Piers Motley Auctions

1777 Battle of Germantown Medal
Posted On: 06 Sep 2018 by PIERS MOTLEY

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An Exceedingly Rare American War of Independance Period Medal brought in on a valuation day.

An exceeding rare 1777 Battle of Germanstown Medal relating to The American War of Independance has been brought in on a valuation day.

Bought from a Tavistock auction in the days before live internet bidding and being able to search catalogues online. The current owner has only recently discovered that it is something so significant.

To be entered into our November 12th Specialist Sale interest is expected both from the UK and perhaps more strongly in the USA. With a re-sale guide price of £13,000-20,000 it might even double this.

Historic Battle of Germantown Medal in Silver

A Decoration for the 40th Regiment of Foot

1777 (ca. 1785) Battle of Germantown medal. Betts-556. Silver, 44.4 mm. 36 grams / 554 grains.

Holed for suspension. A medal of profound historical importance, the only medal struck to mark the actions of a British military unit during the American Revolution.

The Battle of Germantown medal is unique among the Betts series. Not only is it the only medal that refers to a battle the Americans lost, but it is the only medal that may be more properly deemed a regimental award. Medals struck from these dies were produced for the exclusive use of the 40th Regiment of Foot, one of the units present at Germantown on October 4, 1777. They enter the historical record for the first time in a 1789 official review of the regiment, then based in Liverpool. During his extensive research of this medal and other issues of the British military in this era, Erik Goldstein of Colonial Williamsburg discovered the inspection report of the 40th Foot, which noted "the officers of this regiment wear also a silver medal round their necks presented to them by the present colonel in memory of the very gallant and noble stand the regiment made at German Town, which however proper, and tending to keep up the memory of the extraordinary good behavior of the regiment on that duty, I find wants the sanction of His Majesty's approbation to be entered in the Regimental Orderly Books." In other words, the officers wore a silver distinction unique to this regiment, a medal that was not approved to be worn with their uniforms but was done so anyway. The medal was probably struck after the regiment returned to England in 1783 and definitely before 1789; most sources place it about 1785.

The design of the medal gives a fairly accurate representation of the battle, which took place on the grounds of Cliveden, the mansion home of Benjamin Chew, the Chief Justice of Pennsylvania. Just as depicted on the medal, the Americans showered the house with cannonballs, toppling the yard statuary, while the British occupied the home and rained fire from the windows and doors. A flag of truce was offered, as depicted on the medal, but it was refused. American casualties at the battle included over a thousand men killed, wounded, or missing, more than twice the losses suffered by the King’s troops. The battle at Germantown allowed the English to maintain their control of Philadelphia, taken just weeks before following the Patriot losses at Paoli and Brandywine.