Medals during the Civil War



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Prior to the Civil War, it was considered "contrary to the spirit of American Institutions" to award medals or decorations for exceptional service. The first American military medal was awarded to George Washington for his role in driving the British from Boston in 1776. At the outbreak of the Civil War, no American Medal existed to honor gallantry or distinguished conduct. In July of 1862, Congress authorized the five-pointed bronze Medal of Honor for enlisted men of the army. It was awarded to some 2,100 Union soldiers, 63 of which given to soldiers for their actions at Gettysburg. By the war's end, a number of other decorations were adopted by various army commands, state governments and civil bodies. For example, the Sumter medal was given to the men who defended Fort Sumter in April 1861. The Gillmore medal was bronze and numbered 400, given to men who attacked Fort Sumter in August 1863. In honor of General Phillip Kearny, the Kearny Medal was created to award the officers of the 1st Division, III corps that served under his command and a Kearny Cross was awarded to enlisted men who distinguished themselves in battle. The Medal of Honor, however, was the only official medal awarded by the U.S. Government (congress) during the Civil War. In 1907, the U.S. War Department issued the "Army Civil War Medal" for military service from April 15, 1861 to April 9, 1865 (or for service in Texas to August 20, 1866).


Below is a list of 20th Mainers that were awarded the Medal of Honor:


Rank and Unit: First Lieutenant, 5th U.S. Artillery later Colonel of 20th Maine and bgde. commander in 11th Corps

Citation: at Bull Run, VA on 21 July 1861, remained upon the field in command of a section of Griffin's Battery, directing its fire after being severely wounded and refusing to leave the field until too weak to sit upon the caisson where he had been placed by men of his command.
Date Issued: 22 June 1894

Entered service: Rockland, Maine

Birthplace: East Thomaston, Maine


Rank and Unit: Sergeant, 20th Maine, Company I

Citation: At Gettysburg, PA on 2 July 1863, at the crisis of the engagement this soldier, a color bearer, stood alone in an advanced position, the regiment having been borne back, and defended his colors with musket and ammunition picked up at his feet.
Date Issued: 13 August 1898

Entered service: Plymouth, Maine

Birthplace: Monmouth, Maine


Rank and Unit: Colonel, 20th Maine Infantry

Citation: Daring heroism and great tenacity in holding his position on the Little Round Top against repeated assaults, and carrying the advance position on the Great Round Top at Gettysburg, PA. on 2 July 1863.

Date Issued: 11 August 1893.

Entered service: Brunswick, Maine

Birthplace: 8 September 1828, Brewer Maine



Rank and Unit: Captain, 20th Maine, Company B

Citation: Learning that an assault was to be made upon the enemy's works by other troops, this officer voluntarily joined the storming party with about 50 men of his regiment, and by his dash and gallantry rendered effective service in the assault on Rappahannock Station on 7 November 1863.

Citation entry: Brownville, ME

Date Issued: 5 April 1898

Birthplace: Brownville, ME

Reference Page?: 146



Rank and Unit: 1st Lieutenant of 20th Maine, Company F

Citation: Capture of flag at Battle of Five Forks, VA on 1 April 1865

Citation Entry: Winterport, ME

Date Issued: 10 May 1865

Birthplace: Winterport, ME

Reference Page?: 190



Source: NPS Gettysburg Soldiers website and NPS Soldier and Sailor System (see links page for websites), Time Life Books "Echoes of Glory: Arms and Equipment of the Union".