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Editors Note

The 864-medal Misunderstanding

August 2021
1min read

In a “Postscripts” feature on Dr. Mary Edwards Walker and her Congressional Medal of Honor in the December, 1977, issue, we repeated the familiar story that 864 members of the 27th Maine Regiment had received medals during the Civil War “through some clerk’s error,” and because of that the medals were rescinded in 1917 by an Adverse Action Medal of Honor Board.

Not exactly, a number of readers have pointed out. The men of the 27th Maine had been promised the medals by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, with the approval of President Lincoln, in exchange for re-enlisting to bolster the defenses of Washington, D.C., during the week preceding the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. Upon reflection, the 1917 board decided the re-enlistment did not qualify as action “above and beyond the call of duty,” and forthwith stripped the down-Easters of the nation’s highest military honor.

 

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