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Medal of Honor Monday: Marine Corps Sgt. Richard Binder

Like many men born in the mid-1800s, Marine Corps Sgt. Richard Binder immigrated to America to find better opportunities. By the time the Civil War came around, the U.S. was his adopted home, and he was ready to fight for it. Binder earned his stripes on ships throughout the war, and his actions earned him a Medal of Honor.

A person in a suit and bow tie poses for a photo.
Marine Corps Sgt. Richard Binder
Marine Corps Sgt. Richard Binder, a Civil War Medal of Honor recipient.
Photo By: Congressional Medal of Honor Society
VIRIN: 240110-O-D0439-093

Binder was born on July 26, 1839, in Würtemmberg, Germany. According to a 2014 article in the Hidden City Daily, a Philadelphia historical online publication, Binder moved to New York in 1854 when he was 15 before settling in Philadelphia. The publication said he worked with another German immigrant as a barber. In 1860, he applied for and was granted U.S. citizenship. 

Just ahead of his 22nd birthday, Binder enlisted in the Marine Corps on July 11, 1861, about three months after the Civil War broke out. Binder first served on a ship that sank during the Battle of Port Royal, South Carolina, in early November 1861. He moved on to other ships and was involved in various naval battles before being sent to serve on the USS Ticonderoga, a propeller-driven warship, in 1864. 

By Christmas Day in December 1864, Union forces were carrying out their first assault on Fort Fisher near Wilmington, North Carolina. The fort was the last major coastal stronghold for the Confederates, as it still managed to get supplies through the Union blockade. Union troops weren't successful in this skirmish, so three weeks later, they tried again.  

A ship with three masts sails in the sea.
USS Ticonderoga
A heavily retouched photograph of the USS Ticonderoga in her original configuration, April 8, 1864.
Photo By: Navy
VIRIN: 240110-N-D0439-074Y

Binder was aboard the USS Ticonderoga during the second Battle of Fort Fisher, and this time, Union troops were better prepared. According to the Naval History and Heritage Command, about 40 ships on the front lines took aim at the fort using more than 600 guns. "The 50 cannons aboard the frigate Colorado alone were more than the number of guns guarding the walls of Fort Fisher," naval historians wrote.

On Jan. 13, the Navy began its bombardment. The Confederates responded with their own heavy return fire. At some point, a 100-pound Parrott rifle exploded on one of the Union ships, killing eight sailors and wounding at least a dozen more. 

Throughout those first two days of battle, Binder, who was the captain of a gun, "performed his duties with skill and courage," according to his Medal of Honor citation. His actions remained steady as he continually took aim at Confederate batteries onshore, helping to lessen enemy fire as the assault went on. 

By Jan. 15, naval forces landed on the shores of Fort Fisher. While many of them were repulsed, causing many Union casualties, their actions successfully distracted the fort's garrison from the Union Army's attack on the land side of the installation. Those soldiers eventually breached the walls of the fort and took over, staking a claim over one of the strongest fortifications possessed by the Confederates and severing the South's transatlantic supply routes.  

Several ships with masts line up in a bay. Smoke fills the air.
Fort Fisher
Artwork depicts Union ships bombarding Fort Fisher, N.C., prior to the ground assault that captured the fort from the Confederates, Jan. 15, 1865.
Photo By: Navy
VIRIN: 240110-N-D0439-075Y

According to the Naval History and Heritage Command, the fall of Fort Fisher led to the occupation of Wilmington, which directly contributed to the Confederate surrender in April 1865.  

After the war, Binder was honorably discharged. He received the Medal of Honor for his actions on June 22, 1865, although a ceremony for the award wasn't held until the 1890s, according to Hidden City Daily. Nine other men from the Ticonderoga also earned Medals of Honor for their actions at Fort Fisher. 

In 1868, Binder married a woman named Frederika, who had also emigrated from the same town in Germany years prior. They had a daughter, Laura, and a son, Richard Jr.  

A photograph of a person is encircled with a design.
Marine Corps Sgt. Richard Binder
Marine Corps Sgt. Richard Binder was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions as the captain of a gun onboard the USS Ticonderoga during the Civil War assaults on Fort Fisher, N.C., in December 1864 and January 1865. This halftone reproduction of a photograph was published in Deeds of Valor, Volume II, page 81, by the Perrien-Keydel Company, Detroit, 1907.
Photo By: Navy
VIRIN: 240110-N-D0439-076

Binder eventually returned to cutting hair. By 1890, he'd become an astute businessman with four shops set up across Philadelphia. He was well-known in the industry and even expanded his business into tonics and toupees, Hidden City Daily reported. 

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Binder loved to collect canes and had about 600 of them, including one once used by President Abraham Lincoln.  

Binder died Feb. 26, 1912, from heart disease, according to his Inquirer obituary. He is buried in West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala-Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia.  

This article is part of a weekly series called "Medal of Honor Monday," in which we highlight one of the more than 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients who have earned the U.S. military's highest medal for valor.

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