The Order of the Purple Heart
|The ORDER of the
PURPLE HEART for MILITARY MERIT, commonly called "The Purple Heart", is an
American decoration - the oldest military decoration in the world in present use and the
first award made available to a common soldier. It was created by one of the world's most
famed and best-loved heroes - General George Washington.
General Washington is often pictured as a cold, stern soldier, a proud aristocrat, a martinet. Perhaps he was all of these at times. Yet we know he showed sympathy and concern for his troops, and was not too proud to pray, humbly on his knees, for his beloved country and for the men who served it, and him, so bravely and loyaly.
|His keen appreciation of the
importance of the common soldier in any campaign impelled him to recognize outstanding
valor and merit by granting a commission or an advance in rank for the person concerned.
In the summer of 1782 he was ordered by the Continental Congress to cease doing so - there
were no funds to pay the soldiers, much less the officers!
Deprived of his usual means of reward, he must have searched for a substitute. Shortly after receiving the "stop" order from Congress, he wrote his memorable General Orders of August 7, 1782, which read in part as follows:
Lost or misfiled for almost 150 years among
the War Department Records at Washington, D.C., this important paper came to light during
the search for Washington's papers prior to the celebration of his Bi-Centennial in 1932.
With it were the dramatic accounts of three soldiers who received the decoration at
Newburgh, N.Y., at Washington's Headquarters. The book of Merit has not been found. The
U.S. War Department revived the Purple Heart decoration on February 22, 1932. The revived
form is of metal, instead of perishable cloth, made in the shape of a rich purple heart
bordered with gold, with a bust of Washington in the center and the Washington
coat-of-arms at the top. The latter is believed to have been the source of the stars and
stripes of the American Flag.
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