Medals of Honor at Antietam: Harrisburg’s Soldiers’ Grove

the following post first appeared on the blog of Antietam Battlefield Guide candidate Dave Maher (Pennsylvania’s Emergency Men) on Sep. 17, 2011.

Soldiers’ Grove

September 17, 1862 will forever be known as the bloodiest day in American History. With roughly 23,110 Americans killed, wounded, or missing in the approximate twelve hours of fighting at the Battle of Antietam, the amount of truly sad and tragic stories are astounding. Weaved throughout the tragic battle narrative, however, are stories of bravery and courage, just as astounding. After the Battle, a total of twenty Medals of Honor were awarded for heroic actions taken during the fighting at Antietam.

For a history of the Medal of Honor click here.


view of PA State Capital building from Soldiers’ Grove

Earlier in the week, with the coming anniversary of the Battle Antietam, I decided to take a stroll over to the Medal of Honor Memorial in Soldiers’ Grove, located in the Capitol Complex, Harrisburg, PA and look for the names of the six Pennsylvania soldiers who earned their Medals that bloody day.
Dedicated in 1994, “the Medal of Honor Memorial commemorates not just one person or one war, but several hundred individuals who acted heroically in many wars, campaigns, and conflicts. Thirteen radiating arcs, representing the conflicts in which Pennsylvanians received the Medal of Honor, symbolize the tides of war.


Medal of Honor Memorial

Granite stones imbedded in the arcs identify the Medal recipients with the date and location of their deeds. On a scale of two feet equaling one year, the width of the arcs and the intervening grassy areas indicates the duration of each conflict and the periods of peace which followed them. At the center of each arc, random accounts of actual heroic deeds are inscribed on granite tablets and at the ends small diamond shaped insets give the name and date of each conflict. Thus a walk across the memorial becomes a narrative experience which places the individual hero in the sweep of history. At the far end of the memorial lie the shores of peace and the grove of remembrance. The design affirms the passage of time, the evolving present and our lasting tribute to these remarkable lives.”

Pennsylvania’s Antietam Medals of Honor

Hillary Beyer, 2nd Lieutenant, 90th Pennsylvania, Co. H [Christian’s Brigade, Rickett’s Division, Hooker’s Corps]

Entered Service at: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Citation: After his command had been forced to fall back [from the Cornfield, through the East Woods], remained alone on the line of battle, caring for his wounded comrades and carrying one of them to a place of safety.

Ignatz Gresser, Corporal, 128th Pennsylvania, Co. D [Crawford’s Brigade, Williams’ Division, Mansfield’s Corps]

Entered Service at: Lehigh County, Pennsylvania

Citation: While exposed to the fire of the enemy, carried from the field a wounded comrade.

Samuel Johnson, Private, 9th Pennsylvania Reserves (38th PA), Co. G [Anderson’s Brigade, Meade’s Division, Hooker’s Corps]

Entered Service at: Connellsville, Pennsylvania

Citation: Individual bravery and daring in capturing from the enemy 2 colors [flags] of the 1st Texas Rangers (C.S.A.), receiving in the act a severe wound.

Jacob G. Orth, Corporal, 28th Pennsylvania, Co. D [Tyndale’s Brigade, Greene’s Division, Mansfield’s Corps]

Birth place: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Citation: Capture of flag of 7th South Carolina Infantry (C.S.A.) in hand-to-hand encounter, although he was wounded in the shoulder.

William H. Paul, Private, 90th Pennsylvania, Co. E [Christian’s Brigade, Rickett’s Division, Hooker’s Corps]

Birth place: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Citation: Under a most withering and concentrated fire, voluntarily picked up the colors of his regiment, when the bearer and two of the color guard had been killed, and bore them aloft throughout the entire battle.

Charles B. Tanner, Second Lieutenant, 1st Delaware, Co. H [Weber’s Brigade, French’s Division, Sumner’s Corps]

Birth place: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Citation: Carried off the regimental colors, which had fallen within 20 yards of the enemy’s lines, the color guard of 9 men having all been killed or wounded; was himself 3 times wounded.

Tanner’s own account of the dangerous situation that day:

While covering that short distance, it seemed as if a million bees were singing in the air. The shouts and yells from either side sounded like menaces and threats. But I had reached the goal, had caught up the staff which was already splintered by shot, and the colors pierced with many a hole, and stained here and there with the lifeblood of our comrades when a bullet shattered my arm. Luckily my legs were still serviceable, and, seizing the precious bunting with my left hand, I made the best eighty yard time on record, receiving two more wounds

Tanner would later serve in the 69th Pennsylvania. For more on Tanner, click here

Poem written for the Memorial by State Poet, Samuel Hazo

“Antietam on the Web”, accessed 14 September 2011, available from; Internet.
“Charles B. Tanner: One of Delaware’s Medal of Honor Winners”, accessed 14 September 2011, available from; Internet.
“Civil War Medal of Honor Recipients (M-Z)”, accessed 13 September 2011, available from; Internet.
Doughty, Heather, and Mary Margaret Geis, Medal of Honor Recipients, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Commemorative Edition, 10 November 1994. Harrisburg, PA: Office of the Cultural Advisor, 1994.

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