Know Your Military

Medal of Honor Monday: Army 1st Lt. George E. Davis

Jan. 7, 2019 | BY Katie Lange

More than 1,500 service members earned the Medal of Honor during the Civil War, which also happens to be when the medal was created, so it’s fitting to kick off this New Year with a recipient who was instrumental in keeping our country whole.

A black and white photo of George E. Davis
George E. Davis
Union Army 1st Lt. George E. Davis, Company D, 10th Vermont Infantry, earned the Medal of Honor during the Civil War.
Photo By: DOD courtesy photo
VIRIN: 620101-O-ZZ999-978

George E. Davis grew up in New England and was living in Burlington, Vermont, in 1861 when the Civil War broke out, so at 21, he decided to enlist in the 1st Vermont Infantry. It wasn’t a long stint, though. The 1st Vermont saw action at the Battle of Big Bethel, Virginia, that June, but within three months, it mustered out. So, Davis went back to his job as a store clerk.

But about a year later, in July 1862, President Abraham Lincoln put out a call for more troops, especially those with experience. So Davis enlisted again, this time for a three-year stint in D Company of the 10th Vermont Infantry. He was almost immediately elected to the rank of second lieutenant. Within six months, his steadiness under fire and attention to detail led to his promotion to first lieutenant.

Davis earned the Medal of Honor during the July 9, 1864, Battle of Monocacy near Frederick, Maryland. On that day, Davis commanded a small Union detachment at Monocacy Junction that was able to hold its position. They managed to fend off repeated Confederate assaults while guarding two bridges, despite being outnumbered.

The one-day battle turned out to be the Confederates’ northernmost win of the war, but the Union troops, including Davis’ soldiers, did succeed in delaying the Confederate march to Washington, D.C. This gave the Union time to bring in reinforcements, so when the Confederates did finally attack the capital, they were unsuccessful.

The battle is considered the one that saved our nation’s capital from falling.

A stone monument on a field with inscription regarding the Monocacy Battle.
Monocacy Battle
The Monocacy Battle Centennial Monument in Frederick, Md.
Photo By: Library of Congress photo
VIRIN: 841207-O-ZZ999-058C

After the battle, Davis continued his service and eventually was promoted to captain. Unfortunately, at one point during the war, he was seriously injured when a log cabin he was in collapsed. He wasn’t able to continue serving, so he was discharged from the Army.

But his actions at the Battle of Monocacy weren’t forgotten. On May 27, 1892, Davis received the Medal of Honor for his valiant defense of the bridges near Monocacy Junction. Another man, Alexander Scott, also earned the medal for his actions during the one-day battle.

Davis continued to live a quiet life for decades after that. He died June 28, 1926, at the Vermont Soldiers’ Home in Bennington, Vermont.

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.