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Medal of Honor is now on display at the National Archives

 

The Medal of Honor is the highest honor in recognition of “gallantry in action.” Yet when President Abraham Lincoln signed “An act to further promote the efficiency of the Navy” into law on December 21, 1861, the creation of this honor is just a paragraph in section seven.

Only 200 “medals of honor” were authorized by Lincoln to be awarded to enlisted members of the Navy “during the present war.”  Over the years, the medal has changed, going through revisions to the design, the rules under which it was awarded, and the inclusion of officers and members of the other branches of service. 

It has been awarded fewer than 3,500 times.

One medal is currently on display through January 17, 2012, in the Rotunda of the National Archives.

This Medal of Honor was awarded to Sgt. James Hill, 14th New York Artillery, for extraordinary heroism on July 30, 1864, at Petersburg, Virginia, for capturing a flag and shooting a Confederate officer who was rallying his men.  Hill died in captivity at Andersonville, Georgia, before the medal could be presented.  The medal was designed by William Wilson & Sons, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1862.

The display also includes a letter of recommendation to another soldier. After the Civil War ended, the historian of the 37th Massachusetts Regimental Association, recommended that Pvt. Samuel E. Eddy of Company D be awarded a … [ Read all ]

NPRC helps solve headstone riddle at Arlington National Cemetery

When Washington Post reporter Christian Davenport uncovered the headstones of American veterans lying in a murky stream bed at Arlington National Cemetery this month, NARA’s National Personnel Records Center was solicited to help identify one of the partially legible grave markers.

Officials at Arlington National Cemetery were unsure how the stones got into the creek, to whom they belonged, and how old they were. It was possible the stones were engraved incorrectly and the discarded stones were used to line the stream bed. But it was also possible that these were the headstones of fallen veterans.

One headstone in particular offered some clues. With a design that was discontinued in the late 1980s, it offered some time frame as to when the markers arrived in the stream bed.

More important, there was a partially legible name on the marker. If the name could be associated with a veteran, it could explain where the headstones came from, when they were put there, and also help restore honor to one of America’s fallen heroes. The headstone only showed the rank of a Navy captain, and the name J (or L) Warren McLaughlin.

At the National Archives, veterans’ records from the 20th century are stored at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), located in St. Louis, MO.

The NPRC first heard of the issue from Doug Sterner who … [ Read all ]