Joint resolutions in Congress in July 1862 and March 1863, created the Medal of Honor to recognize soldiers for meritorious conduct “above and beyond the call of duty.” The Army, Navy, and Marine Corps awarded the medals. Soldiers did not win them. They never were, nor are intentionally “won” by anyone. As a matter of the record, the Medal the recipient has to be recommended for it. At the time, a person could submit his own name for it and, in the case of the 27th Maine during the Gettysburg Campaign, 300 men received it for staying beyond the expiration of their term of service to assist in the national emergency. Considering the way the war was going for the Union in late 1862, reenlisting apparently constituted heroism. During the War, the Marine Corps did not allow officers to receive it, because the Corps expected its officers to behave superbly upon the field. The majority of the recipients received their medals long after the war. They also received them posthumously, which never appeared in the citations.
During the Civil War, men qualified for the Medal of Honor if:
1. They captured a Confederate flag
2. Captured a Confederate officer and/or his horse
3. Saved their regimental flag(s)
4. Exhibiting extraordinary bravery.
The Medal went to 63 enlisted men and officers for their part in the Battle of Gettysburg: 9 on July 1; 22 on July 2; 32 on July 3.
The following received the Medal for their actions at Gettysburg during Longstreet's attack :
1. Corporal Nathaniel M. Allen, age 23, Company B, 1st Massachusetts – saved the flags of his regiment from capture - awarded March 29, 1899.
2. Private Casper R. Carlisle, age 23, Company F, Independent Pennsylvania Light Artillery- saved a gun from capture – awarded December 21, 1892.
3. Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, age 35, 20th Maine – displayed great heroism and tenacity in holding his position on Little Round Top and for advancing to the forefront on Big Round Top – awarded August 11, 1893.
4. Corporal Harrison Clark, age 21, Company E, 125th New York – Took the flag from the dead color bearer and carried it forward – awarded June 11, 1895.
5. Captain John B. Fassitt, age 27, Company F, 23rd Pennsylvania – As a staff officer, he rescued an abandoned battery with the assistance of a regiment which he personally led into action and he engaged in close combat with a Confederate infantryman – killed in action at Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia on May 12, 1864, his medal was posthumously awarded on December 29, 1894.
6. Sergeants George W. Mears, age 20, (Company A), John W. Hart, age 25, (Company D), and Sergeant Wallace W. Johnson, age 21, (Company G) with Corporals Chester S. Furman, age 21 (Company A), J. Levi Roush, age 25, (Company D) and Thaddeus E. Smith, age 16, (Company E), 6th Pennsylvania Reserves – charged a log cabin near the J. Weikert farm and captured a squad of Confederates who were harassing the regiment as it advanced. In the process they rescued three prisoners from the Confederates.
Award dates: Mears (February 16, 1897); Hart (August 3, 1897); Johnson (August 8, 1900); Furman (August 3, 1897); Roush (August 3, 1897); Smith (May 5, 1900).
7. Sergeant Thomas Horan, age not given, Company E, 72nd New York – captured flag of the 8th Florida – awarded April 3, 1898.
8. Second Lieutenant Edward M. Knox, age 22, 15th New York Light Artillery - rescued his guns by hand after the Confederates had overrun his position – awarded October 18, 1892.
9. Captain John Lonergan, age 24, Company A, 13th Vermont – recaptured an overrun battery, and captured 83 Confederates in the Codori house – awarded October, 28, 1893.
10. Sergeant Harvey M. Munsell, age 25, Company A, 99th Pennsylvania – gallant and courageous conduct as the color bearer – awarded February 5, 1866.
11. Sergeant James A. Pipes, age 23, and Lieutenant James J. Purman, age 23, both Company A, 140th Pennsylvania – both were severely wounded while attempting to rescue a wounded comrade. Purman lost his left leg. Pipes received his medal for Gettysburg and for helping to stop a flank movement at Ream’s Station, Virginia, which cost him an arm. Pipes’s award date was April 5, 1898 and Purman’s October 30, 1896.
12. First Sergeant George W. Roosevelt, age 20, Company K, 26th Pennsylvania – severely wounded while capturing a Confederate color bearer and his flag – award July 2, 1887. He lost a leg.
13. Bugler Charles W. Reed, age 22, 9th Massachusetts Battery – rescued his wounded battery commander, Captain John Bigelow, at the Trostle farm – awarded August 16, 1895.
14. Major General Daniel E. Sickles, age 42, III Army Corps , commanding - conspicuous gallantry upon the field and encouraging his men after being severely wounded – awarded October 30, 1897. He lost his right leg below the knee.
15. Private Charles Stacey, age 20, Company D, 55th Ohio – advanced ahead of the skirmish line to locate Confederate sharpshooters and remained in that place until his company retired – awarded June 23, 1896.
16. Color Sergeant Andrew J. Tozier, age 25, Company I, 20th Maine – stood at the advance of the color company after the line had been pushed back and maintained his fire with ammunition he picked up from the ground – awarded August 13, 1898.
The U.S. Civil War, as far as I know, is the first war for which a large number of the battlefield monuments are dedicated to the rank and file soldiers and their company or regimental grade officers. The men cited above did not deliberately or consciously become heroes. They responded valiantly and selflessly as so many of their comrades did because the lives of those around them meant more than their own. Not given to bragging, they did their duty because it was their duty. It has been my experience, having known men who received combat awards, that they felt their departed comrades deserved the recognition and the medals more than they and they behaved as they had been trained. They believed they did their duty – nothing more.