55.7 millimeters. 1206.7 grains. A great rarity among early American medals, a star of the Comitia Americana series, the Nathanael Greene at Eutaw Springs medal was struck to honor one of the few great military strategists spawned by the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. While we have offered specimens of this great rarity before (the Ford Collection included more than 10% of the entire original mintage of 23 pieces in bronze), never before has a specimen entered the marketplace with such a provenance and so much supporting documentation.
The medal still retains a significant proportion of its reflective character in the fields, with even medium-brown toning revealing tantalizing hints of mint color at peripheries. A bit of lacquer adheres to the central reverse, where this medal was once adhered inside of a framed display, and some harmless surface dirt is present. No spots are present, no evidence of cleaning or mishandling, a barest bit of rub is present on the highest point of the relief. This piece is certainly in contention for the finest known in bronze, along with the primary Ford piece. Ford's second was cleaned and shows some scratches, his third was just a bit more handled, and LaRiviere’s was also cleaned and worn. Interestingly, the LaRiviere piece and the ANS piece both showed what Alan Stahl terms, "several lines going around it and vise marks," a phenomenon also present here, apparently the hallmark of the ill-fitting collar used to strike this medal in 1787.
John Jay, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, was informed by a February 14, 1787 letter from Thomas Jefferson that the 23 bronze specimens and one gold piece (destined for Greene) had been struck; they were sent from France on March 21. The gold piece never reached Greene, as he had died on June 19, 1786. It did reach the executor of the Greene estate, Jeremiah Wadsworth, then his widow, and finally a descendant gave it to the Rhode Island Historical Society, where it remains. The bronze pieces were distributed by the Congress, who on October 26, 1787 resolved:
Ordered that the Secretary of the United States for the Department of foreign Affairs transmit one of the copper medals struck in Honor of General Greene to each of the said General’s Aides, who acted during his Command in the Southern Department.
A handwritten copy of that resolution, written and signed by the Congress’ longtime secretary, Charles Thomson, accompanied the medal at the time of its presentation. It remains with it now.
This medal was the specimen presented to Lt. Col. Lewis Morris, Greene's aide-de-camp and the son of the signer Lewis Morris of Morrisania. Born in New Jersey in 1752, Morris graduated Princeton in 1774, served with General John Sullivan in the expedition against the Iroquois, and then joined Greene’s staff. Morris remained in the South after the war had ended, and when Congress sent this letter to him, he was living near Charleston, South Carolina.
The medal was presented along with a letter, penned by Thomson as secretary of Congress and signed by John Jay as Secretary of Foreign Affairs, dated February 12, 1788. That letter remains with the medal today. Jay wrote:
It gives me pleasure to have an opportunity of transmitting to you, by Order of Congress, a copy of the Medal struck by their Direction in Honor of the late General Greene. A variety of circumstances conspire to render this mark of public attention acceptable to you, though I am persuaded that non among them will more immediately affect your Feelings than the Relation it bears to that great Man whose loss you in particular and the people of America in general have great Reason to regret and lament. I have the honor to be, Sir, your most obt. and hble. Servt., John Jay
PS. A fit of Sickness which since early in November last has till lately detailed me from the Office, prevented my having the Pleasure of making this Communication to you sooner. –
Beside the Thomson ADS Congressional Resolution and the Jay ALS presentation letter, this medal is also accompanied by John Jay’s Congressional free-franked envelope addressed to "Lt. Coll Lewis Morris / late Aid to Gen Greene / South Carolina," signed by Jay, as well as Morris' retained copy of his letter of thanks to Congress. Morris wrote, in part, "For this distinguished mark of attention permit me to express my warmest acknowledgements, an attention the more pleasing as it related to my services under a man whose heart was an ornament of humanity." Morris’s retained copy was penned on a near scrap of paper, but it remains in excellent condition. The free frank is somewhat tattered, but the Jay autograph and address label is bold. The Jay letter and Thomson resolution are both in excellent condition, with only minor splits along center folds, and look magnificent still.
The ensemble stands as one of the greatest offerings in modern numismatic history for enthusiasts in the Comitia Americana series. Never before has a bronze medal been offered with such direct lineage or Congressional documentation. This medal remained with Morris descendants until recent years; this is its first auction appearance. The only other Comitia Americana medals which retain their original provenance chain are the original presentation strikes, such as Washington’s Washington Before Boston medal, Anthony Wayne's Wayne at Stony Point medal, and Greene's Greene at Eutaw Springs medal. Each of these, along with all others we can think of, are impounded in institutional collections. This medal was mentioned in Adams and Bentley's book on the Comitia Americana series; little did they know it still existed and retained all of its Congressional paperwork. The offering of a Greene medal -- any Greene medal -- is a landmark. The original dies were never placed into use to produce restrikes (though the US Mint apparently struck one large planchet example in bronze from the rusted dies in the 19th century), thus this is the rarest collectible medal in the series, eclipsed only by the non-collectible John Stewart at Stony Point (with just one known in private hands).
The prices realized by the Ford trio of medals, gathered by Wayte Raymond over a 50 year career, are likely not relevant today; the fact that none of those has resold in the six years since that sale is. This ensemble will likely set a new record for the price of a bronze Comitia Americana medal, as well it should. The documents alone are valued into five figures, and should be retained with this medal, as they have been for more than two centuries. (Total: one medal, three letters, one free-frank envelope)