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Union soldiers awarded Medal of Honor for Civil War mission

The Medal of Honor (U.S. Air Force/Released)
July 03, 2024

President Joe Biden will posthumously award two Union soldiers on Wednesday for their heroic actions in one of the U.S. Army’s earliest special operations during the Civil War.

According to Fox News, Biden is scheduled to posthumously present the Medal of Honor to Private Philip G. Shadrach and Private George D. Wilson for their participation in a covert operation that took place on April 12, 1862, roughly 200 miles behind Confederate lines. The military operation, which is known as the Great Locomotive Chase, required Union soldiers to dress as civilians, infiltrate the Confederacy, and hijack the “General Locomotive” in Georgia.

Fox News reported that the operation was intended to destroy the Western and Atlantic Railroad between Atlanta, Georgia, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, to help the Union bring an end to the Civil War.

After hijacking the train, the Union soldiers were pursued by Confederate soldiers on foot and by multiple Confederate trains, including “The Texas.”

While the covert operatives were able to cause a lot of damage during the operation, the Union soldiers failed to burn the railroad’s bridges or cause damage to Tunnel Hill. The train eventually stopped approximately 18 miles from Chattanooga after it ran out of fuel.

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According to Fox News, James J. Andrews, who served as a civilian spy and scout during the Civil War, developed the plan for the Great Locomotive Chase. Andrews led 23 men, including Shadrach and Wilson, in the infiltration of the South.

Both Shadrach and Wilson were captured by Confederate forces and were executed by hanging. Over 162 years later, Biden is posthumously awarding the two Union soldiers with the highest U.S. military honor.

Fox News reported that while six of the Union soldiers involved in the Great Locomotive Chase were some of the first recipients of the Medal of Honor, the reason why Shadrach and Wilson were not initially recommended for the Medal of Honor remains unknown.

According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s website, “The Medal is authorized for any military service member who ‘distinguishes himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.'” Over 3,500 service members have been awarded the Medal of Honor.