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     A Guide to Research Resources

Medals and Honors

Congressional Medal of Honor
Navy Medal Of Honor
Civil War Campaign Medal
Grand Army of the Republic Badges and Medals

Confederate Roll of Honor
Davis Guard Medal
New Market Cross of Honor
Southern Cross of Honor


Union Army and Navy Medals

Congressional Medal of Honor

The original design shows the goddess Minerva surrounded by thirty-four stars representing the number of states in the Union. Minerva is fending off a symbol of discord.

Medal of Honor

The Medal of Honor was the first medal for which all enlisted men in the U.S. military could be nominated.

On December 21 1861, a bill was passed authorizing the production and distribution of 200 “medals of honor.”  Designed to “promote the efficiency of the Navy” the medals were would be “bestowed upon such petty officers, seamen, landsmen and marines as shall distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action and other seamanlike qualities during the present war.”

Two months later, a similar bill, authorizing medals for privates in the Army, was introduced.  On July 14, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the bill into law.  It read in part:

“Resolved by the Senate and house of Representatives of the Unites States of America in Congress assembled, that the President of the United States be, and he is hereby, authorized to cause two thousand ‘medals of honor’ to be prepared with suitable emblematic devices, and to direct that the same be presented in the name of the Congress, to such non-commissioned officers and privates as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action, and other soldier-like qualities, during the present insurrection [Civil War].”

Navy Medal of Honor

Struck from the same die as the Navy Medal of Honor, the original Army Medal differed only in the emblem that attached it to the same red, white and blue ribbon as the Navy.  Replacing the anchor was an eagle perched on crossed cannon and clutching a saber in its talons. 

Navy Medal of HonorReplacing the words “Personal Valor” on the back of the Medal were the words “The Congress To” with an area to engrave the recipient’s name.


On March 3, 1863, Lincoln signed a measure broadening the President's authority to award the army Medal of Honor to "such officers, noncommissioned officers and privates as have most distinguished, or who may thereafter most distinguish, themselves in action." The act not only expanded the number of potential candidates to include commissioned officers but also allowed the medal to be awarded for deeds performed before the start of the Civil War. The army act, unlike the navy act, however, failed to set down a system for nominating army candidates for the honor— an omission that led to controversy in later years.

In June 1863, some 300 men of the 27th Maine was offered the medal as an inducement to defer its discharge, and two years later the 23 soldiers who escorted Lincoln’s body to Springfield, Ill for burial also received it.  By then it was little more than a good-conduct award.  When President Andrew Johnson conferred on the only female awardee, the controversial Dr. Mary Walker in 1865, he stated that he was doing so in recognition of her “meritorious services” (which he did not specify) and because she could not be given a brevet or honorary rank, as she was not a commissioned officer.  It has been proposed that the real reason she got the medal was that Johnson. Along with General William Sherman and General George Thomas, who recommended her for it, wished to put an end to her incessant pestering.

In 1917, an Army review board, implementing a Congressional Act designed to upgrade the Medal of Honor, struck 910 names from the list of holders for not deserving it either by the old standard or by the new criterion of having in “actual conflict with an enemy” performed with “distinguished and conspicuous gallantry or intrepidity, at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty.”  Among those removed were the men of the 27th Maine, Lincoln’s funeral escort, and Dr, Mary E. Walker.  In notifying her of its actions, the review board stated that it could find “nothing in the records to show the specific act or acts for which the decoration was originally awarded.  Walkers name remained off the Medal of Honor Roll for 60 years.  After intense lobbying and a barrage of petitions from Mrs. Walker’s great grandniece, President Carter reinstated the medal in 1977 and once more her name appears on the list of the list. 

Medal of Honor Research

National Archives
There is no specific collection of records relating to the Medal of Honor.  Instead, a researcher must look to various correspondence records found in the vast files of the Adjutant General’s Office, RG 94.

An unpublished finding aid, 19th-Century Army Medals of Honor, available to researchers at the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C., cuts through the confusion by alphabetically listing all army Medal of Honor recipients between 1863 and 1904, along with their rank, the unit they served at the time of their honored feat, and the file number.

For the years 1904 - 1917, researchers should consult the Index to General Correspondence of the Office of the Adjutant General's Office, 1890 - 1917 (RG 94, National Archives Microfilm Publication M698) and search for the name of the honoree. After locating the file number(s) from the index, order the corresponding paper files. Although several file entries may be found for one individual in the index, they are often consolidated into one file. Finding the consolidated file, however, sometimes requires patience as persistent researchers sometimes must follow a trail of "See File XXXX" slips before reaching the sought file. To facilitate this searching, order all of the file numbers listed in the Index for a given Medal of Honor recipient.

Only two collections of medal of honor records have been microfilmed:

Documents Relating to the Military and Naval Service of Blacks Awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor From the Civil War to the Spanish American War (M929)

Records Relating to Military Service in the Civil War of Medal of Honor Winners From Michigan (T732).

To obtain copies of particular files by mail, write to: National Archives and Records Administration, Old Military and Civil Records, 700 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, DC 20408-0001, and provide the name of the honoree and the unit in which he served at the time of the honored event.

Medal of Honor case files after 1917 are much more difficult to locate among the army records at the National Archives. For information on these recipients, contact the Modern Military Records Branch of the National Archives at College Park at 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001.

Civil War Campaign Medal

Although the Medal of Honor was the only medal given to soldiers during the American Civil War, it was not the only medal awarded to recognize soldiers of the war.

Campaign MedalMore than forty years after the close of the conflict, the War Department in 1907 authorized the striking of a special medal for all living Civil War veterans who had served in the U.S. Army or Volunteer units between April 15, 1861, and April 9, 1865. (Soldiers serving in Texas until August 20, 1866, were allowed to apply for the medal, as well.)


Civil War Campaign Medal Research

National Archives
The keys to finding the recipients of these medals lies in the records of the Office of the Quartermaster General (Record Group 92). Entries 257 through 274 encompass a wide swath of army medal records, including medals awarded to veterans of the Spanish American War, Boxer Rebellion, Philippine Insurrection, and Mexican Border service as well as the Civil War. Researchers sure their subject received an army medal in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century, but are unsure which medal it may be, should check the Name Index Cards to Series 257 through 274 (Entry 256).

For researchers wishing to discover the name of a recipient for a particular Civil War Campaign Medal, little more effort is required. Entry 286 of the Quartermaster Records is the Serial List of Badges and Medals Issued for Various Campaigns 1907 - 1925, including the Civil War Campaign Medal. Only the first 554 Civil War Campaign Medals distributed were assigned a number; the remainder were distributed without numbers.

For a complete published list of numbered Civil War Campaign Medals or more information about this medal, see The Civil War Campaign Medal by John M. Carroll.

Grand Army of the Republic Badges and Medals

Because the Grand Army of the Republic was a private organization, the National Archives and Records Administration does not hold its records. For information about the GAR and its records holdings, contact the Grand Army of the Republic Civil War Museum and Library at 4278 Griscom Street, Philadelphia, PA 19124-3954.

Confederate Medals & Honors

The Confederacy never managed to produce an equivalent artifact. Aside from the few Davis Guard Medals for the defense of Sabine Pass, September 8, 1863, and the New Market Cross of Honor awarded to the Virginia Military Institute Cadet Battalion of the Battle of New Market, May 15, 1864, only a published "Roll of Honor" was to be had, and that was supported only haphazardly.  In 1900 the United Daughters of the Confederacy introduced their semi-official Southern Cross of Honor for Confederate veterans.

Confederate Roll of Honor

During the War Between the States, a Confederate Medal of Honor never became reality. Disagreement as well as financial difficulties precluded it from coming to fruition. On July 1, 1896, General Stephen Dill Lee, one of the few remaining senior officers of the Confederate army, spoke to a group of sons of Confederate veterans who had gathered at Richmond to form a group to preserve the memory and valor of the Confederate soldier. He told the group it was their duty to present the true history of the South to future generations. This group, chartered as the Sons of Confederate Veterans, was committed to that charge. In 1977, Private Samuel Davis of Coleman's Scouts, became the first to be posthumously presented the Confederate Medal of Honor. Since then, many others have been presented and those whose valor went far beyond the call of duty are finally being recognized.

Davis Guard Medal

The only military medal ever awarded by the Confederacy was the Davis Guard Medal, awarded to The Davis Guards, a militia company originally formed in Houston, Texas. In gratitude for their participation at the Battle of Sabine Pass on September 8, 1863, the residents of Sabine City had the medals made and awarded. One was given to Jefferson Davis who was carrying it when he was captured and imprisoned at Fort Monroe.

Davis Guard Front

For the defense of Sabine Pass, Texas
September 8, 1863.
A Mexican silver dollar, each side smoothed off and engraved.


The letters D.G. with a cross below known as cross pattee.

Inscription: Sabine Pass, Sept. 8th,1863.

The following resolutions of the Confederate Congress were approved February 8th, 1864:
Resolved, That the thanks of Congress are eminently due, and are hereby cordially given, to Captain Odlum, Lieutenant Richard Dowling, and the forty-one men composing the Davis Guards, under their command, for their daring, gallant, and successful defense of Sabine Pass, Texas, against the attack made by the enemy on the eighth of September last, with a fleet of five gunboats and twenty-two steam transports, carrying a landing force of fifteen thousand men.

Resolved, That this defense, resulting, under the providence of God, in the defeat of the enemy, the capture of two gunboats, with more than three hundred prisoners, including the commander of the fleet, the crippling of a third gunboat, the dispersion of the transports, and preventing the invasion of Texas, constitutes, in the opinion of Congress, one of the most brilliant and heroic achievements in the history of this war, and entitles the Davis Guards to the gratitude and admiration of their country.

Resolved, That the President be requested to communicate the foregoing resolutions to Captain Odlum, Lieutenant Dowling, and the men under their command.

For more information, Click Here!

New Market Cross of Honor

A twelve pointed variation of the cross pattee resting on a wreath, in the center a circular medallion bearing the seal of the State of Virginia.

New Market Cross of HonorThe four arms of the cross inscribed V.M.I. CADET BATTALION NEW MARKET MAY 15, 1864. The reverse is a smooth surface on which is stamped V.M.I. ALUMNI ASS'N. TO leaving blank space for the name of the recipient. The cross is suspended by two chains, of three links each, from an ornamental clasp, inscribed FOR VALOR. Bronze. Size 40mm. exclusive of clasp.

One of the oldest and most famous institutions of learning in the Southern states is the Virginia Military Institute, at Lexington, Virginia, which was founded in 1839. At the beginning of the Civil War the distinguished Confederate "Stonewall" Jackson was a member of the faculty. Among its graduates were five major generals, nineteen brigadier generals and over five hundred officers who served in the Confederate Army.

To carry out a scheme of cooperation with the Army of the Potomac, General Franz Sigel, with about eight thousand troops, started up the Shenandoah Valley, on the first of May, 1864, intending to march to Staunton, at the head of the valley, cross the Blue Ridge from there to Charlottesville, and continue further operations as circumstances might direct.

At New Market, about fifty miles from Winchester, Union General Franz Siegel and about eight thousand troops, was met on May 15th by Confederate General John C. Breckinridge, with a somewhat smaller force, Siegel was defeated and driven back about thirty miles, with a loss of seven hundred men, six guns and considerable other supplies.

General Breckenridge's force had been hastily gathered, and, with the permission of the Governor of Virginia, the Cadet Battalion of the Virginia Military Institute, consisting of two hundred and ninety-four boys, from fifteen to eighteen years of age, volunteered. The services of two hundred and fifty were accepted, the remainder being either left on guard at the Institute or sick in the hospital. They behaved with great courage during the battle, about one-quarter of their number being killed or wounded.

Forty years later the Alumni Association of the Virginia Military Institute, presented a bronze cross to each survivor of the two hundred and ninety-four Cadets, and to the families of those no longer living.

Southern Cross of Honor

Mrs. Alexander S. Erwin of Athens, Ga., first conceived the idea of a Southern Cross of Honor after attending a reunion of Confederate Veterans in July 1898.  Mrs. Erwin and Mrs. Sarah E. Gabbett of Atlanta are credited with the design. 

Southern CrossThe Maltese Cross is engraved with a wreath of laurel surrounding the words "Deo Vindice (God our Vindicator) 1861-1865" and the inscription, "Southern Cross of Honor" on the face. On the reverse is the Battle Flag surrounded by a laurel wreath and the words "United Daughters of the Confederacy to the UCV."

The Southern Crosses of Honor were awarded to Confederate veterans for “loyal, honorable service to the South and were given in recognition of this devotion.”  The medal could not be purchased. The first cross was awarded to Captain Alexander S. Erwin, by the Athens Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy on April 26, 1900.  Some 12,500 were ordered and delivered during the first 18 months.

The UDC does not have applications for the Southern Cross of Honor.  However, it does have ledgers recording the names of 78,761 recipients.  The ledgers provide the name and unit of each recipient and may in some cases give the date and place of the award. An cumulative index was developed by the Caroline Meriwether Goodlett Library Committee in the 1980s to cross reference the information contained in the ledgers.

To request confirmation of the bestowal of a Southern Cross of Honor between 1900 and 1913 and/or for any information available for subsequent years, send name of the veteran and the unit in which he served, along with a check made payable to "Treasurer General UDC." As of this writing the fee is $10 per name plus $6.00 per total order for postage and handling to:

UDC Memorial Building
Southern Cross of Honor Research
328 North Boulevard
Richmond, VA 23220-4057

For more information:
United Daughters of the Confederacy
Southern Cross of Honor

Published Sources

National Archives Publications:

The Army Civil War Campaign Medal
From Prologue Magazine, Summer 2001, Vol. 33, No. 2
The Army Medal of Honor: The First Fifty Years
By Mark C. Mollan
From Prologue Magazine, Summer 2001, Vol. 33, No. 2
The Only Medal
By Michael P. Musick
From Prologue Magazine, Fall 1995, Vol. 27, No. 3

Other Publications

Beyer, W. F. and Oscar F. Keydel, Editors. DEEDS OF VALOR: HOW AMERICA'S CIVIL WAR HEROES WON THE CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL OF HONOR. New York: Smithmark Publishers, 2000.


Carroll, John M.  The Civil War Campaign Medal.  Bryan, TX: Frontier Military Research and Preservation Society, 1987.

Clemmer, Gregg S. VALOR IN GRAY: THE RECIPIENTS OF THE CONFEDERATE MEDAL OF HONOR.  Staunton, VA: Hearthside Publishing Co., 1997.

Congressional Medal of Honor Society. ABOVE AND BEYOND, A HISTORY OF THE MEDAL OF HONOR FROM THE CIVIL WAR TO VIETNAM.  Boston, Mass.:  Boston Publishing Company, 1985.

Hurst, Gwen J. U.S. MEDALS AND ROLLS OF HONOR, CIVIL WAR. Bowie, Md.: Heritage Books, 1999.

Jacobs, Bruce. HEROES OF THE ARMY: THE MEDAL OF HONOR AND ITS WINNERS.  New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1956.



United States.  Dept. of the Army.  Public Information Division.  The Medal of Honor of the United States Army. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1948.

United States War Dept., Office of the Adjutant General of the Army.  

Most of the books listed above can be found at large local and university libraries. 

Want a copy of your own?  For out of print books – Abebooks.com


American Civil War Campaign Medal
Civil War Medals [Navy and Marines]
Awarded to officers and enlisted men of the Navy and Marine Corps who served during the Civil War - From the Naval Historical Center
Confederate Honor Roll
Confederate Roll of Order [General Orders 93 and 131]
Congressional Medal of Honor Museum
Congressional Medal of Honor Society
Grand Army of the Republic Testimonial Badges
Medal of Honor.com
History and Links
Medal of Honor Citations
Full-text Listings of Medal of Honor Citations from the U.S. Army Center of Military History, this index lists by war the entire transcripts of the Medal of Honor Citations for more than 3,400 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen.
Membership Badges of the Grand Army of the Republic

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