Brian Hendelson of Classic Coin Company loaned the only gold Comitia Americana medal in private hands for an exhibit at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia
(Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) June 22, 2023 — A unique gold medal celebrating the Revolutionary War victory by Brigadier General Daniel Morgan over British Army forces in the 1781 Battle of Cowpens in South Carolina is making its first appearance since it sold at auction for $960,000 in April 2022. It apparently also is the first time it is available for general public viewing since its creation in 1839.
The winning bidder in the Stack’s Bowers auction, Brian Hendelson, president of Classic Coin Company in Bridgewater, New Jersey, has loaned the historic Daniel Morgan at Cowpens medal and its original red leather and purple velvet presentation case to the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia.
Insured now for more than $1 million, it is a featured part of an exhibit entitled “At War with a South Carolina Regiment, 1779-1782” that is now on display at the museum.
“I’ve collected early Americana for many years, including historical treasures from the Revolutionary War period. Adding the Daniel Morgan at Cowpens gold medal to my collection certainly is a tremendous honor. It commemorates an important event in early American history and honors a Revolutionary War hero who often is overlooked today,” said Hendelson.
“After 182 years hidden away with previous owners, I’m delighted to loan this national treasure to the museum so it now can be seen and appreciated by many people,” he explained.
The medal is cataloged as Betts-593, Julian MI-7, Loubat 8.
Morgan led his Continental troops in a decisive victory over British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton on January 17, 1781 at what is now the Cowpens National Battlefield in Gaffney, South Carolina.
The Museum’s description of the battle states: “The Battle of Cowpens turned the tide of the war in the South. While British forces still held the coastal cities of Charleston and Savannah, the Revolutionaries gradually reclaimed control of the countryside.”
In March 1781, Congress authorized the creation of a large gold medal to honor Morgan. Struck in Paris by the French engraver Augustin Dupre, it measured 56 millimeters in diameter and weighed 4.8 troy ounces.
Morgan received the medal in 1790. He died in 1802 and his one-of-a-kind gold medal was among the items stolen in a burglary at the Pittsburgh Farmers and Mechanics Bank 1818. It was never recovered.
Morgan’s grandson, Morgan Lafayette Neville, was an executive of the bank. In 1819, he began efforts to get a replacement medal, including writing to former President Thomas Jefferson, who carried the original medal with him when he returned from Paris in 1789 to become the first U.S. Secretary of State.
Eventually, in July 1836, Congress approved “An Act to renew the gold medal struck and presented to General Morgan, by order of Congress, in honor of the battle of Cowpens.” But the grandson died three years later, in March 1839, before the medal was created.
Finally, in December 1839, based on the design from Paris used to create the stolen and missing medal, the Philadelphia Mint struck a single Morgan at Cowpens medal weighing 4.79 ounces of fine gold. It was subsequently presented in 1841 to Morgan’s great-grandson Morgan Lafayette Neville, Jr., and it remained in the family until 1914. Since then, it has been privately owned by others, including the family of banker, financier, and philanthropist John Pierpont Morgan Jr.
Known as the Comitia Americana (Latin for “American Congress”) series, Congress authorized only seven gold medals for heroes of the American Revolution. However, apparently only six were actually made for individual recipients, and the Morgan medal is the only one now privately owned.
The six who received medals were General George Washington, General Horatio Gates, General Anthony Wayne, Gen. Nathanael Greene, Captain John Paul Jones (whose original medal has not been seen since his death in 1792 and may have been melted), and General Daniel Morgan. A medal authorized for General Henry Lee apparently was never stuck.
The nonprofit Museum of the American Revolution is located at 101 South 3rd St. near Independence Hall in Philadelphia. It is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission tickets can be purchased by calling 215-253-6731, obtained for a $3 discount online at www.AmRevMuseum.org, or purchased at the museum’s front desk.
For additional information about Classic Coin Company, visit www.ClassicCoinCompany.com or call 908-725-5600.