John G. B. AdamsHonor Honored

The lines were drawn. Almost 200,000 troops faced each other making final preparations for combat. Many knew they would never see home again, but bravely, stoically performed the necessary tasks. One side was outnumbered by nearly 35,000 fighting men. But that fact was not going to stop this battle. Each side believed their cause was right, just and worthy of death in order to uphold it.


As the battle began, rifles fired, cannons roared and men began to fall both injured and killed. Hand-to-hand combat took over as the opposing sides drew closer and finally merged.  The battle lasted four days and cost almost 18,000 casualties. The under dogs, despite fewer men and resources, strategically out-maneuvered the larger host and eventually won the battle as the larger force retreated. Thus began and ended the largest battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia in December of 1862.


As with most conflicts, the unsung heroes’ stories began to emerge almost before the smoke cleared. It is the heroes on both sides that saved lives and helped others, but, unfortunately, only the Union soldiers’ gallantry and serving above the call of duty was recognized by the then recently created Medal of Honor.  Twenty-two Union soldiers were granted the Medal by Abraham Lincoln after the Battle of Fredericksburg. Below are some of the stories of men who received the honor.

A Short List

Martin Schubert had been wounded previously and been granted permission to take time off to heal. He refused the furlough in order to fight in this great battle. During the fight he picked up the colors after the bearer had been wounded or killed and carried it himself until he was wounded once again.

At one point, a section of the Union line was coming under heavy and concentrated firing. A commander asked for six volunteers to man a gun and continue to fire the gun until the men could no longer do so. All six men understood that they would most likely be killed if they performed the task. John G. Palmer was the first man to volunteer. Somehow he miraculously lived.

George Maynard helped save another soldier. The unnamed soldier had been wounded and left on the front line. But George, despite severe fire, left relative safety and, in great danger to himself, returned to the front line and carried the wounded soldier to safety. Francis Goodall, under similar circumstances, also carried another comrade to safety. Timothy Donoghue tried the same task but was wounded in the process.

John Johnson received the Medal of Honor due to continued and outstanding bravery. When gunners around him were wounded or killed he took over and continued to help fire the big cannons. He was also severely wounded.

James Luther was one of the first soldiers to breach the Confederate line and jump into a rifle pit. He continued to fight valiantly and actually captured three prisoners, returning to the Union side with them.

Several men who were awarded the Medal were color bearers. One person, John G. B. Adams, was not initially assigned the task of color bearer, but when he saw two of his bearers fall mortally wounded, he picked up both flags and carried them himself to a location where the regiment could regroup and reengage the enemy.

Confederate soldiers, of course, were not eligible for the Medal of Honor during the war, but if they had been, Richard Kirkland should have been a candidate. Richard was a soldier from South Carolina. Under cover of darkness during the night of December 13th after the most severe fighting had tapered off he risked his life by taking warm clothes and water to wounded Union soldiers laying in the field between the two lines.

medals of honor

Medal of Honor

The Medal of Honor was created to award personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty. It is the United States’ highest military honor. It is a fact that some heroism goes unnoticed or is forgotten after the battle is over.  Some of our military member’s greatest acts may never be publicly known. On March 25 we honor those who have actually been awarded the Medal of Honor and remember the ones whose actions were never recorded.




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