Congressional Medal of Honor, A Brief History

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The beginning

On December 21, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill authorizing 200 medals be produced and bestowed upon enlisted personnel of the United States Navy for their gallantry and bravery in the Civil War.

On July 12, 1862 President Lincoln signed a bill authorizing the manufacture of 2,000 Medals of Honor to be presented to privates and non-commissioned officers of the Army for their gallantry and bravery in the Civil War.

The Act of March 3, 1863 extended the Army Medal of Honor recipients to include officers.


The first Medals of Honor awarded were presented to six members of Andrew’s Raiders. The first Medal was presented to Private Jacob Parrott.  Secretary of War Edwin Stanton presented the Medals on March 25, 1863.
The Navy presented its first Medals of Honor on April 3, 1863.  41 sailors were awarded Medals on that day, 17 of which were for their bravery in the attacks at Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip on April 24, 1862.

The highest total of Medals of Honor earned in one day was at Vicksburg, Mississippi; 96 soldiers were awarded Medals for their bravery on May 22, 1863.

July 1, 1863, 58 Medals of Honor were awarded to soldiers for four days at Gettysburg.

July 18, 1863, William Harvey Carney was the first African-American to earn a Medal of Honor for his gallantry in combat at Fort Wagner, SC.

April 6, 1865 Second Lieutenant Thomas Custer was awarded a Medal of Honor for his actions in combat at Deatonsville, VA.  Custer was the first to be awarded two Medals of Honor.

On November 11, 1865 a female, Dr. Mary Walker requested commission into the United States Army.  President Andrew Johnson denied her request and awarded her a Medal of Honor instead.  Dr. Walker’s Medal was revoked in 1917 then restored in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter.

As of this writing, there have been 3,449 Medals of Honor presented to men and women of the United States Military.  The most recent recipient, Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta, was awarded a Medal on November 16, 2010.



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