Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Ohio Bicentennial Moments

6 Ohioans received first Medals of Honor

On March 25, 1863, the first Medals of Honor awarded by the United States went to six Ohioans. They were members of Andrews' Raiders, 22 volunteers sent on a daring mission to disrupt rebel transportation and communication lines in the Civil War.

The Ohioans were led by James J. Andrews, a Union spy. They stole a locomotive - The General - in Marietta, Ga., and planned to meet up with Union Gen. Ormsby Mitchel in Huntsville, Ala. The raiders were pursued by the crew of The General and eventually captured by the Confederate Army. Andrews and seven others were hanged. The other 14 were sent to prison camps. They escaped, but six were recaptured and tortured before being exchanged for Southern prisoners. The six told their story to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. He presented each with the Medal of Honor, which had just been authorized by Congress. (Eventually, 19 of the Raiders received the medal. Andrews was not eligible because he was not in the military.)

The first recipients were: Jacob Parrott, William Bensinger, Robert Buffum, Elihu Mason, William Pittinger and William H. Reddick.

A total of 319 recipients of the Medal of Honor - the nation's highest award for valor - have had some connection to Ohio. One served in the Air Force, three in the Army Air Corps, 17 in the Marine Corps, 23 in the Navy, and the remaining 275 in the Army.

- Rebecca Goodman

E-mail rgoodman@enquirer.com or call (513) 768-8361.

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