HISTORY OF HEROISM
HISTORY OF THE CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL OF HONOR
The Medal of Honor has achieved prominence in American history like few other awards have. It’s a symbol for the very values its recipients displayed in the moments that mattered, an honor bestowed upon only the most honorable. But before it garnered such distinction, it started as a simple idea from Iowa Senator James W. Grimes—a bill authorizing the production and distribution of “medals of honor” to be presented to enlisted seamen and marines who “distinguish themselves by gallantry in action and other seamanlike qualities” during the American Civil War.
Since then, the Medal has undergone numerous legislative, design and presentation changes while still retaining what makes it truly special—its status as the United States' highest award for military valor in action.
The first military action to earn a Medal of Honor is performed by Bernard J.D. Irwin, who voluntarily led troops rescue 60 soldiers in Apache Pass, Arizona. However, the Medal of Honor had yet to be proposed, and Irwin wouldn’t actually be presented with his Medal until January 24, 1894—over 30 years after the deed itself.
President Abraham Lincoln signs the legislation creating the Navy’s Medal of Honor.
Iowa Senator James W. Grimes introduces legislation in Congress to “promote the efficiency of the Navy” through the creation of “medals of honor” that will be presented to enlisted seamen and marines who “distinguish themselves by gallantry in action and other seamanlike qualities” during the American Civil War.
Massachusetts Senator Henry Wilson introduces a bill in Congress to create an Army Medal of Honor, specifically for “non-commissioned officers and privates as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action, and other solider— like qualities” during the American Civil War.