Medals (September 15, 1864)

Medal of Honor

The Medal of Honor.

In his letter of September 15, 1864, George Meade mentions the presentation of the Medal of Honor to several soldiers of the V Corps. It appears these soldiers were Frederick C. Anderson, George W. Reed, and John Shilling, all three of whom earned their medals for their fighting at the Weldon Railroad. Anderson was a private in Co. A, 18th MA, and he captured the flag and the bearer of the 27th South Carolina. Reed, a private in Co. E, 11th PA, captured the 24th NC’s flag. Shilling, of Co. H, 3rd DE, also captured a flag.

General Grant went this morning to Harper’s Ferry to visit Sheridan. There were some indications of a movement on Lee’s part yesterday, but nothing occurring this morning, he went off. He is to be absent, I believe, some five or six days. What Grant meant by the rebels deserting at the rate of a regiment a day, referred, I presume, to their desertions in all parts of the field, and to the present diminished size of their regiments. This would make a daily desertion of about three hundred. I have no means of knowing what proportion of this amount is drawn from the returns of other armies; but, in the Army of the Potomac, ten a day would be a liberal estimate of the deserters who have come into our lines for some time past. I think Grant was a little hyperbolical in the expression he used. He is of a very sanguine temperament, and sees everything favorable in a strong light, and makes light of all obstacles. In some respects this is an admirable quality, if it is not carried to extremes.

I don’t think that I told you that, day before yesterday, I presented to some soldiers of the Fifth Corps medals of honor, conferred upon them for good conduct on the field of battle. There was a great ceremony on the occasion, and I made a few remarks, which I presume will appear in print. The weather, after being cool, has again become warm. Sickness is beginning to show itself.

Meade’s correspondence taken from The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Major-General United States Army, Vol. 2, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913), pp. 227-28. Available via Google Books.

Found It!


Today I returned to Gettysburg. My main goal was to attend the two-hour ranger talk/walk about Alonzo Cushing, the commander of the 4th U.S. Artillery. Cushing was killed during the fighting on July 3 and has recently been in the news because he’s been approved to receive the Medal of Honor, just over 151 years later.

While I was there, though, I decided to try once more to find the Henry V. Fuller monument. This time I succeeded. Last time I had been looking on the wrong side of the trolley bed that leads from Brooke Avenue to the Wheatfield. It took a couple of passes, but the second time I spied what appeared to be evidence that someone had walked through the grass at the side of the trail and into the undergrowth. I decided to follow these faint traces and, sure enough, they led me to this little monument. It was invisible from the trail and I never would have found if someone else hadn’t gone there first.

The Alonzo Cushing ranger walk was pretty interesting. Led by Karlton Smith, it began at the parking lot opposite the National Cemetery. About 80 people showed up, a pretty good turnout for a September Sunday, I thought. It was good timing, too, with the Cushing medal scheduled to be presented at a White House ceremony on Monday. (Smith told us, though, that it appeared the Cushing presentation might be delayed, probably because no one is sure who will receive it, Cushing having died with no direct descendents.) The weather was beautiful, a cool, late-summer afternoon that made it clear fall is on the way.


The monument to Alonzo Cushing near the Angle.

The monument to Alonzo Cushing near the Angle.

All told, an excellent way to spend a gorgeous September afternoon. Once again I was struck by the discontinuity of enjoying myself so much at a place that had seen so much violence and suffering. Without the battle and all the monuments erected to commemorate the fighting, this would be just another patch of land. It’s pretty enough, but if the two Civil War armies had met just a few miles south in Maryland, thousands of people wouldn’t be coming here to walk around and hang out. An accident of history elevated these simple acres into something more.

Living in Central Pennsylvania has its good and bad points, but one of the good ones is that it’s an easy drive to Gettysburg.