The Medal of Honor symbolizes the ideals of patriotism, courage, sacrifice, and integrity and is the highest award presented for military valor in action. Those recipients have shown bravery in combat, going above and beyond the call of duty, risking – and often sacrificing – their lives for the welfare of others.
First introduced for the Department of the Navy in 1861, the Medal of Honor would be created for the Department of the Army’s Medal of Honor in 1862. The Department of the Air Force, which originally used the same Medal as the Department of the Army, introduced their own Medal of Honor in 1965. Since its inception during the U.S. Civil War, more than 3500 recipients have been honored with the Medal of Honor.
This is the story of a Medal of Honor recipient.
The smell of freshly mowed grass filled the air as I stepped out of the vehicle and scanned the field of stone known as Philipsburg Cemetery. In the distance, a group was walking the cemetery and placing American flags on the graves of veterans.
Thankfully, the group had already placed a flag on the grave of the man I came to honor. Located just off one of the cemetery’s roadways, was the resting place of a local man who was honored for his actions in the final hours of the American Civil War. I walked over to the stone and wiped the recently mowed grass from the government issued plaque. It was the resting place of Henry Warfel who received the Medal of Honor for the capture of an enemy flag.
Henry Clay Warfel was born September 24, 1844 in Mill Creek, Huntingdon County, the son of Adam and Barbara Warfel. At the age of sixteen, he was working as a tinner apprentice in Alexandria, Huntington County.
Warfel served under two different units during the American Civil War. He first enlisted with Company I, 125 Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry on August 13, 1862. While serving with this unit, Warfel saw action at Antietam and Chancellorsville. He mustered out of service on May 18, 1863.
Warfel reenlisted on September 4, 1863, this time he was a member of the 195 Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Soon after he was transferred to Company A, First Pennsylvania Cavalry and would be present at Lee’s surrender at the Appomattox Courthouse.
It was while serving with the First Pennsylvania Cavalry that Warfel’s actions would be honored with the Medal of Honor. During the Appomattox Campaign, Warfel was credited with the capture of the Virginia State colors at Paine’s Crossroads, Virginia.
On May 3, 1865, Warfel received the Medal of Honor. The citation for his Medal of Honor reads: “The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Private Henry Clay Warfel, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism on 5 April 1865, while serving with Company A, 1st Pennsylvania Cavalry, in action at Paines Crossroads, Virginia, for capture of Virginia State colors.”
After being mustered out of service on June 6, 1865, Warfel returned to Central Pennsylvania and returned to his apprenticeship before gaining employment with the railroad. In 1869, he settled in Philipsburg, working as a tinner and plumber. In 1874 he married Sarah DuBree and they had three children, of which only one survived to adulthood.
Warfel would become an important part of Philipsburg’s society, being appointed as Philipsburg’s Post Master by President Harrison in 1892. When he died June 17, 1923, at the age of seventy-eight, Warfel was serving as Justice of the Peace. He was laid to rest in the Philipsburg Cemetery in South Philipsburg.
I finished paying my respects, remembering Warfel for his service, before leaving the Medal of Honor recipient to rest within the borders of Philipsburg Cemetery.