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This is a complete list of Medal of Honor recipients for the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.

Medal of Honor[edit | edit source]

The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government and is bestowed on a member of the United States armed forces who distinguishes himself "…conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States…" Due to the nature of this medal, it is commonly presented posthumously.[1]

Forty-two men would receive the Medal of Honor for their actions during this battle. During this battle more than 20 men captured the enemies unit flags including Sergeant Charles H. Fasnacht who captured the flag of the 2nd Louisiana Tigers (C.S.A.) in hand-to-hand fighting.[n 1]

Battle of Spotsylvania Court House[edit | edit source]

The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House was the second major battle in Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's 1864 Overland Campaign of the American Civil War. Following the bloody but inconclusive Battle of the Wilderness, Grant's army disengaged from Confederate General Robert E. Lee's army and moved to the southeast, attempting to lure Lee into battle under more favorable conditions. Elements of Lee's army beat the Union army to the critical crossroads of Spotsylvania Court House and began entrenching. Fighting occurred on and off from May 8 through May 21, 1864, as Grant tried various schemes to break the Confederate line. In the end, the battle was tactically inconclusive, but with almost 32,000 casualties on both sides, it was the costliest battle of the campaign.

On May 8, Union Maj. Gens. Gouverneur K. Warren and John Sedgwick unsuccessfully attempted to dislodge the Confederates under Maj. Gen. Richard H. Anderson from Laurel Hill, a position that was blocking them from Spotsylvania Court House. On May 10, Grant ordered attacks across the Confederate line of earthworks, which by now extended over 4 miles (6.5 km), including a prominent salient known as the Mule Shoe. Although the Union troops failed again at Laurel Hill, an innovative assault attempt by Col. Emory Upton against the Mule Shoe showed promise.

Grant used Upton's assault technique on a much larger scale on May 12 when he ordered the 15,000 men of Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock's corps to assault the Mule Shoe. Hancock was initially successful, but the Confederate leadership rallied and repulsed his incursion. Attacks by Maj. Gen. Horatio G. Wright on the western edge of the Mule Shoe, which became known as the "Bloody Angle", involved almost 24 hours of desperate hand-to-hand fighting, some of the most intense of the Civil War. Supporting attacks by Warren and by Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside were unsuccessful.

Grant repositioned his lines in another attempt to engage Lee under more favorable conditions and launched a final attack by Hancock on May 18, which made no progress. A reconnaissance in force by Confederate Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell at Harris farm on May 19 was a costly and pointless failure. On May 21, Grant disengaged from the Confederate Army and started southeast on another maneuver to turn Lee's right flank, as the Overland Campaign continued toward the Battle of North Anna.

Name Service Rank Date of action Notes[2][3][n 1]
Alber, FrederickFrederick Alber Army E-01Private May 12, 1864 Bravely rescued Lt. Charles H. Todd of his regiment who had been captured by a party of Confederates by shooting down one, knocking over another with the butt of his musket, and taking them both prisoners.
Ammerman, Robert W.Robert W. Ammerman Army E-01Private May 12, 1864 Capture of battle flag of 8th North Carolina (C.S.A.), being one of the foremost in the assault.
Barker, Nathaniel C.Nathaniel C. Barker Army E-05Sergeant May 12, 1864 Six color bearers of the regiment having been killed, he voluntarily took both flags of the regiment and carried them through the remainder of the battle.
Beddows, RichardRichard Beddows Army E-01Private May 18, 1864 Brought his guidon off in safety under a heavy fire of musketry after he had lost it by his horse becoming furious from the bursting of a shell.
Beech, John P.John P. Beech Army E-05Sergeant May 12, 1864 Voluntarily assisted in working the guns of a battery, all the members of which had been killed or wounded.
Benjamin, Samuel N.Samuel N. Benjamin Army O-02First Lieutenant Jul 1861 – May 1864 Particularly distinguished services as an artillery officer. Received for actions between Bull Run to Spotsylvania, Virginia
Bishop, Francis A.Francis A. Bishop Army E-01Private May 12, 1864 Capture of flag
Burk, E. MichaelE. Michael Burk Army E-01Private May 12, 1864 Capture of flag, seizing it as his regiment advanced over the enemy's works. He received a bullet wound in the chest while capturing flag.
Clarke, Dayton P.Dayton P. Clarke Army O-03Captain May 12, 1864 Distinguished conduct in a desperate hand-to-hand fight while commanding the regiment
Clausen, Charles H.Charles H. Clausen Army O-02First Lieutenant May 12, 1864 Although severely wounded, he led the regiment against the enemy, under a terrific fire, and saved a battery from capture
Cutts, James M.James M. Cutts Army O-03Captain 1864 Gallantry in actions. Received for actions in the Battle of the Wilderness; Spotsylvania and Petersburg, Virginia
Fall, Charles S.Charles S. Fall Army E-05Sergeant May 12, 1864 Was one of the first to mount the Confederate works, where he bayoneted two of the enemy and captured a Confederate flag, but threw it away to continue the pursuit of the enemy.
Fasnacht, Charles H.Charles H. Fasnacht Army E-05Sergeant May 12, 1864 Capture of flag of 2nd Louisiana Tigers (C.S.A.) in a hand-to-hand contest.
Freeman, ArchibaldArchibald Freeman Army E-01Private May 12, 1864 Capture of flag of 17th Louisiana (C.S.A.).
Harris, George W.George W. Harris Army E-01Private May 12, 1864 Capture of flag, wresting it from the color bearer and shooting an officer who attempted to regain it.
Jones, WilliamWilliam Jones Army E-08First Sergeant May 12, 1864 Capture of flag of 65th Virginia Infantry (C.S.A.).
Kindig, John M.John M. Kindig Army E-04Corporal May 12, 1864 Capture of flag of 28th North Carolina Infantry. (C.S.A.).
Kinsey, JohnJohn Kinsey Army E-04Corporal May 18, 1864 Seized the colors, the color bearer having been shot, and with great gallantry succeeded in saving them from capture.
Marsh, AlbertAlbert Marsh Army E-05Sergeant May 12, 1864 Captured the enemy flag
McAnally, CharlesCharles McAnally Army Lieutenant May 12, 1864 In a hand-to-hand encounter with the enemy captured a flag, was wounded in the act, but continued on duty until he received a second wound.
McFall, DanielDaniel McFall Army E-05Sergeant May 12, 1864 Captured Col. Barker, commanding the Confederate brigade that charged the Union batteries; on the same day rescued Lt. George W. Harmon of his regiment from the enemy.
McHale, Alexander U.Alexander U. McHale Army E-04Corporal May 12, 1864 Captured a Confederate color in a charge, threw the flag over in front of the works, and continued in the charge upon the enemy.
Mitchell, Alexander H.Alexander H. Mitchell Army O-02First Lieutenant May 12, 1864 Capture of flag of 18th North Carolina Infantry (C.S.A.), in a personal encounter with the color bearer.
Morgan, LewisLewis Morgan Army E-01Private May 12, 1864 Capture of flag from the enemy's works.
Morse, BenjaminBenjamin Morse Army E-01Private May 12, 1864 Capture of colors of 4th Georgia Battery (C.S.A.)
Noll, ConradConrad Noll Army E-05Sergeant May 12, 1864 Seized the colors, the color bearer having been shot down, and gallantly fought his way out with them, though the enemy were on the left flank and rear.
Noyes, William W.William W. Noyes Army E-01Private May 12, 1864 Standing upon the top of the breastworks, deliberately took aim and fired no less than 15 shots into the enemy's lines, but a few yards away.
Robbins, Augustus I.Augustus I. Robbins Army O-01Second Lieutenant May 12, 1864 While voluntarily serving as a staff officer successfully withdrew a regiment across and around a severely exposed position to the rest of the command; was severely wounded.
Robinson, ThomasThomas Robinson Army E-01Private May 12, 1864 Capture of flag in a hand_to_hand conflict.
Rossbach, ValentineValentine Rossbach Army E-05Sergeant May 12, 1864 Encouraged his cannoneers to hold a very dangerous position, and when all depended on several good shots it was from his piece that the most effective were delivered, causing the enemy's fire to cease and thereby relieving the critical position of the Federal troops.
Rounds, Lewis A.Lewis A. Rounds Army E-01Private May 12, 1864 Capture of flag.
Russell, Charles L.Charles L. Russell Army E-04Corporal May 12, 1864 Capture of flag of 42d Virginia Infantry (C.S.A.).
Schlachter, PhilippPhilipp Schlachter Army E-01Private May 12, 1864 Capture of flag of 15th Louisiana Infantry (C.S.A.).
Seaver, Thomas O.Thomas O. Seaver Army O-06Colonel May 10, 1864 At the head of 3 regiments and under a most galling fire attacked and occupied the enemy's works.
Thompson, Charles A.Charles A. Thompson Army E-05Sergeant May 12, 1864 After the regiment was surrounded and all resistance seemed useless, fought single-handed for the colors and refused to give them up until he had appealed to his superior officers.
Tracy, Charles H.Charles H. Tracy Army E-05Sergeant May 12, 1864 and Apr 2, 1865 At the risk of his own life, at Spotsylvania, 12 May 1864, assisted in carrying to a place of safety a wounded and helpless officer. Also received for his actions in the Third Battle of Petersburg, Virginia.
Weeks, John H.John H. Weeks Army E-01Private May 12, 1864 Capture of flag and color bearer using an empty cocked rifle while outnumbered 5 or 6.
Westerhold, WilliamWilliam Westerhold Army E-05Sergeant May 12, 1864 Capture of flag of 23d Virginia Infantry (C.S.A.).
Whitman, Frank M.Frank M. Whitman Army E-01Private Sep 17, 1862 and May 18, 1864 Was among the last to leave the field at Antietam and was instrumental in saving the lives of several of his comrades at the imminent risk of his own. At Spotsylvania was foremost in line in the assault, where he lost a leg. Received for actions in the Battle of Antietam, Maryland and Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia
Wilcox, William H.William H. Wilcox Army E-05Sergeant May 12, 1864 Took command of his company, deployed as skirmishers, after the officers in command of the skirmish line had both been wounded, conducting himself gallantly; afterwards, becoming separated from command, he asked and obtained permission to fight in another company.
Wilson, Christopher W.Christopher W. Wilson Army E-01Private May 12, 1864 Took the flag from the wounded color bearer and carried it in the charge over the Confederate works, in which charge he also captured the colors of the 56th Virginia (C.S.A.) bringing off both flags in safety.
Wisner, Lewis S.Lewis S. Wisner Army O-02First Lieutenant May 12, 1864 While serving as an engineer officer voluntarily exposed himself to the enemy's fire.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Many of the awards during the Civil War were for capturing or saving regimental flags. During the Civil War, regimental flags served as the rallying point for the unit, and guided the unit's movements. Loss of the flag could greatly disrupt a unit, and could have a greater effect than the death of the commanding officer.

References[edit | edit source]

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

  • Bonekemper, Edward H., III. A Victor, Not a Butcher: Ulysses S. Grant's Overlooked Military Genius. Washington, DC: Regnery, 2004. ISBN 0-89526-062-X.
  • Kennedy, Frances H., ed. The Civil War Battlefield Guide. 2nd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1998. ISBN 0-395-74012-6.
  • Salmon, John S. The Official Virginia Civil War Battlefield Guide. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2001. ISBN 0-8117-2868-4.
  • Trudeau, Noah Andre. The Last Citadel: Petersburg, Virginia, June 1864 – April 1865. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1991. ISBN 0-8071-1861-3.

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