George Washington Creates the Purple Heart

On August 7, 1782, in Newburgh, New York, General George Washington, Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, created the “Badge for Military Merit”, a decoration composed of a piece of purple silk in the shape of a heart, bordered in a narrow silver binding, with the word Deserved sewn on the face in silver.

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The badge was to be presented to soldiers for “any singularly meritorious deed” and allowed its wearer to pass guards and sentries without challenge. The honored person’s name and regiment also had to be entered in a “Book of Merit”.

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