The Medal of Honor

The earliest military action to be revered with a Medal of Honor award is performed by Colonel Bernard J.D. Irwin, an assistant army surgeon serving in the first major U.S.-Apache conflict on this day, Feb 13th, 1861.

COL Irwin, an Irish-born doctor, volunteered to go to the rescue of Second Lieutenant George N. Bascom, who was trapped with 60 men of the U.S. Seventh Infantry by the Chiricahua Apaches. Irwin and 14 men, initially without horses, began the 100-mile trek to Bascom’s forces riding on mules. After fighting and capturing Apaches along the way and recovering stolen horses and cattle, they reached Bascom’s forces on February 14 and proved instrumental in breaking the siege.

The first U.S.-Apache conflict had begun several days before, when Cochise, the Chiricahua Apache chief, kidnapped three white men to exchange for his brother and two nephews held by the U.S. Army on false charges of stealing cattle and kidnapping a child. When the exchange was refused, Cochise killed the white men, and the army responded by killing his relatives, setting off the first of the Apache wars.

Although Irwin’s bravery in this conflict was the earliest Medal of Honor action, the award itself was not created until 1862, and it was not until January 21, 1894, that Irwin received the nation’s highest military honor.

Iowa Senator James W. Grimes introduced S. No. 82 in the United States Senate in December, 1861. The bill was written to “promote the efficiency of the Navy” by authorizing the production and distribution of “medals of honor”. The bill was passed on December 21st and 200 such medals were authorized. These medals would “be bestowed upon such petty officers, seamen, landsmen and marines as shall distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action and other seamanlike qualities during the present war (Civil War).” President Lincoln signed the bill and the (Navy) Medal of Honor was born.

Two months later on February 17, 1862 Massachusetts Senator Henry Wilson introduced a similar bill, this one to authorize “the President to distribute medals to privates in the Army of the United States who shall distinguish themselves in battle.” When the bill, S.J.R. No. 82m was signed by President Abraham Lincoln on July 12, 1862, the Army Medal of Honor was born. It read in part:

“Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the President of the United States be, and he is hereby, authorized to cause two thousand “medals of honor” to be prepared with suitable emblematic devices, and to direct that the same be presented, in the name of the Congress, to such non–commissioned officers and privates as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action, and other soldier-like qualities, during the present insurrection (Civil War).”

The Navy medal was the first to be struck, followed quickly by the Army version of this award. There are three different types of Medals of Honor today as seen directly below: the original simple star shape established in 1861 which the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard have retained; a wreath version designed in 1904 for the Army; and an altered wreath version for the Air Force, designed in 1963 and adopted in 1965.


Since the MOH’s inception, there have been 3,463 awards for actions across the globe. Among these recipients there have been:
19 Double Recipients
87 African-American MOH Recipients
41 Hispanic-American MOH Recipients
33 Asian-American MOH Recipients
32 Native-American MOH Recipients
1 woman recipient

No matter the individual, no matter the battle, the common thread shared between the members of this most exclusive of associations is their “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life and beyond the call of duty while serving…”

In recognition to all these individuals and the men and women who will follow them in their steps, I give you Deputy Dave’s Drink of the Day: Sacrifice

1 oz dark rum
1 oz light rum
½ oz white crème de cacao
1 tsp coconut cream
2 oz pineapple juice
1 oz cranberry juice
1 oz orange juice
2 dashes orange bitters
1 cup crushed ice

Pour the ingredients into a blender and blend at high speed until smooth. Pour into a Collins glass. Garnish with a slice of orange and a maraschino cherry.


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