I recently profiled two long-overdue Medal of Honor awards to recipients, Col. Paris Davis and Chattanooga's own Cpt. Larry Taylor. Both men are Vietnam Veterans whose medals were finally approved almost six decades after the actions that earned them.
Why such delays?
Having met most of the 65 living recipients, I can attest to what any of there fellow veterans already know about them — they are, by nature, humble men whose first allegiance was to their fellow warriors under the umbrella of God and country. Thus, the lengthy delays for some recipient recognition is most often the result of a lack of advocacy — because genuine heroes of this stature do not advocate for their own recognition.
I should note that even when recipients have been approved, some nominees are left waiting until a president can time the award ceremony for his own political benefit. Disgraceful.
Chattanooga is irrevocably linked to the First Medals of Honor. Those medals were awarded by Abraham Lincoln in March 1863 for the actions of the Andrews' Raiders in April 1862. Their valorous actions were memorialized in books and films as “The Great Locomotive Chase.”
That chase ended just south of Chattanooga, when “The General,” which the Andrews Raiders had commandeered for their mission to disrupt critical rail traffic between Chattanooga and Atlanta, ran out of fuel for steam. The Raiders abandoned the train and headed for the hills, but within two weeks, most of the 24 Raiders were captured.
Andrews was hung as a spy on June 7, 1862, and 10 days later seven other Raiders — Union troops George Wilson, Charles Shadrach, Marion Ross, John Scott, Samuel Slavens, and Samuel Robertson, and Andrews’ civilian guide William Campbell — were also hung.
After the War Between the States, the bodies of those eight men were exhumed from a ditch and reburied near the entrance to Chattanooga’s National Cemetery, where a prominent monument of “The General” locomotive was erected at the cemetery entrance in their honor.
The Raiders would become the first Medal of Honor recipients, Jacob Parrott the very first, followed by 18 others. One Raider declined the Medal saying his role did not qualify. The two civilians, Andrews and Campbell, were not eligible for the military award.
Chattanooga's National Medal of Honor Heritage Center next to the TN Aquarium was established to recognize the first recipients -- and all since.
There are a total of 3,517 men and one woman who have been recognized by a grateful nation for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life,” valorous actions “above and beyond the call of duty.”
However, 160 years after those first Medals were awarded, two Raiders, Pvt. Philip G. Shadrach and Pvt. George D. Wilson, have never been recognized for their actions, despite the fact that President George W. Bush signed legislation authorizing the Medals of Honor for both men back in 2008.
Today, the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center and our Advisory Board Chairman, Gen. B.B. Bell, continue to advocate for the recognition of Shadrach and Wilson, and we hope that long-overdue recognition will be coming soon.
Pvt. Philip G. Shadrach and Pvt. George D. Wilson, your example of valor — American Patriots defending Liberty for all above and beyond the call of duty — is eternal.
(Please consider a designated gift to support the National Medal of Honor Sustaining Fund through Patriot Foundation Trust (https://patriotfoundationtrust.org), or make a check payable to: NMoH Sustaining Fund and mail it to Patriot Foundation Trust, PO Box 407, Chattanooga, TN 37401-0407.)