March 25, 1863: First Awards of the Medal of Honor

Original Army Medal of Honor

On March 25, 1865 Secretary of War Stanton made the first awards of the Medal of Honor.  Amazingly enough, the United States had no medals for members of its armed forces who distinguished themselves in battle at the beginning of the Civil War.  General in Chief Winfield Scott, who ironically had been awarded  gold medals by Congress in 1814 and 1848, was adamantly against officers and men receiving medals for valor, viewing them as a European affectation and that it was insulting to give special recognition for courage, since officers and men had a duty to be brave and giving anyone a medal for simply doing his duty was preposterous in his opinion.  Medals had been used during the American Revolution but not in following conflicts, other than Congress voting a special gold medal, except in the Mexican War during which Congress authorized the issuance of certificates of merit.

The first medals were awarded to six of the survivors of Andrews Raid.  We will look at that raid in a future post.  A total of 1522 Medals of Honor were awarded during the Civil War.  Considering that some two million men served in the Union forces during the War, that is not a high number.  The Medal of Honor was the sole medal bestowed by the Union during the War.

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Published in: on March 25, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on March 25, 1863: First Awards of the Medal of Honor  
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