Over 160 Years After Being Executed By the Confederates, Two Union Soldiers Receive the Medal of Honor

Photo Credit: Christopher Hurd / Defense Media Activity - Army / DVIDS / Public Domain
Photo Credit: Christopher Hurd / Defense Media Activity - Army / DVIDS / Public Domain

The Great Locomotive Chase of April 1862 was among the most daring raids of the American Civil War. Led by James J. Andrews, a group of Union volunteers captured The General, a Confederate train, and road it to Tennessee, causing as much damage to the Western and Atlantic Railroad as possible. They’d aimed to disrupt the Confederates’ rail transportation network, but, ultimately, their efforts were thwarted and most of the men were captured.

While some were able to flee, others were executed for their participation. Following the end of the war, the surviving volunteers received the Medal of Honor. Just over 162 years later, two others are slated to receive the distinction: George Wilson and Philip Shadrach.

Drawing of a train car half-tipped off of a railway track
Illustration of the Great Locomotive Chase. (Photo Credit: Universal History Archive / Universal Images Group / Getty Images)

At a ceremony at the White House on July 3, 2024, the oldest living relatives of Philip Shadrach and George Wilson, who served with the 2nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment (the former Company K and the latter Company B), received the Medal of Honor on their ancestors’ behalf.

“To volunteer for a venture they knew little about, and to know if they failed, they would be put to death, makes me realize how dedicated they were,” Gerald Taylor, Shadrach’s great-great nephew, said in a media release by the US Army. “I am humbled to have the opportunity to come and receive the Medal of Honor that was awarded to our relative.”

Gerald Taylor standing in front of a blue backdrop and the American flag
Gerald Taylor, Philip Shadrach’s great-great nephew. (Photo Credit: Cpl. Aaron Troutman / Army Multimedia and Visual Information Division / DVIDS / Public Domain)

Both George Wilson and Philip Shadrach were executed for their involvement in the Great Locomotive Chase, with historical documents showing that the former addressed the Confederate crowd before him, letting them know that “he felt no hostility toward them and did not regret dying for his country,” as he knew the Union flag would fly over them once more.

This touched Wilson’s great-great-granddaughter Theresa Chandler, who said in the release, “It brought everything home, and you get so much more respect and appreciation for what they did and what they were fighting for.”

'The General' stopped on railway tracks
The General, the train involved in the Great Locomotive Chase. (Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images)

The effort to award Philip Shadrach and George Wilson the decoration was fronted by longtime US Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). He wrote in a press release put out by his office:

“Privates Shadrach and Wilson heroically served our nation during the Civil War, making the ultimate sacrifice to protect the Union – but because of a clerical error, they never received the Medal of Honor they each earned. It’s why we’ve been calling on the White House since 2015 to posthumously award Privates Shadrach and Wilson Medals of Honor to recognize their bravery, sacrifice, and dedication to our country.”

Gerald Taylor sitting next to Laura Potter
Gerald Taylor, the great-great nephew of Philip Shadrach, speaking with Lt. Gen. Laura A. Potter, in preparation for the Medal of Honor ceremony. (Photo Credit: Sgt. Deonte Rowell / Army Multimedia and Visual Information Division / DVIDS / Public Domain)

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The Medal of Honor is the highest decoration that can be bestowed upon an American service member for valor, with the participants of the Great Locomotive Chase becoming its first recipients in the aftermath of the American Civil War.

Clare Fitzgerald

Clare Fitzgerald is a Writer and Editor with eight years of experience in the online content sphere. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from King’s University College at Western University, her portfolio includes coverage of digital media, current affairs, history and true crime.

Among her accomplishments are being the Founder of the true crime blog, Stories of the Unsolved, which garners between 400,000 and 500,000 views annually, and a contributor for John Lordan’s Seriously Mysterious podcast. Prior to its hiatus, she also served as the Head of Content for UK YouTube publication, TenEighty Magazine.

In her spare time, Clare likes to play Pokemon GO and re-watch Heartland over and over (and over) again. She’ll also rave about her three Maltese dogs whenever she gets the chance.

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