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Above & Beyond

These pages are the results of a Medal of Honor research project by Eighth Graders at Sacred Heart Elementary School in Ville Platte, Louisiana.  Each student in the class adopted a Medal of Honor recipient from our Nation's history, researched his life, and then wrote the story you see here.

 Civil War

William Carney


William Carney was the:, first African American recipient of the Medal of Honor. This twenty-three year old showed much bravery and  dedication to his country. Carney was born in 1840 in Norfolk, Virginia. On February 17, he enlisted in the 54th Massachusetts Infantry. He was ready to become part of the Civil War and fight for his rights. Soon after he was sent to Camp Meigs, where he became a sergeant. He was assigned to Company C. On July 8, the officers and men of the 54th waited nervously on the shore of Morris Island for the signal to begin the assault. At 7:45 P.M. the signal was given. When the marching men were about two hundred yards from the fort, the rebels opened fire. They were raked by deadly small arms and cannon fire. Scores of men were instantly killed or wounded. Shaw raised his sword to charge. William Carney was among the first group to bear the fort. He ran through a hail of screaming bullets and exploding shells with Sergeant John Wills at his side, who was carrying the regiment’s national colors. Wills was hit by a cannon and thrown into the air. Carney quickly grabbed the flag. Ducking and dodging, he ran up the earthwork slope. He was struck in the leg, but Carney was able to plant the flag atop the parapet. He fell to his knees, but he managed to keep holding the flag high while men fell around him. Finally, the men had to fall back. Carney carried the flag down the slope, while he was shot twice on his way down. He finally reached a field hospital with the help of a fellow soldier. Everyone cheered him on. Carney survived the battle. Discharged because of his wounds, he was a hero. For these heroic actions, William Carney received the Medal of Honor. He died on December 9, 1908.

I think William Carney is a great American hero. He had no super talent, nor did he excel in any certain sport. He was an ordinary person who risked his life for his country. Without thinking of the danger he was putting himself into, he fought for his country until the end. Would the president go this far for our country? Not just anyone would. This courageous man defiantly expressed the love he had for his country by his actions. He is a perfect example for all young Americans.

 

Joshua Chamberlain


The Civil War, which lasted for four years, took more American lives than any other war in American history. It started on April 12, 1861, when Southern artillery shelled Fort Sumter in the Charleston, South Carolina, harbor. The Battle of Gettysburg was one of the : greatest battles of this war lasting from July I to July 3, 1863. The Confederate army swung up the Shenandoah Valley into Pennsylvania as Lee tried to invade the North for the second time. On the second day of this hard-fought battle, Colonel Joshua Chamberlain earned his Medal of Honor displaying daring heroism and tenacity in holding his position on Little Round Top against repeated assaults by General Longstreet’s corps. 

Knowing that he had to hold that hill at all costs, which was the end of the North’s line, Chamberlain had his men dig in to repulse wave after wave of rebel attacks. Exhausted and out of ammunition with repeated frantic appeals to the higher command for more bullets, Chamberlain was forced to use a little known military maneuver he had once read in a book to continue to hold his position and protect the rest of the Union forces. He had his men fix bayonets and charge down the hill in a swinging gate line stunning the rebels and causing masses of them to surrender. With empty rifles, Chamberlain’s men captured hundreds of confederate soldiers ending that day’s attack by the South on the Federal position. Chamberlain had been a college professor at Bowdoin College in Maine and being dedicated to the cause of saving the Union, he had resigned his position and volunteered to serve. 

I admire Colonel Joshua Chamberlain because he is an example of the North’s commitment to holding the Union together. He could have not been in the army but chose to do so’. The professional generals of the North were amazed at his command of military science and of his holding that vital position under such stressful conditions.

 

Thomas Ward Custer


Thomas Ward Custer was  a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Custer was a double recipient of the Medal of Honor. Only nineteen men have been double Medal of Honor recipients. His first action was in Willicomack, Virginia, where he captured an enemy flag on April 3, 1865.  Capturing enemy flags or defending your own unit’s flag was a big deal in the Civil War. His second award was earned for his courageous act  of leaping his horse over the enemy’s works and capturing two enemy strands of color, having his horse shot from under him and receiving a severe wound. I find Thomas Ward Custer a true American hero because he managed to do an action that was ”Above and Beyond” the call of duty twice -- receiving two Medals of Honor. 

Thomas Custer was General George Armstrong Custer’s younger brother. Admiring his older brother, Thomas Custer followed him out west after the Civil War and died at the Battle of Little Bighorn, more commonly called, ”Custer’s Last Stand.”  It is strange that in remembering the older brother who is immortalized for his failure, we forget the younger brother who was a rare hero. 

 

Thomas J. Higgens


I picked Sergeant Thomas J. Higgins because he holds a special place in my heart. He was in the United States Army during the Civil War. He received his Medal of Honor in a nonviolent way. He carried his country’s flag on the field of battle as his unit was charging the enemy lines. It was considered a great honor in the Civil War to be flag bearer. The flag was a rallying point for the men as the battle swirled around them.  He marched on unarmed and terrified.  Miraculously, the pelting bullets did not hit him, even though his comrades were falling fast all around him.  As he finally reached the enemy lines, cheers rose and he was congratulated and hugged by the enemy, the very people he was fighting against.  Although he was captured, his bravery saved his life. Very few people ever to receive the Medal of Honor have done so without violence.

 

Jacob Parrott


The obvious reason I am interested in Jacob Parrott is because our family names are the same, but more importantly, because he was the first Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. 

Jacob Parrott, an eighteen year-old private, was part of Company K. 33d Ohio Infantry. He served his country as an Union Army soldier during the Civil War. Parrott was first to volunteer to be one of the twenty-two men, by direction of Brigadier General Mitchell and James Andrews, to lead a raid nearly 200 miles south into enemy territory. They were to capture a railroad train at Big Shanty, Georgia, in an attempt to destroy the bridges and tracks between Chattanooga and Atlanta. 

Andrews and his raiders struck, stealing the train, then later abandoning it, only to be captured and imprisoned. For five months, Parrott was held prisoner and in March of 1863, he was released. Later that month, Congress ordered new medals to be prepared to honor soldiers and sailors for valor. This Medal of Honor, the first ever given, was presented to Jacob Parrott. He was the first man to be awarded his nation’s highest military honor.

 

Charles Reeder


Private Charles Reeder was born on November 20, 1843, in Harrison, West Virginia. He served in the. United States Army as a Corporal, during the Civil War. Charles earned the Medal of Honor by carrying his nation’s flag across the battle field. Carrying the flag on the battle field was considered a great honor in the Civil War. The sight of the flag allowed the troops to keep their formations and follow orders. The flag bearer carried no gun, but was a very important part of the battle as all the other soldiers depended upon him for guidance on the smoke-filled fighting ground. Risking his life under fire and being fired upon, Charles Reeder continued on. As the rest of his platoon drew back in fear, Pvt. Charles pressed forward. The enemy who were firing at him quickly stopped, and watched in awe, as Southern Confederate Charles kept going even though he was under intense fire, and unknown to him, the rest of the Union Army behind him had stopped attacking. Pvt. Charles was captured, but released after the war. After the battle was over, the soldiers who were firing against him wrote letters to Congress, suggesting that Pvt. Charles receive the Medal of Honor. What a compliment that the enemy admired your courage. So exactly two years and one day later he received the military’s highest award: The Medal of Honor. 

I admire Pvt. Charles Reeder because of all that he did for us. He showed us what real courage is, to believe so much in what your country is fighting for. He inspires me to have courage for what I believe in, and to do what I want no matter what anyone thinks of it.

 

Mary Edwards Walker


Mary Edwards Walker was . a volunteer doctor in the U.S. Army during the time of the Civil War. As you might know, women doctors were not very common back then. She was not welcomed at all by the male doctors. But Walker didn’t care. She went to work anyway. During battles exposing herself to danger just like the regular men doctors, she ’ cared for the casualties.  Later she was awarded the position of Acting Assistant Surgeon in the U.S. Army.  Not long after, in 1865, she was awarded the Medal of Honor, but in 1916 it was revoked mainly because she was a woman. Ms. Walker was not happy about this decision. Nobody was going to take her medal away. She wore it proudly every day. 

In the mid 1970’s, the government was asked to review Walker’s case. They did, and cited her with ”acts of distinguished gallantry, self-sacrifice, patriotism, and great loyalty to her country.” Though she did not live to see it, on June 1, 1977, Mary Edwards Walker’s Medal of Honor was restored. I chose Ms. Walker because I look up to her as a role model because she is the only woman to ever receive the Medal of Honor and despite how anyone else felt about her having that medal, she felt she deserved it and wore it anyway everyday until her death. 

 

George Washington Walton


George Washington Walton is an Honored recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. He went ”above and beyond the call of duty.” He was born on March 27, 1844, at Upper Oxford Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania.  He served as a private for the U.S. Army, during the Civil War. August 29, 1864, was a day that would change young Walton’s life forever. On this day, during battle, at Fort Hell in Petersburg, Virginia, Walton went outside the trenches under heavy fire at short-range. He rescued a comrade who had been wounded and thrown out of the trenches by an exploding shell. On August 6, 1902, Walton received one of the greatest and most honored medals the military gives, the Medal of Honor. Walton died on February 8, 1920, at Oxford, Pennsylvania. He is buried at Oxford Cemetery (MH) Oxford, Pennsylvania. 

I picked this man to explain his citation to you, hoping that all people will remember these brave men who went, ”Above and Beyond the Call of Duty,” for their country. To me, this man is very important, because he risked his life for his friend who was in danger. To me, this man is a true hero. 

 


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