Civil War Union General General Mitchell's troops noted above were six Ohio soldiers who were part of a crew of 22 sent out on a very secret mission deep into the Confederate lines under the command of a civilian spy by the name of James J Andrews. Most of the 22 had undergone almost a year of incarceration, abuse and torture and many were hanged as spy's. But that will all be covered in the days to come in another blog.
Compare that with the fanfare received of late when a Medal of Honor is awarded! Obviously in the earliest days the medal was not treated with the reverence it receives today There have been many high's and low's for the medal over the years. And back in the early 1990's The US House of Representatives had had enough of the complacency often seen when mention of a MOH was made. In fact it was so bad just a few years earlier that a Wall Street Journal survey of 1500 students stunned the newspaper when the results revealed that 50% of those responding did not even know what a Medal of Honor was. They thought it was issued throught the entertainment industry. Only 5% could say what it actually was.
Taking matters in hand they proposed that each year a day should be set aside as one in which communities locally, state wide and nationally could create programs to give more meaning and awarness to not only the medal but its incredible heroes who had been awarded it over the years.
The 22 men who went off on the death defying mission above noted were repeatedly tortured. Seven were hung. One twice. As he was quite heavy and broke the rope the first time. One was stripped and wipped almost to death while a pistol was held to his head and two Confederates held him down. The price they paid to carry out their orders probably did not include the option to put things off to another day as a matter of convenience!
The 25th of March being the very first day that Medals of Honor was presented to heroes, was chosen as MOH day across the US. But it should be remembered that technically, it was not the first medal awarded, just the first presented. Over the next few years several others had been awarded for actions before those of the Andrews Raiders.
The very first one was for actions in 1861 to Assictant Surgeon JD Irwin for saving 60 men's lives during Apache raids. But more on that also in another blog.
Take a few minutes today to remember these brave heroes. And while you do, also keep in mind that over the entire history of the medal, one in five went to a non-American born. Please remember then also.