Molly has ten years of middle school teaching experience and two master's degrees in teaching.
Since the Revolutionary War in the late 1700s, millions of Americans have volunteered to defend and honor the United States of America. Some wars have been fought on U.S. soil and some overseas, but all have included men and women who have risen above the call of duty. All servicemen and women show courage and bravery when enlisting in the military, however some Americans saw the need to recognize those who went above and beyond during the Civil War.
Between the Revolutionary War in the 1780s and the Civil War in the 1860s, America fought in other conflicts and wars. Though nothing was actually formally established by Congress during this time, various certificates, badges, or medals of honor and merit were presented to individuals who displayed acts of courage. The Congressional Medal of Honor was created in 1861 to formally and officially honor these men and women previously awarded in other ways.
The American Civil War (1861-1865) between the Union and Confederate States of America was different than any other war fought by the U.S because it was between states in the U.S., and Americans on both sides volunteered to defend the principals of each region. It also proved right away to be a bloody war, with new technology, (at the time) cutting edge weapons, and a lack of proper medical care. Still that did not stop men, women, and even young teens from signing up to defend their country and beliefs.
Congressional Medal of Honor
In December of 1861, Iowa Senator James W. Grimes introduced a bill that was created to honor those in the United States Navy. The Navy Medal of Honor was signed into law later that month and was presented by the President of the United States on behalf of Congress. Two hundred medals were minted.
In February of 1862, Massachusetts Senator Harry Wilson introduced a similar bill for the army; this time when the bill was passed and signed, 2,000 medals were minted. The United States Air Force was not officially created until 1947; airmen before then were awarded the Army Medal of Honor. All three are awarded for the same purpose, however each branch of the military has a variant of the original design from 1861.
Recipients of the Medal of Honor
The first act for which the Medal of Honor was awarded went to an assistant surgeon, Bernard J.D. Irwin. In 1861, Irwin voluntarily rescued 60 soldiers in Arizona. Although this was the first act for which the Congressional Medal of Honor was given out, Irwin did not receive the medal until 30 years later.
The first act that merited the medal during the Civil War was given to Francis E. Brownell in May of 1861. Congress denied his request for the medal two times before he was awarded it with the help of a congressman, because when it was first created, there were no real guidelines for who could be awarded the medal.
In 1963, Congress established a set of guidelines. According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, these guidelines include:
- Engaged in action against an enemy of the United States
- Engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force
- Serving with friendly forces engaged in armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party
Of the roughly 3,500 Medals of Honor that have been awarded, 1,520 have been awarded to citizens who served during the Civil War. Only one Medal of Honor has ever been awarded to a woman. Mary Edwards Walker was a surgeon who volunteered for the Union Army during the Civil War. She was captured by Confederate soldiers and kept as a prisoner of war. After her release she was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for her bravery. She is one of eight civilians who have ever received the honor.
The most recent recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor is Captain Florent Groberg in 2015. He received the medal for his bravery and heroism in Afghanistan in 2012 when he injured himself trying to stop a suicide bomber and protecting those around him.
Whether is has been awarded by the President of the United States directly to a recipient or posthumously given, the Congressional Medal of Honor serves as a symbol of courage and bravery in defense of the United States. The medal serves as a reminder of the sacrifice so many men and women make to serve this country, especially those who go beyond the call of duty. The Medal, first proposed by Iowa Senator James W. Grimes, is a formal and official recognition of service members or civilian citizens who have gone above the call of duty. Many of these medals, over 1,500, were awarded to citizens who served during one of America's most conflicted times, the Civil War.
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
Register to view this lesson
Unlock Your Education
See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com
Become a Study.com member and start learning now.Become a Member
Already a member? Log InBack