Medal of Honor
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.
Twenty-three men would receive the Medal of Honor for their actions during this battle.
Summary of the battle
The Battle of the Wilderness was fought from May 5–7, 1864 and was the first battle of Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's 1864 Virginia Overland Campaign against Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Both armies suffered heavy casualties, a harbinger of a bloody war of attrition by Grant against Lee's army and, eventually, the Confederate capital, Richmond, Virginia. The battle was tactically inconclusive, as Grant disengaged and continued his offensive.
Grant attempted to move quickly through the dense underbrush of the Wilderness of Spotsylvania, but Lee launched two of his corps on parallel roads to intercept him. On the morning of May 5, the Union V Corps under Maj. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren attacked the Confederate Second Corps, commanded by Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, on the Orange Turnpike. That afternoon the Third Corps, commanded by Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill, encountered Brig. Gen. George W. Getty's division (VI Corps) and Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock's II Corps on the Orange Plank Road. Fighting until dark was fierce but inconclusive as both sides attempted to maneuver in the dense woods.
At dawn on May 6, Hancock attacked along the Plank Road, driving Hill's Corps back in confusion, but the First Corps of Lt. Gen. James Longstreet arrived in time to prevent the collapse of the Confederate right flank. Longstreet followed up with a surprise flanking attack from an unfinished railroad bed that drove Hancock's men back to the Brock Road, but the momentum was lost when Longstreet was wounded by his own men. An evening attack by Brig. Gen. John B. Gordon against the Union right flank caused consternation at Union headquarters, but the lines stabilized and fighting ceased. On May 7, Grant disengaged and moved to the southeast, intending to leave the Wilderness to interpose his army between Lee and Richmond, leading to the bloody Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.
|Name||Service||Rank||Date of action||Notes[n 1]|
|Henry H. Bingham||Army||Captain||May 6, 1864||Rallied and led into action a portion of the troops who had given way under fierce assaults by the enemy.|
|Henri Le Fevre Brown||Army||Sergeant||May 6, 1864||Voluntarily and under a heavy fire from the enemy, 3 times crossed the field of battle with a load of ammunition in a blanket on his back, thus supplying the Federal forces, whose ammunition had nearly all been expended, and enabling them to hold their position until reinforcement arrived, when the enemy were driven from their position.|
|Abram J. Buckles||Army||Sergeant||May 5, 1864||Though suffering from an open wound, carried the regimental colors until again wounded.|
|Thomas Burk||Army||Sergeant||May 6, 1864||At the risk of his own life went back while the rebels were still firing and, finding Col. Wheelock unable to move, alone and unaided, carried him off the field of battle.|
|Abraham Cohn||Army||Sergeant Major||May 6, 1864 and Jul 30, 1864||During Battle of the Wilderness rallied and formed, under heavy fire, disorganized and fleeing troops of different regiments. At Petersburg, Virginia, 30 July 1864, bravely and coolly carried orders to the advanced line under severe fire. Also received for his actions in the Battle of the Crater, Petersburg, Virginia|
|James M. Cutts||Army||Captain||1864||Gallantry in actions. Received for actions in the Battle of the Wilderness; Spotsylvania; Petersburg, Virginia|
|Patrick De Lacey||Army||First Sergeant||May 6, 1864||Running ahead of the line, under a concentrated fire, he shot the color bearer of a Confederate regiment on the works, thus contributing to the success of the attack.|
|Edmund English||Army||First Sergeant||May 6, 1864||During a rout and while under orders to retreat seized the colors, rallied the men, and drove the enemy back.|
|James R. Evans||Army||Private||May 5, 1864||Went out in front of the line under a fierce fire and, in the face of the rapidly advancing enemy, rescued the regimental flag with which the color bearer had fallen.|
|Peter Grace||Army||Sergeant||May 5, 1864||Singlehanded, rescued a comrade from 2 Confederate guards, knocking down one and compelling surrender of the other.|
|Henry Hill||Army||Corporal||May 6, 1864||This soldier, with one companion, would not retire when his regiment fell back in confusion after an unsuccessful charge, but instead advanced and continued firing upon the enemy until the regiment re-formed and regained its position.|
|Leopold Karpeles||Army||Sergeant||May 6, 1864||While color bearer, rallied the retreating troops and induced them to check the enemy's advance.|
|Joseph Kemp||Army||First Sergeant||May 6, 1864||Capture of flag of 31st North Carolina (C.S.A.) in a personal encounter.|
|Cyrus B. Lower||Army||Private||May 7, 1864||Gallant services and soldierly qualities in voluntarily rejoining his command after having been wounded.|
|Charles E. Morse||Army||Sergeant||May 5, 1864||Voluntarily rushed back into the enemy's lines, took the colors from the color sergeant, who was mortally wounded, and, although himself wounded, carried them through the fight.|
|John N. Opel||Army||Private||May 5, 1864||Capture of flag of 50th Virginia Infantry (C.S.A.).|
|John H. Patterson||Army||First Lieutenant||May 5, 1864||Under the heavy fire of the advancing enemy, picked up and carried several hundred yards to a place of safety a wounded officer of his regiment who was helpless and would otherwise have been burned in the forest.|
|Carlos H. Rich||Army||First Sergeant||May 5, 1864||Saved the life of an officer.|
|Stephen Rought||Army||Sergeant||May 6, 1864||Capture of flag of 13th North Carolina Infantry (C.S.A.).|
|Jacob E. Swap||Army||Private||May 5, 1864||Although assigned to other duty, he voluntarily joined his regiment in a charge and fought with it until severely wounded.|
|William P. Thompson*||Army||Sergeant||May 6, 1864||Capture of flag of 55th Virginia Infantry (C.S.A.).|
|Benjamin F. Tracy||Army||Colonel||May 6, 1864||Seized the colors and led the regiment when other regiments had retired and then reformed his line and held it.|
|James M. Young||Army||Private||May 6, 1864||With 2 companions, voluntarily went forward in the forest to reconnoiter the enemy's position, was fired upon and one of his companions disabled. Pvt. Young took the wounded man upon his back and, under fire, carried him within the Union lines.|
- 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.
- "A Brief History — The Medal of Honor". United States Department of Defense. http://archive.defense.gov/faq/pis/med_of_honor.aspx.
- "Medal of Honor recipients". Civil War (A-L) Medal of Honor Recipients. United States Army Center of Military History. July 29, 2013. http://www.history.army.mil/html/moh/civwaral.html. Retrieved April 22, 2017.
- "Medal of Honor recipients". Civil War (M-Z) Medal of Honor Recipients. United States Army Center of Military History. June 27, 2011. http://www.history.army.mil/html/moh/civwarmz.html. Retrieved April 22, 2017.
- "Medal of Honor recipients". Listing of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen who received the Medal of Honor during World War II. United States Army Center of Military History. March 21, 2016. http://www.history.army.mil/moh/index.html. Retrieved April 22, 2017.