The Kittanning Medal

or (Armstrong Medal)

The Western Pennsylvania Numismatic Society devoted its September 1963 meeting to numismatic items of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. One of the displays was the Kittanning, Pennsylvania medal, in sliver, in copper perfect impression and in copper after the dies cracked. The history of this medal was the subject of a brief paper presented to the society.

A review of the numismatic literature reveals little or nothing about this historic piece other than references in a few auction catalogues. The 50 year index of the American Numismatic Society lists two references. The index of the Journal of the American Numismatic Association lists none. The history of the victory at Kittanning (PA) by Lieutenant Colonel John Armstrong and his son on September 8, 1756, has been recorded in various historical journals, principally those of Pennsylvania .

A word by word account of Armstrong’s attack on the Indian village of Kittanning, Pennsylvania as reported to his superior officer is published in various old books on Western Pennsylvania.

William A. Hunter, historian with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania has aptly and exactly recorded the history in various publications. It would be impossible to improve on his text, therefore I will quote the historical facts from him.

"In the spring of 1756 the French and Indian War became painfully real to Pennsylvanians living west of the Susquehanna (River). The first scattered Indian raids, in the fall of 1755, had been interrupted by winter, but now were resumed in earnest. Incited and aided by the French enemy, recently established in western Pennsylvania, Delaware and Shawnee Indians, under their leaders, Shingas and Captain Jacobs, swept down to burn, kill and capture."

"In Pennsylvania, Braddock’s defeat on July 9, 1755 had brought war to a province unwilling to take military action and unaccustomed to military planning. Fearful of French military funds and forces, Governor Robert Hunter Morris had at first, in the summer of 1755, extemporized local defenses in the Cumberland Valley, between Carlisle and the Maryland line. In October, Indian attacks, minor in terms of actual numbers and losses, but alarming in implication, woke Pennsylvanians to the real nature of the danger they faced; and on November 2, a heavier Indian attack on the Coves, between present McConnellsburg and the Maryland line, showed the inadequacy of any merely local defenses."

The Province had built and garrisoned four forts west of the Susquehanna; Fort George, Fort Granville, Fort Shirley, and Fort Lyttelton. The frontier attacks reached a climax on July 30, 1756, when a force of Indians headed by Captain Jacobs and supported by fifteen Frenchmen besieged Fort Granville and, having set fire to the place killed the lieutenant (Lieutenant Edward Armstrong) then in command, and forced the garrison to surrender. This destruction of a Provincial fort called for revenge and also for a reorganization of defenses for greater strength and better protection. The chief responsibility for these tasks lay upon Lieutenant Colonel John Armstrong, commander of the Second Battalion of the Pennsylvania regiment, which garrisoned the forts west of the Susquehanna, (and brother of dead Lt. Edward Armstrong.) Accordingly, with the approval of Governor Morris, the officers drew up secret plans for the attack upon the Indians."

"It had been learned from escaped prisoners that the Indian leaders, Shingas and Captain Jacobs had their headquarters at Kittanning, on the Allegheny River (above Pittsburgh). This was a site of early Delaware settlements on the Ohio, dating from the 1720’s, and had long been known to the Pennsylvania traders who accompanied and followed these Indians from the Susquehanna. The Delaware name of the place meant "at the great river"; and the Iroquois name, Atique, was of similar significance; it was a major landmark on a route running westward from the lower Susquehanna to the prairie country south of the Great Lakes. To this place Shingas had removed in 1754 from the forks of Ohio."

It should be noted that the present site of Kittanning, Pennsylvania, approximates that of the Indian village of Kittannning and was named after the latter.

"Marching by various routes, 300 men of Armstrong’s six garrisons assembled at Fort Shirley, the most advanced of the forts, and on Monday August 30, the main body of troops set out from this place, preceded by an advance party which they overtook at the Allegheny Mountains on Friday, September 3. From this place scouts went forward to reconnoiter. Upon their return the next day, the troops stored their supplies on scaffolds, and set out on an unbroken march, continuing into the night of September 7, to Kittanning."

The attack began at daybreak, September 8, 1756. The Indian leader Captain Jacobs was killed. Lieutenant Colonel Armstrong’s official report listed his losses at 17 men killed, 13 wounded and 19 missing. Of the 19 missing, 3 were later reported alive. The Indians reported their losses as seven men and two women. The Indian leader Shingas escaped.

The attack on Kittanning was a moral victory. It improved the spirits of the settlers, and the Delaware Indians abandoned their settlement at Kittanning, retiring to the protection of the French Forts, and to less exposed towns on the Beaver River and western settlements.

"On October 5, 1756, the Corporation of the City of Philadelphia gave Armstrong a vote of thanks, and set aside 160 pounds for appropriate gifts to him and his officers."

A medal was struck in his honor by the Corporation of the City of Philadelphia on January 5, 1757. Thomas Penn presented Armstrong with a sword and belt; and some years later the Proprietors ordered a tract of land surveyed for Armstrong. "Including the old Kittanning town." The patent for this tract, dated March 2, 1775, makes the grant. "In testimony and Memorial of the Services of Colonel John Armstrong in his arduous and successful Expedition against the Indians at the Indian town and Settlement of Kittanning on the Allegheny which was the first instance of carrying the War into the Indian Country and gave a check to their Incursions into this Province;" and it pointedly names the tract "Victory."

The medal is described as follows:

The medal was engraved by Edward Duffield, a Philadelphia watchmaker and engraver (1730-1805) and struck by Joseph Richardson, a noted silversmith of Philadelphia (1711-1784).

The original medal is known in silver, pewter and copper. The United States Mint Kittanning Medal is known in bronze. There are counterfeits known in lead. A few medals in copper are known to have been struck after the dies cracked and they show the impression of the broken die beautifully.

The medal in silver is most rare and less than six are known. Mr. R. N. Williams II, Director of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA., informs me that the society owns one in silver, copper and pewter. The silver medal is on exhibit with the following description:

"The Kittanning or General Armstrong medal (1756) is believed to have been the first medal awarded by the colonies or cities to war soldiers for their services. This also is one of the first medals from dies struck in the colonies. Edward Duffield cut the dies and Joseph Richardson, the silversmith struck the medals. Silver medals were presented to Col. Armstrong and his commissioned officers."

I would believe that the copper and pewter medals were awarded to non-commissioned officers and the enlisted men.

A review of auction catalogues points up that the medal is catalogued under various headings such as, Early American Medals, American Medals relating to the Army, American Historical Medals, Indian Peace Medals, (English, George II, 1727 to 1760).

Historically, the medal is closely associated with the early history of Western Pennsylvania and our country. Numismatically, it is significant in that it is one of the earliest, if not the first medal, struck in the Colonial United States.


  1. Hunter, Wm. A., "Victory at Kittanning", Pennsylvania Historical Journal, Vol. XXIII, No. 3, July, 1956.
  2. Hunter, Wm. A., S. K. Stevenson, D. H. Kent, "Armstrong’s Victory at Kittanning", PA Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, PA, 1956.
  3. Wm. A. Hunter, "Forts on the Pennsylvania Frontier (1753-1758)", Harrisburg, PA 1960, p 405.
  4. "Frontier Forts of PA." Report of the Commission to Locate the Site of PA State 1896, Vol I, p. 605
  5. Craig, Neville B. "The Olden Times, Pittsburgh , PA", 1846, Vol. I, p.76 (Col. Armstrong’s Letter).
  6. Keeny "Early American Medalist and Die Sinkers" p. 7 and 20.
  7. Robert J. Hudson, M. D. , "The American Journal of Numismatics" Vol. 6, p17. and Vol. 14, p.91.