This Medal of Honor

This Medal of Honor was awarded in 1863 to  Brig. Gen. Charles H. Tompkins of the Second U.S. Cavalry for an act of valor performed in Virginia in 1861. Tompkins was the first Union officer of the Civil War to receive the Medal of Honor.


Today our nation recognizes the gallantry of those in the armed services with a variety of awards such as the Distinguished Service Medal and the Navy Cross. No such honors existed at the time of the Civil War. The Purple Heart, or Badge of Military Merit, had been instituted by George Washington in 1782, but few were awarded and it was not revived until the 20th century. The War Department traditionally regarded titles, decorations and medals as undemocratic because they were associated with European aristocracy.

That changed during the Civil War, when for the first time vast numbers of Americans from all walks of life entered combat. The U.S. Congress established the highest award this nation can bestow on a member of the military – the Medal of Honor – for acts of “conspicuous gallantry” performed in service to the Union. By 1863, all those in the Army or Navy were eligible for the award except naval officers, who became eligible in World War I.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.