General

Continental Army general — one of Washington’s best; 1726—1783.
Talented Continental Army general who defected to the British; 1741—1801.
British playwright, politician; general who lost the Battles of Saratoga; 1722—92.
Governor of Quebec; British commander-in-chief, 1782 - 83; 1724—1808.
French general, liaison between Rochambeau and Washington; 1734—88.
Soldier, politician, New York governor, vice president under Jefferson and Madison; 1739—1812.
British general; commander-in-chief, 1778—82; 1730—95.
British general, surrendered with troops at Yorktown; 1738—1805.
German general; died at the Battle of Fort Mercer.
British general, Royal Governor of Massachusetts, ordered troops to Concord; 1719/20—87.

As students of Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau are always reminding us, the age of reason was really an age of sentiment. In this too, Washington was a man of his age. When he established the first general decoration in the American Army, the Purple Heart, it was not (as it became in the twentieth century) an award available to all soldiers wounded in the line of duty. Only privates and noncomissioned officers could win the original Badge of Military Merit, a cloth-shaped heart sewn over the man’s actual heart, which allowed him to pass all guards and sentinels which officers are permitted to do. The symbol was not of heart’s blood shed, but of virtue proceeding from the heart. Limiting the award to nonofficers was meant to indicate that great virtue can be shown regardless of rank — that in Washington’s words, the road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is thus open to all.

Garry Wills
Cincinnatus: George Washington & the Enlightenment (1984)