US Coins

War hero's unique congressional gold medal for sale

A unique congressional gold medal present­ed to an American hero of the War of 1812 highlights a German auction in February.

Fritz Rudolph Künker on Feb. 2 in Berlin will offer the congressional gold medal presented to Brig. Gen. Alexander Macomb for his heroics during the Sept. 11, 1814, Battle of Plattsburgh, also known as the Battle of Lake Champlain. 

The victory there ended the final invasion of the northern states of the United States during the War of 1812, and with the Battle of Baltimore the next day, helped usher in the peace that came three months later when the Treaty of Ghent was finally signed. 

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Macomb, together with 1,500 soldiers and some militia members, successfully resisted English Gen. George Prevost and his 10,531 men near Plattsburgh, N.Y.  

This medal was presented to Macomb by President James Madison, according to Künker. It was authorized by a Nov. 3, 1814, congressional resolution, and Macomb was one of 27 men to receive the congressional gold medal for their service during the War of 1812.

The medal came out of a Swiss branch of the Macomb Family and was kept for a long time in a castle in Geneva, according to Ulrich Künker, head of the auction firm.

Susan Watts Macomb (1849 to 1928) was a direct heir of the hero of Plattsburgh, by marriage. The medal passed into the possession of the Grand d’Hauteville noble family. 

The medal is cataloged as Julian-MI-16 by R. W. Julian in Medals of the United States Mint, the First Century, 1792–1892. Its obverse shows a bust of Macomb facing right, with his name surrounding, the shortened name of engraver Moritz Furst below.

The reverse depicts a battle scene on the Saranac River and Lake Champlain, along with inscriptions related to the honor, the battle name and date, and the engraver’s name.

It measures 65 millimeters in diameter.  

The medal offered by Künker is “a high-class historical testimony recalling one of the pivotal moments in American history,” the firm said. 

This medal is graded Extremely Fine to Fleur-de-coin (Proof), and has an estimate of €150,000 ($159,702 U.S.). 

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