TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
New York, 18 April, 1776.
Permit me, through you, to convey to the honorable Congress the sentiments of gratitude I feel for the high honor they have done me in the public mark of approbation contained in your favor of the 2d instant, which came to hand last night. I beg you to assure them, that it will ever be my highest ambition to approve myself a faithful servant of the public; and that to be in any degree instrumental in procuring to my American brethren a restitution of their just rights and privileges, will constitute my chief happiness.
Agreeable to your request, I have communicated, in general orders, to the officers and soldiers under my command, the thanks of Congress for their good behavior in the service; and I am happy in having such an opportunity of doing justice to their merit. They were indeed, at first, “a band of undisciplined husbandmen”; but it is, (under God,) to their bravery and attention to their duty, that I am indebted for that success, which has procured me the only reward I wish to receive, the affection and esteem of my countrymen.
The medal, intended to be presented to me by your honorable body, I shall carefully preserve as a memorial of their regard. I beg leave to return you, Sir, my warmest thanks for the polite manner in which you have been pleased to express their sentiments of my conduct; and am, with sincere esteem and respect, Sir, your and their most obedient and most humble servant.
When the Congress received intelligence of the evacuation of Boston, they resolved, “That the thanks of this Congress, in their own name, and in the name of the thirteen United Colonies, whom they represent, be presented to his Excellency General Washington, and the officers and soldiers under his command, for their wise and spirited conduct at the siege and acquisition of Boston; and that a medal be struck in commemoration of this great event, and presented to his Excellency; and that a committee of three be appointed to prepare a letter of thanks, and a proper device for the medal.” The committee were John Adams, John Jay, and Stephen Hopkins.
“It gives me the most sensible pleasure to convey to you, by order of Congress, the only tribute which a free people will ever consent to pay, the tribute of thanks and gratitude to their friends and benefactors. The disinterested and patriotic principles, which led you to the field, have also led you to glory; and it affords no little consolation to your countrymen to reflect, that, as a peculiar greatness of mind induced you to decline any compensation for serving them, except the pleasure of promoting their happiness, they may without your permission bestow upon you the largest share of their affections and esteem.
“Those pages in the annals of America will record your title to a conspicuous place in the temple of fame, which shall inform posterity, that, under your direction, an undisciplined band of husbandmen in the course of a few months became soldiers; and that the desolation meditated against the country by a brave army of veterans, commanded by the most experienced generals, but employed by bad men in the worst of causes, was, by the fortitude of your troops, and the address of their officers, next to the kind interposition of Providence, confined for near a year within such narrow limits, as scarcely to admit more room than was necessary for the encampments and fortifications they lately abandoned. Accept, therefore, Sir, the thanks of the United Colonies, unanimously declared by their delegates to be due to you, and the brave officers and troops under your command; and be pleased to communicate to them this distinguished mark of the approbation of their country. The Congress have ordered a golden medal, adapted to the occasion, to be struck, and when finished to be presented to you.
“I have the honor to be, with every sentiment of esteem, Sir, your most obedient and very humble servant.” Hancock to Washington, 2 April, 1776.
A private letter from Mr. Adams, written at the same time, will show the lively interest and the agency, which he took in the affair:—
“I congratulate you, as well as all the friends of mankind, on the reduction of Boston; an event, which appeared to me of so great and decisive importance, that, the next morning after the arrival of the news, I did myself the honor to move for the thanks of Congress to your Excellency, and that a medal of gold should be struck in commemoration of it. Congress have been pleased to appoint me, with two other gentlemen, to prepare a device. I should be very happy to have your Excellency’s sentiments concerning a proper one.”
The medal, which was struck in Paris, contains on the obverse a head of Washington in profile, exhibiting an excellent likeness, and around it the inscription:
GEORGIO WASHINGTON SVPREMO DVCI EXERCITVVM ADSERTORI LIBERTATIS COMITIA AMERICANA.
On the reverse is the town of Boston in the distance, with a fleet in view under sail. Washington and his officers are on horseback in the foreground, and he is pointing to the ships as they depart from the harbor. The inscription is
HOSTIBVS PRIMO FVGATIS BOSTONIVM RECVPERATVM XVII MARTII MDCCLXXVI.
This gold medal became the property of George Steptoe Washington, a son of Samuel Washington, who was the elder brother of the General. From him it passed to his eldest son, Dr. Samuel Walter Washington, and on his death to his widow, who gave it to her only son George Lafayette Washington. During the civil war it was buried in the cellar of a house at Harper’s Ferry, where Mr. Washington resided, and in 1876 was purchased from his widow by a few citizens of Boston and presented to the city, to be preserved in the Boston Public Library.
“The Honorable the Continental Congress have been pleased to direct the Thanks of the United Colonies to be presented to the Officers, and Soldiers of their Army; who with unremitted Courage, and Perseverance, surmounted every Effort of the enemy, and every Obstacle of that severe Climate, in persisting for eleven Months, in the Blockade, and Siege of Boston, and finally forcing their enemies to make a shameful and precipitate Retreat, from that once devoted town.
“This honorable Mark of the approbation of the Congress, would have been inserted sooner in the General-Orders had not their Express gone to the Eastward, while the Army was upon the march and arriv’d only last evening from Boston.” Orderly Book, 18 April, 1776.