Stories about the Medal of Honor… the actual medal itself… are varied, fascinating and often test the boundaries of the odds and belief.
- One Recipient requested that the name of his mother, who died just shortly before he was to be awarded the medal, be engraved on the obverse of the medal instead of his own name… Col. Jay Vargas… MOH-Vietnam.
- The vehicle of a harmonica-playing Recipient was broken into while he was at a speaking engagement when all his instruments and the precious Medal he was awarded by President Lyndon Johnson, in it’s case, was stolen; how he got the Medal back is a remarkable story.
- A thief who befriended a WWII Recipient and offered to “mount and frame all his medals” did so, and it was a beautiful job. Except he switched a stolen medal and placed it in the framed for the real one. But the FBI solved the case and returned the cherished medal with the blue, star-spangled ribbon.
And now we must add the remarkable story of “The Chamberlain Medal”… earned by one of the Civil War’s greatest heroes in the decisive battle of Gettysburg.
“One of the most prestigious medals earned by one of Maine’s most decorated sons was recently discovered at a church sale and turned over to an organization for safe keeping, the group has announced.
“The individual who owned the medal found it in the back of a book he had purchased “several years ago” at a sale held by First Parish Church in Duxbury, Mass.”
Joshua Chamberlain — who would go on to become president of Bowdoin College and governor of Maine — received the Medal belatedly in 1893 for “distinguished gallantry” 30 years earlier.
The historically significant Medal was thought to have been lost for decades. Chamberlain received it in 1893 for his heroism at Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg.
The Pejepscot Historical Society, which owns the Joshua However, historians verified that the medal was real. The Pejepscot Historical Society, which owns the Joshua L. Chamberlain Museum where the Maine native lived for more than 50 years is now a museum.L. Chamberlain
Museum received the medal earlier this summer in an anonymous package in July but its authenticity was questioned.
(Photo — The 2oth Maine Infantry’s position on the far left flank of Little Round Top… the critical position that Chamberlain and his men held to the end of the bitter, pitched battle that would turn the tide at Gettysburg and doom the Confederacy.)
Upon his death, February 24, 1914 (aged 85), the medal was given to his granddaughter, whose estate was donated to the First Parish Church of Duxbury, Mass., following her death in 2000.
After purchasing some items from the church “garage sale”, the anonymous donor remarkably found the medal between the pages of a book and later sent it to the museum.
The Medal had been “missing” for almost a century. For a photo gallery of my 3-day tour of Gettysburg click here.