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Gemeinsame Kriegsdenkmünze für die Hanseatische Legion

Joint War Commemorative Medal of the Hanseatic Legion

Decoration was instituted by the Council of Free and Imperial Cities, each Senate of which ratified that decision separately: Hamburg on March 09, 1815 (gazetted on March 15, 1815), Bremen on March 31, 1815 (gazetted on April 03, 1815) and Lübeck on June 07, 1815. Initially commemorative award was known as “Hanseatic Honorary Medal” (“Hanseatische Ehren-Medaille”), at least it was stated as such in the second volume of the “Enactments Collection  of the Free Hanseatic City of Hamburg since its Liberation in 1814” that was issued in 1815 (“Sammlung der Verordnungen der freyen Hanse-Stadt Hamburg, seit deren Wiederbefreyung im Jahre 1814. Zweyter Band. Verordnungen von 1815”). Statute of the medal was published in the XXI Section of the above-mentioned Collection under the title “März 15. Publicandum wegen der zu ertheilenden Hanseatischen Ehren-Medaille”.

Hanseatische Ehren-Medaille was presented to citizens of the three Hanseatic free cities who fought against Napoleon troops during military campaigns of 1813 and 1814 from March 19, 1813 until April 29, 1814. Soldiers, NCOs, officers of the volunteer Hanseatic Legion (two infantry battalions from Hamburg, one from Bremen and one from Lübeck) as well as civilians from Civil Guards were eligible for decoration. Totally volunteers from Hanseatic cities including military personnel, officials and military doctors averaged 3,800 men (1,710 Hamburg citizens, 750 from Bremen and 540 from Lübeck).

Those applying for a medal had to submit a written application stating one’s name, family name, place of birth, number of the company or cavalry squadron within Hanseatic Legion, company or squadron commander’s name, period of service with Hanseatic military contingent and date of dismissal. Those applications were examined by special commissions chaired by members of the City Senates and comprised of prominent local military commanders. Each session ended with drawing up of record of proceedings that was kept at the municipal archives. As medals were not minted by the time Statute was published, former members of the Hanseatic Legion were issued with an award document, or Patent (“Patent zur Befugnis der Tragung der Denkmünze”), upon presentation of which medal was subsequently given to veteran. Wearing of the decoration by those who were not issued with an official award document bearing their names was prohibited. Such persons were qualified as fraudsters (“Falsarii”) and were subjects for prosecution followed by punishment.  

Design of the Gemeinsame Kriegsdenkmünze für die Hanseatische Legion was elaborated by Gottfried Bernhard Loos (06.08.1773-29.07.1843), a Münzmeister from Berlin.

Centre of an obverse with raised border showed three vertical oval shields with coat of arms of three Hanseatic cities – Bremen, Lübeck and Hamburg – leaned to the trunk of an oak and surrounded with branches. Semicircular inscription in Gothic letters “God was with us” (“Gott war mit uns”) was placed above, while name of the medalist (“Loos”) executed in capital  letters was situated just below the middle shield. 

Centre of a reverse with raised border carried an inscription in Gothic letters running in five lines: “In Memory of the Patriotic Battle 1813-1814” (“Dem Vaterländischen Kampfe 1813. 1814. zum Andenken.”). Miniature Maltese cross was placed below. Inscriptions in Gothic lettering within thin rims were running in circle: “Hanseatic Legion.” (“Hanseatische Legion.”) above and “Lübeck. Bremen. Hamburg” below.

Joint War Commemorative Medal of Hanseatic Legion 2Interesting to know that curious mistake has crept into the description of Gemeinsame Kriegsdenkmünze für die Hanseatische Legion published a century ago in the Russian magazine “Old Coin”. Thus, pencil drawing illustrating that medal represented in fact another decoration, namely Prussian silver oval medal commemorating Allied victory in the Battle of Leipzig and designed by Gottfried Bernhard Loos. An extract from the review under the heading “Bibliography” that announced publication of a book titled “Numismatic Monuments of the Patriotic War” by Ivan Kholodkovsky and Nikolai Godlevsky, two prominent Russian numismatists, reads: “Medal distributed for wearing by the whole personnel of the special volunteer legion raised in the cities of Hamburg, Bremen and Lübeck for participation in struggle against Napoleon. As drawing shows, shield with the Russian coat of arms takes first place”. (Numismatic Magazine “Old Coin”, No.4, April 1912, Third year of publication, page 61).

Fortunately that disappointing mistake was corrected in the October issue of that magazine published the same year. An article written by a certain M.Garshin reads: “Bibliography section of the 4th issue of the magazine “Old Coin” had image and description of the medal distributed for wearing by the whole personnel of the special volunteer legion raised in the cities of Hamburg, Bremen and Lübeck for participation in struggle against Napoleon. Unfortunately readers were provided with image and description of entirely different medal. Medal of the so-called “Hanseatic Legion”, the author speaks about, was circular with an obverse showing a tree with three shields leaning to its trunk: those of Hamburg (fortress), Bremen (key) and Lübeck (double-headed eagle without crowns); an inscription above reads “Gott var (sic!) mit uns”. A reverse bore a legend in its centre: “Dem Faterländischen (sic!) Kampfe 1813. 1814 zum Andenken”, Maltese cross below inscription; and circular inscription: “Hanseatische Legion. Lübeck. Bremen. Hambourg (sic!)”. (Numismatic Magazine “Old Coin”, No.7, October 1912, Third year of publication, page 110).

Circular medal with loop for ribbon suspension measuring 36 mm in diameter and weighing 14,5 g was minted of silver and its manufacture cost 1 Thaler 16 Groschen.

Gemeinsame Kriegsdenkmünze für die Hanseatische Legion was worn suspended from a 35 mm silk ribbon divided into white and red halves, thus symbolizing Hamburg, Bremen and Lübeck, whose flags comprised of those two colours. It’s worth mentioning here that the same ribbon can be found on another Hanseatic decoration, Lübeck Hanseatic Cross (Hanseatenkreuz Lübeck), that was instituted by the City Senate a century ago, on August 21, 1915.

Exact information on the quantity of medals being minted remains unclear, as various sources mention 720 or 800 and even 4,400 pieces. However, total number of awards reached 1,000 at most.

Twelve exclusive gold medals of the same diameter weighing 21,93 g were manufactured as well. They were presented to high ranking state a military leaders during the Congress of Vienna that was held from September 1814 to June 1815 in the Austrian capital.

Eighteen table gold medals were subsequently minted and sent to Lübeck. Six pieces were presented as special honorable gifts afterwards. Five additional table medals were struck on private order.

Miniature medals struck of silver measuring 15,5 mm in diameter and weighing 1,8 g were produced as well in the first half of the XIX century. 

Joint War Commemorative Medal of Hanseatic Legion 1