Origins of the Purple Heart
Sgt. Elijah Churchill, 2nd Cont. Dragoons
In the Fall of 1781, Sgt. Churchill led a raid against Fort Slongo, NY, and sucessfully destroyed artillery and munitions. For this act of singular leadership Churchill was presented with a heart shaped purple badge embroidered with the word "merit". Only three of these original awards have a record of being given. On February 22, 1932, the bicentennial of George Washington's birth, the Badge of Military Merit was redesigned and re-issued as the Purple Heart, as we know it today.
See more at: https://www.infantry.army.mil/museum/off_site_tour/case136.htm for the battle,
and http://www.2dragoon.org/ for the story of the unit.