Rare Fidelity Medal, the Great Chain Links, and Images of the André Papers from the Revolutionary Era on Display
Albany, N.Y. – The New York State Museum will open The Fidelity Medal: Treason at West Point Exhibition on Friday, September 29, State Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa announced today. On display through December 2023, the exhibition will feature important historical artifacts and information related to the American Revolutionary War, including the rare Fidelity Medallion, the first military medal authorized by the United States Congress; three links from the Great Chain, which was once part of a chain boom constructed across the Hudson River at West Point created to prevent British ships from sailing north from New York City; and papers found on British Army Major André when he was captured.
Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young, Jr. said, “This new exhibition with artifacts from our rich history as New Yorkers reminds us that our liberty is a result of those who chose bravery and allegiance over fear and treachery. These ideals continue to inspire us all to cherish the hard-won freedoms we enjoy today.”
State Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa said, “The significance of receiving and displaying artifacts from the American Revolutionary War cannot be overstated. Having such treasured relics from such a pivotal chapter in our nation’s journey to freedom helps us all to make an instant connection between the past and the present. I hope that this new exhibition helps Museum visitors to appreciate how our state history correlates to the broader history of our country.”
Deputy Commissioner of Cultural Education Mark Schaming said, “The gift of this precious medal is even more significant because the New York State Archives holds the papers created by Major General Benedict Arnold during the Revolutionary War that supplied information to the British Army concerning the conditions, personnel, and American fortifications at West Point, New York. These papers were found in the boot of British spy Major John Andre by Isaac Van Wart and two other men.”
The Fidelity Medallion on display at the New York State Museum was awarded to Isaac Van Wart, a militiaman from Westchester County. Van Wart was born in 1750 and died After his death, the medallion remained in the custody of Van Wart’s family until 2023, when it was bequeathed to the historical collections at the New York State Museum.
The Fidelity Medallion was created specifically for the three enlisted Westchester County militia men, Isaac Van Wart, John Paulding, and David Williams, who captured British Army Major John André on September 23, 1780, and it was never presented again. It can be considered the oldest decoration in the U.S. military, preceding by nearly two years the Badge of Military Merit—the precursor to the modern Purple Heart Medal. The two-sided medal has a Latin inscription, which translates as, “Love of Country Conquers,” on one side, and “Fidelity” on the other.
The three links on display were forged in 1778 at Sterling Iron Works in Warwick, Orange County, and remained in use until the end of the war in 1783. Each link measures approximately two feet in length and weighs between 140 and 180 pounds.
High-resolution photos of the Fidelity Medal, Great Chain links, and two of the papers found on British Army Major André are available here.
The State Museum is a program of the New York State Education Department’s Office of Cultural Education. Located at 222 Madison Avenue in Albany, the Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. It is closed on the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. Admission is free. Further information about events, other exhibitions, and programming can be obtained by calling (518) 474-5877 or visiting the Museum website.