chest, revealing that he may have actually been injured at the Cowpens in the swordfight with Tarleton. The cause of that wound was a secret that died with Washington, and no one, including his family, had previously known of the severe injury.29 The history and location of William Washington’s Comitia Americana medal also went with him to the grave; it may still remain in the possession of his heirs.
The original silver medal awarded to John Eager Howard had long been considered to be in the collection of the Maryland Historical Society, donated to them in 1959 by the Howard family. In Comitia Americana, Adams-Bentley include a footnote regarding the Maryland Historical Society silver Howard medal, indicating that colonial numismatic expert John Kraljevich had “examined it in the summer of 2005 and reported that it was a ‘competent cast’”30, and also that “the piece in the cabinet today appears to be a cast, not the struck original.”31
The Maryland Historical Society’s silver Howard medal has been in storage, unavailable for examination. I contacted Chris Becker at the Historical Society, and while the medal was not available, he was able to locate high quality photographs apparently taken of the silver medal donated by the Howard family. In examining the photos he provided, I quickly concurred that Kraljevich was accurate in his assessment; this medal was apparently a copy, likely cast, and definitely not an original struck Howard medal. The medal completely lacked the sharpness and detail of other Howard medals struck with the original Paris Mint dies for collectors.
Has the original silver Howard medal tragically disappeared along with the other two Battle of Cowpens medals awarded by the Revolutionary War Congress? Have all three of these treasured relics from this crucial battle for American independence been lost forever?
Looking back once again, and following the history of the Comitia Americana medal awarded to Howard, in 1824, French Revolutionary War General Marquis de Lafayette returned to America with great fanfare. As Lafayette traveled from city to city, the grateful citizens of his adopted country welcomed him and celebrated his return. The October 16, 1824 edition of Baltimore’s Niles Register goes into great detail recording the events surrounding Lafayette’s visit to Baltimore. Fellow Revolutionary War hero and much beloved Baltimorean Colonel John Eager Howard delivered the opening remarks during the festivities honoring the visit of Lafayette. Howard was also Lafayette’s personal host throughout his visit to Baltimore.
Homage was bestowed upon Lafayette at a dinner celebration at the Baltimore Hall of the Society of the Cincinnati. The Niles Register reports that there was a display of prominent Revolutionary War awards exhibited there, including swords and “two precious revolutionary relics, the high rewards . . . of a grateful country to one of her best and bravest sons. They were two silver medals which the revolutionary Congress had presented to Colonel John Eager Howard.” The article then describes the two medals, one of which is the well known silver Howard Comitia Americana medal by DuVivier.
The second Howard medal on display is described in great detail: “the other medal has the device of an officer pointing with his sword to a retreating enemy and beckoning to his men to advance; while hovering in the air is the figure of Justice with her scales. The motto is ‘Virtute et Justicia Valet.’ On the reverse is the figure of an officer treading upon the British loin and flag, with one hand piercing him with a spear, and the other holding the end of a chain passing around the body of the animal. The motto around the device is ‘Vinculis suis Vintus’.”
This other medal is further documented by virtue of its appearance on a circa 1784 painting of John Eager Howard by the well known American portraiture artist Charles Wilson Peale, now held in the Independence Hall collection in Philadelphia. In Howard’s portrait, you can see that the second medal has a design and legends which are actually hand engraved, and the medal is suspended from a ribbon, with the “Virtute et Justcia Valet” side displayed. The engraved medal is also included in C. Wyllys Betts “American Colonial History Illustrated by Contemporary Medals”. This adds the engraved medal to the important group of now widely collected “Betts Medals”, where it is listed as Betts-596; the Howard Comitia Americana medal is listed as Betts-595.32
Why was Howard given this second engraved medal? Curiously, the basic allegorical design with a winged figure hovering over him, and a suspended garland above his head matches elements of the final design of the obverse of his Comitia Americana medal. There has long been a mystery as to the source of the engraved medal worn in the Peale painting, and the Niles Register account sheds some light on its history where it states that the engraved medal was, in fact, presented by the United States Congress. It may be that this medal was simply a temporary replacement for the pending and overdue Congressional award, created in the intended style of the Comitia Americana medal, and within the limited technological means of craftsmen in the United States at the time.
Later that evening, after the celebration honoring Lafayette, another important event took place involving the history of the Howard medal, recounted in an 1879 Volume III issue of The Magazine of American History with Notes and Queries. In a brief article, James Howard McHenry, grandson of John Eager Howard, recounts the passing down of the two Revolutionary War medals which had been bestowed upon his grandfather. Sophia Catherine Howard Read, Colonel Howard’s daughter, brought two of his very young grandsons into the room where the reception was held: “Mrs. Read…remembers that at the time of the dinner given in Baltimore by the Cincinnati Society to Lafayette, in 1824, she took me and my cousin John Eager Howard to the hotel at which the dinner was given, and while she remained in a private room, we two boys were taken into the dining-room at the close of entertainment, and Colonel Howard gave each of us one of his revolutionary medals.” Only three years old at the time, Howard’s grandson, John Eager Howard III, was presented with the silver Comitia Americana medal awarded to his grandfather by Congress. James Howard McHenry then goes on to describe the medal given to him which he still possessed at the time; the engraved “Virtute et Justicia Valet” medal seen on the Peale painting. The American History with Notes and Queries article also includes a diagram of both sides of the engraved medal, documenting its appearance. The whereabouts of this engraved medal is unknown at this time.
The Maryland Historical Society Howard Medal
During the recent ANA World’s Fair of Money in Baltimore, a group of members from the Medal Collectors of America were invited by Curator and Deputy Director of Collections Jeannine Disviscour to visit the Maryland Historical Society and examine historic medals in their collection, including the important silver John Eager Howard Comitia Americana medal donated by the Howard family. Joining me, and meeting with Jeannine Disviscour and Maryland Historical Society volunteer Patricia Roberts, the other three representatives from the MCA were an illustrious group of American colonial medal experts and authors: Dr. George Fuld, Barry Tayman, and Dr. David Menchell. There was unquestionably the experience and knowledge present to authenticate or condemn the Howard medal in their collection.
George Fuld was the first to examine the medal, and almost immediately declared “this is not a cast medal!” After a thorough examination and measurement of the medal, there was unanimous consent that the medal before us was absolutely a Paris strike silver medal from the original Comitia Americana Howard dies engraved by DuVivier. The medal was sharply struck, measuring 46.1 mm in diameter, and weighing 52.4 grams, consistent with the weight and measurements of six known silver Howard medals struck with the original dies.33 This was definitely not the cast copy examined by Kraljevich on his previous visit. Kraljevich later confirmed this after being shown photos of the medal we examined at the Maryland Historical Society.34
In addition to the authentic silver Howard medal, the Society had another surprise, a lengthy and detailed handwritten family history of the silver medal awarded to their patriarch. Any provenance with important historical medals is extremely rare. To have a lengthy written provenance of this nature is almost unprecedented, and in many ways the history is another treasure. Written by John Eager Howard’s grandson McHenry Howard (son of the Colonel’s sixth son, Charles Howard)35 in December of 1912, it tells how he came in possession of the silver medal in the collection of the Maryland Historical Society in 1870: “I noticed on…the third story of my mothers house…an old paste board “band box”…apparently intended to be thrown away or burned…when I thrust my hand into it to investigate. Feeling something which seemed a little hard and weighty, I drew it out and found it was circular in shape…unwrapping it I found a silver medal, but it was so tarnished that it was only after rubbing or washing it I saw it was silver, and I recognized it as either the original medal voted by Congress to Colonel John Eager Howard after the battle of Cowpens or a duplicate of it.” The medal in the Maryland Historical Society has been harshly cleaned and polished, so its characteristics match the medal described by McHenry Howard.
Does the Maryland Historical Society have the original silver Comitia Americana medal actually awarded to John Eager Howard? With an authenticated silver Howard medal donated by the Howard family, and a family provenance, it seems logical and apparent that the original medal awarded to Howard has been located. Unfortunately, the family history, including McHenry Howard’s provenance, and other accounts of the history of Howard’s medal, may still leave the question unanswered.
Amusingly, McHenry Howard reveals a less romantic version of the passing down of the medal by Colonel Howard to his grandson John Eager Howard III after the 1824 reception for Lafayette, recalled to him by his mother, the daughter of Francis Scott Key, Elizabeth Phoebe Key Howard: “The two babies, the Colonel’s grandchildren, James Howard McHenry son of his deceased daughter Juliana E. (Howard) McHenry, and John E. Howard, son of his deceased eldest-son John E. Howard, were brought in and Colonel Howard hung one of his medals around the neck of James Howard McHenry; that Mrs. Cornelia A. (Read) Howard, the mother of young John E. Howard (III)…who was always jealous of her son – being the son of the eldest son – said “What will you do for John?” whereupon the Colonel hung upon his neck (or gave him?) his other medal.”
After discovering that he was in possession of a silver medal of the design awarded to his grandfather, many years later McHenry Howard came across an exhibition in Baltimore which included a silver medal matching his own, and purported to be the original medal awarded to Colonel Howard. He discovered that the medal belonged to the great-grandchildren of Colonel Howard through the family of his fourth son, William Key Howard. McHenry Howard asked other family members, and discovered that the grandchildren of Colonel Howard through his third son, Benjamin Chew Howard, also had a silver medal which they believed was the original awarded to the Colonel.
These accounts can become confusing, particularly due to the common reuse of first and last names within the Howard family for generation after generation. To summarize, the original medal was passed down to Howard’s grandson, John Eager Howard III, only son of his oldest son, John Eager Howard Jr. This fact is repeatedly documented in several family histories and publications. The medal at the Maryland Historical society comes from the line of Howard’s sixth oldest son, Charles Howard, and after examining this medal, we know it to be an authentic silver Paris strike from original dies. From McHenry Howard’s account, there are possibly silver Howard medals which were in possession of the family of his third oldest son, Benjamin Chew Howard, and fourth oldest son, William Howard. McHenry Howard bemoans the confusion caused by all of these medals in determining which of the silver medals was awarded to his grandfather. In his own written history, he states that “Silver facsimiles of the medal ought never to have been made.”
In fact, it was common practice for the Monnaie Du Paris to make copies of their medals for the collector market using original dies, and this was done with most of the Comitia Americana medals. The original Howard dies were used to strike copies well into the 1880’s, though the vast majority of those made were of a copper-bronzed composition. In Comitia Americana, Adams-Bentley include a census of the known medals, and report a total of only six silver copies of the Howard medal36 with plain edges (and thus struck prior to 1830),37 which includes the Maryland Historical Society example. Since its publication, a seventh example has been documented in a West Coast collection.
McHenry Howard, in doing his research on his grandfather’s medal, became aware that the Paris mint made restrikes, and indicates in his history that at sometime between 1845 and 1850, James Howard McHenry, Howard’s fifth son, traveled to Paris and had bronze copies of the Howard Medal struck, giving them to each living descendent of Howard. (Note: the Maryland Historical Society has three of these bronze medals from the Howard family in their collection, and all have plain edges, indicating they were actually struck before 1830.) McHenry Howard suggests that James Howard McHenry may have also procured silver Howard medals while in Paris, speculating this may be the source of the additional silver medals in the Howard family.
It is apparent that the original awarded silver Howard medal was passed down to his grandson John Eager Howard III during Lafayette’s visit in 1824. John Eager Howard III was later a Major in the US Army who served with some distinction in the War with Mexico. In 1859, he endured a lunacy hearing, and was declared incompetent, dying soon afterward in 1862.38 John Eager Howard III was never married and had no children.
Where did the original awarded medal go after it was in John Eager Howard III’s possession?
Howard’s second son was the Governor of Maryland, and it seems unlikely he was excluded from any distribution of silver medals to the family. Colonel Howard’s third and fourth son’s families purportedly have silver medals, though there is no physical evidence of their existence or authenticity. Considering that his fifth son may have procured those silver medals in Paris, it is not too far a stretch to suggest that his line would also have a silver medal. His sixth son, Charles Howard, may or may not have had a silver medal, but Charles’ son McHenry Howard definitely had a silver medal – the same medal we examined in Baltimore.
John Eager Howard served in Congress and was Maryland Governor during the production of his medal in Paris. He was deeply involved in politics, and was likely in frequent contact with Washington, Jefferson, and others. George Washington attended his wedding reception, and they were regular correspondents. Howard could have easily made arrangements to have additional copies of his silver medal struck at the Paris mint, though there is nothing to substantiate this theory. He certainly had the contacts and resources to do so. Howard was the highly respected patriarch of the large Howard family, and his Comitia Americana medal was a family Holy Grail as evidenced by the attention given to it by family members for over a century after it was presented by George Washington. There would have been a demand for copies of the medal.
Traditionally, medal collectors will use die states and die progression seen on struck medals to determine the time frame within which a particular medal was struck. As a die is used to strike medals, it can become worn, damaged, or rusted from time and use, and those marks or characteristics can be found on the medals which are struck from the dies. The more advanced the damage, the later the strike. In practice, however, this is not always an exact science, as repairs and polishing are done at various times, and can return the dies back to what appears to be an apparently previous die state.
It is known that the silver medal awarded to John Eager Howard was struck at or near the same time as the Washington-Webster example. An August 16, 1789 receipt written in Jefferson’s handwriting shows an order for “3 Medailles d’argent” (three medals in silver), with Jefferson’s notation on the back “DuVivier Howard’s medal”.39 This order would include striking the awarded silver Howard medal, the silver medal for George Washington’s silver cased set, and a third copy, possibly to be presented at the Salon for the medals stuck in 1789 at the Monnaie du Paris.
Comparison of the die characteristics seen on any of the Howard medals with those on the Washington-Webster example can be used as an indicator as to when the medal was struck. Washington-Webster die states are often used for comparison when identifying the die state of Comitia Americana medals.
I have photographs of five of the seven known silver Howard medals.40 In examining the medal in the collection of the Maryland Historical Society, it appears to be of an early die state, based upon early progression of the noteworthy die breaks in and around the obverse lettering. I have a high resolution picture of the Washington-Webster Howard medal, and the die states of the Maryland Historical Society example are a close match, and perhaps of a slightly earlier die state. Both the Washington-Webster41 and the Maryland Historical Society examples have been cleaned, however, and this could remove die breaks or rust marks from the surface of the medals, creating the appearance of an earlier die state.
The Maryland Historical Society is in possession of an authenticated silver Howard Comitia Americana medal originating from the family of John Eager Howard, struck from original dies at the Paris mint. The medal is of an early die state apparently matching or preceding that of the Washington-Webster example which was struck at the same time as the medal awarded to Howard. In my opinion, given the history of Colonel Howard’s medal, most of the objections and arguments that could be offered against the Maryland Historical Society’s medal being the original Howard medal are conjectural. Overall, there is compelling evidence that the Howard medal they possess is, in fact, that awarded to John Eager Howard by the Continental Congress for his bravery and leadership at Cowpens.
One small, but critical detail is included in McHenry Howard’s account of his discovery of the Howard medal in 1870. The medal he found was “wrapped in an old and rumpled and rather sere piece of thin light brown paper, and on it was writing…in the hand of Major John E. Howard.” Ultimately one single word, included in McHenry Howard’s lengthy dissertation, is crucial to closing this debate – the word “Major”. Major John E. Howard - John Eager Howard III – was unquestionably the family heir of Colonel Howard’s Comitia Americana medal. The Maryland Historical Society is both Colonel and Major John Eager Howard’s heir apparent.
On July 10, 1959, nearly 50 years before our visit to the Maryland Historical Society, Julia McHenry Howard, daughter of McHenry Howard, granddaughter of Charles Howard, and great-granddaughter of two American icons; Francis Scott Key and Revolutionary War hero Colonel John Eager Howard, passed away. Upon her death, she had bequeathed to the Maryland Historical Society a silver medal, once hidden away in a box, intended for disposal or destruction. Almost 100 years earlier, her father, McHenry Howard, miraculously discovered and rescued that medal for posterity. Over 80 years before McHenry Howard unearthed his grandfather’s medal, under the care of Thomas Jefferson; it nearly sunk to the bottom of Chesapeake Bay, and was almost incinerated.
The legacy of immense personal devotion, and enduring generosity, from generations of the Howard family of Baltimore to the American people, extends from the eighteenth to the twenty-first century; from Colonel John Eager Howard to his great-granddaughter Julia McHenry Howard; and beyond.
While holding and examining the extraordinary silver medal, gazing upon and admiring the artistry of Pierre-Simon Benjamin DuVivier displayed upon its surface, chills came to me as I reminisced about its incredible journey and history. This was indeed the American treasure once beheld by Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and the Marquis de Lafayette, and presented by Washington as our first President to the esteemed Revolutionary War Colonel John Eager Howard, acknowledging his command and intrepidity while fighting for the cause of American freedom and independence, in a cow pasture in South Carolina, more than two centuries ago.