Coin Resource Center Includes Listing on Henry Lee Comitia Americana Medal

This blog has been covering the entries on Comitia Americana Medals included in the Coin Resource Center over the last weeks. This week we’ll be taking a quick look at the Comitia Americana Medal awarded to Henry Lee III honoring his August 19, 1779 raid on Paulus Hook, New Jersey. Though a gold version of the medal was likely never produced and actually presented, examples in other metallic compositions are known.

Henry Lee, father of future Confederate general Robert E. Lee, was an officer in the Continental Army whose proficiency on horseback and grasp of cavalry tactics made him a very effective commander of light, highly mobile mounted infantry. His success in the Southern Campaigns represented his most significant contributions to the American war effort but he received (kind of, more on that later) the gold medal for an inconsequential action outside of New York in the summer of 1779.

In 1779, the Northern Theater of the Revolutionary War effectively stalemated, with the British maintaining their hold on New York City. Lee planned and executed a raid on a Paulus Hook, a fort in northern New Jersey overlooking New York Harbor. The raid was highly successful, with more than 150 British soldiers killed and captured, compared to fewer than a half a dozen American casualties. Though the British quickly retook the fort, the raid was regarded as a success and shortly after the action, Congress voted to award Lee a gold medal, the only one awarded to an officer below the rank of general. It was omitted from a list of medals to be prepared at the Paris Mint, though dies were prepared and at least one trial was struck.

Interestingly, it is also the only Comitia Americana medal prepared outside of Paris, though a gold version for Lee was never ultimately produced. Our CRC listing includes a history of the bureaucratic wrangling and fate of the dies prepared. As with other CRC listings, links to recent auction appearances and high-quality images and Coins in Motions animations are included.

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