An official website of the United States Government 
Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

.gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Two Civil War Soldiers Receive Medal of Honor, Inducted Into Hall of Heroes

Three people stand on a stage with a U.S. flag on the far right. One holds a frame containing a medal.
Medal of Honor Ceremony
President Joe Biden, right, posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor to Civil War Army Pvt. George D. Wilson during a ceremony at the White House, July 3, 2024. Wilson's great-great granddaughter Theresa Chandler, center, received the medal on his behalf. To the left is Gerald Taylor, the great-great nephew of Army Pvt. Philip G. Shadrach, who also received the medal.
Photo By: DOD Screen Capture
VIRIN: 240703-D-D0439-002Y
Three people stand on a stage. The person in the center holds a frame containing a medal.
Medal of Honor Ceremony
President Joe Biden, right, posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor to Civil War Army Pvt. Philip G. Shadrach during a ceremony at the White House, July 3, 2024. Shadrach's great-great nephew Gerald Taylor, center, received the medal on his behalf. To the left is Theresa Chandler, the great-great granddaughter of Army Pvt. George D. Wilson, who also received the medal.
Photo By: DOD Screen Capture
VIRIN: 240703-D-D0439-001Y
President Joe Biden posthumously presented the Medal of Honor yesterday to two soldiers for their actions hijacking the Confederate railroad April 12, 1862.

Today, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III inducted Pvts. Philip G. Shadrach and George D. Wilson into the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes — where the names of all service members who receive the Medal of Honor are enshrined.

"The very first recipients of the Medal of Honor were a small band known as Andrews' Raiders, named for a spy for the Union Army, James Andrews, who led one of the most daring operations in the entire Civil War," Biden said during the White House ceremony. "Two soldiers ... died because of that operation but never received this recognition. Today, we right that wrong. Today, they finally receive the recognition they deserve." 

During the Hall of Heroes ceremony, Austin described both men as being well-liked by their peers and eager to volunteer to help their nation. 

A person in business attire stands behind a lectern.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III hosts the Hall of Heroes induction ceremony for Army privates Philip G. Shadrach and George D, Wilson, July 4, 2024, at the Pentagon. The two Civil War soldiers were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor during a ceremony at the White House, July 3, 2024, for actions during the Civil War, April 12, 1862.
Photo By: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jack Sanders
VIRIN: 240704-D-XI929-1029Y

"One comrade remembered that Pvt. Shadrach was 'solidly built, merry and reckless, with an inexhaustible store of good nature.' Yet his brothers in arms could count on him, as one said, to 'sacrifice anything for a friend,'" Austin said.

"Other soldiers said that Pvt. Wilson was 'tall and spare, with high cheekbones [and] sharp gray eyes.' His battle buddies felt from him 'a greatness of soul which sympathized intensely with our struggle for national life.'" 

In April 1862, Shadrach and Wilson, both part of the 2nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, agreed to join Andrews' Raiders. Led by Andrews, a civilian, the Raiders initially included 22 soldiers and two civilians. 

They planned to execute a mission that has come to be called The Great Locomotive Chase — a clandestine mission to travel undercover through enemy territory into Georgia, steal a locomotive, and then use it to travel north to Chattanooga, Tennessee, a city Union soldiers planned to capture. 

Along the train journey, Biden said, "they would destroy enemy bridges, railroad tracks, telegraph lines, disrupting communication and vital supply lines, sabotaging the railroad that the Confederate army used to move troops.

"All of that would make the Union capture of Chattanooga much more likely," he said. "And that would [also] cut off the Confederate army from both the Ohio and Mississippi river valleys. A huge ... strategic victory that could bring the war to a swift end." 

Beginning April 7, the group departed on foot from their location near Shelbyville, Tennessee, to travel to Chattanooga, where they planned to catch a train southbound to Marietta, Georgia. During this initial part of the mission, two soldiers were captured by Confederate forces, leaving only 20 soldiers and two civilians to continue on. 

By April 11, the Raiders reached Chattanooga and in the late afternoon boarded a southbound train headed for Georgia. By midnight they'd reached Marietta, where they spent the night. 

On the morning of April 12, the group awoke and boarded another train, this time northbound, back to Chattanooga. Two soldiers, however, didn't make it aboard and were left behind. 

During its trip northbound, the train paused at a stop called Big Shanty to allow passengers to eat breakfast. It was here the Raiders took control of the train's engine, called The General.

"Quickly and quietly, they detached three boxcars and a locomotive, hopped in, and began moving at full speed north to Tennessee," Biden said. 

Biden said the weather made their task difficult, as did the presence of other trains on the track that they hadn't expected. All of this slowed down the pace of their mission. 

"By then, Confederate forces were in hot pursuit, but George and Philip and the rest of the Raiders didn't quit," Biden said. "They kept going nearly for seven hours, destroying as much track as they could along the way and cutting as many telegraph wires as they could." 

The Raiders did damage to Confederate communications — destroying rail and telegraph lines. The engine ran out of steam just north of Ringgold, Georgia, about 18 miles south of Chattanooga. It was there the group was disbanded and given orders to evade capture.

Eventually, however, Confederate forces captured every man who had been on the train, as well as the two soldiers left behind in Marietta. Eight of those men, including Shadrach, Wilson and both civilians, were executed as prisoners of war.

Seven people stand on a stage. A person in the center holds a frame with a folded flag inside.
Hall of Heroes Induction Ceremony
Defense leaders and family members participated in a Hall of Heroes induction ceremony at the Pentagon for Civil War Army Pvt. George D. Wilson, July 4, 2024. In attendance: Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth, Theresa Chandler, Scott Chandler, Kimberly Chandler, Chief of Staff of the Army Randy A. George and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael R. Weimer. Theresa Chandler is the great-great granddaughter of Wilson, who on July 3, 2024, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor during a ceremony at the White House.
Photo By: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jack Sanders
VIRIN: 240704-D-XI929-1057

"Pvt. Shadrach and Pvt. Wilson were among the first to be captured, and a Confederate military court sentenced them to hang," Austin said. 

Pvt. Shadrach told his fellow prisoners that he sought comfort in his faith," Austin recounted.

Pvt. Wilson's thoughts also turned to his trust in God and to his belief in America. One account says that Wilson was surrounded by a scowling crowd, but he spoke to them while standing under the gallows. Pvt. Wilson told that angry crowd that they would yet see the time when the old union would be restored and when its flag would wave over them again — and he was right.

"Nearly a year after the Andrews Raid, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton welcomed the surviving Raiders to Washington, and he presented them with a newly created award for valor, making them the first U.S. service members to receive the Medal of Honor," Austin said.

While the two civilians in the group were not eligible for the Medal of Honor, the soldiers were. Shadrach and Wilson, however, were never recommended for the medal.

"Their heroic deeds went unacknowledged for over a century. But time did not erase their valor," Biden said during the White House ceremony.

While inducting them into the Hall of Heroes, Austin said, "Today, more than 160 years later, we complete that arc of history, and we link the first recipients of the Medal of Honor to the newest recipients of the Medal of Honor." 

Six people stand on a stage. A person in the center holds a frame with a folded flag inside.
Hall of Heroes Induction Ceremony
Defense leaders and family members participated in a Hall of Heroes induction ceremony at the Pentagon for Civil War Army Pvt. Philip G. Shadrach, July 4, 2024. In attendance: Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth, Gerald Taylor, Brian Taylor, Chief of Staff of the Army Randy A. George and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael R. Weimer. Gerald Taylor is the great-great nephew of Shadrach, who on July 3, 2024, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor during a ceremony at the White House.
Photo By: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jack Sanders
VIRIN: 240704-D-XI929-1047

Austin said the names of Shadrach and Wilson would finally join those of their fellow Raiders. 

"The names of Pvt. Philip Shadrach and Pvt. George Wilson will be inscribed forever in the Hall of Heroes alongside their fellow Raiders," Austin said. "Their medals are new, yet their bravery is eternal. On this Independence Day, their story reminds us of the American patriots who risked everything for our freedom and for our union and for our future of liberty under law. Their story doesn't just inspire us, it challenges us. So we are not just here to honor their sacrifice, we are here to live up to their example." 

Five people stand on a stage, two pull back a cloth that was draped over a plaque.
Hall of Heroes Induction
During a Hall of Heroes induction ceremony at the Pentagon, Brian Taylor, Gerald Taylor, Theresa Chandler, Scott Chandler and Kimberly Chandler unveil the names of Civil War Army privates Philip G. Shadrach and George D. Wilson, which are featured on a plaque, July 4, 2024. Shadrach and Wilson were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor at the White House, July 3, 2024. Gerald Taylor is a descendant of Shadrach, while Theresa Chandler is a descendant of Wilson.
Photo By: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jack Sanders
VIRIN: 240704-D-XI929-1059

Descendants of the two soldiers were on hand at both the White House and Pentagon ceremonies to represent them. 

At the White House ceremony, Shadrach's great-great nephew Gerald Taylor received the medal on his behalf. Receiving the medal on behalf of Wilson was his great-great granddaughter Theresa Chandler.

15:41
Play
43:22
Play

Related Stories