The Medal of Honor symbolizes the ideals of patriotism, courage, sacrifice, and integrity and is the highest award presented for military valor in action. These 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.
It had been years since I last passed through the small community of Newry, often choosing to bypass it via Interstate 99. I had spent the morning bouncing around Hollidaysburg and Duncansville before heading southward on Dunnings Highway. In the center of Newry I made a right turn onto Shamrock Lane, drove two blocks and turned right onto Henderson Street. I could see Saint Patrick’s Cemetery immediately ahead.
As I entered through the gates into the cemetery, I immediately saw the grave of the man I had come to pay my respects, located right next to the roadway. The decorated grave marks the resting place of a Blair Countian who received the Medal of Honor for actions in the U.S. Civil War. Note: There are a couple places online with coordinates for Roush’s gravesite. These coordinates place the grave near the top of the cemetery hill, but it is not. It is roughly twenty yards inside the gate. Also, there is no place to turn around at the top of the cemetery. It is best to leave the vehicle near the entrance and walk the short distance along the paved roadway.
Levi Roush was born James Levi Roush on February 1, 1838 and lived in the community of Sarah Furnace, which is the present-day community of Sproul, in Bedford County. On April 24, 1861, at the age of twenty-three, Roush enlisted at Chambersburg to serve in the U.S. Civil War. On July 27 he was mustered in as a part of the 6th Pennsylvania Reserves – this became Company D of the 35th Pennsylvania Infantry. Note: In many places, it is listed Roush was born in Chambersburg. Chambersburg is where he enlisted to serve and I believe many have assumed this was where he was born.
Roush saw death claim the men in his regiment and when death came calling for him, Roush managed to escape the cold fingers of death. In late August 1862 during the Battle of Second Bull Run, Roush was shot in the face. He was tended to at a field hospital and remained with the unit.
On the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Roush would be involved in an action that would see six men receive the Medal of Honor. On July 2, the 35th Pennsylvania Infantry was involved in fighting at the Devil’s Den area of Gettysburg. In a small cabin near Devil’s Den, a group of twelve Confederate soldiers had holed up and were successfully picking off the Union forces. Six men, including Roush, volunteered to attack the cabin.
The group of men moved quickly toward the cabin, but were spotted by the Confederates inside, who began firing at the approaching Union soldiers. The six men rushed through the gunfire and forced their way inside. The twelve Confederate soldiers inside surrendered and were taken prisoner. None of the six men were wounded during the charge and capture of the enemy position.
Note: The six men of the 6th Pennsylvania Reserve who were awarded the Medal of Honor were: John Hart, Thaddeus S. Smith, J. Levi Roush, George Mears, Chester S. Furman and Wallace Johnson.
Roush continued serving to the end of the war and was honorably discharged on June 11, 1865. At some point during the war, he was promoted to Corporal, but it is not known when the promotion occurred – it appears that it occurred before the Battle of Gettysburg. After being mustered out, Roush returned to Blair County where he married and raised a family.
On August 3, 1897, Roush was honored with the Medal of Honor. The citation for his medal reads: “Was one of six volunteers who charged upon a log house near the Devil’s Den, where a squad of the enemy’s sharpshooters were sheltered, and compelled their surrender.”
On July 31, 1902, Roush was seriously injured in McKee’s Gap, the gap which present-day Route 36 passes through between East Freedom and Roaring Spring. Roush had been a foreman at the quarries owned by Peter Duncan. He was riding in one of the mining cars to the top of the mountain, when the rope pulling it gave a sharp jerk. The action caused Roush, who was sitting at the front of the car, to be thrown back, breaking his hipbone.
Roush never fully recovered from the accident which left him crippled. On February 12, 1906, at the age of sixty-nine, Roush passed. He would be laid to rest in the sacred grounds of Saint Patrick’s Cemetery in Newry.
I finished paying my respects to Roush, remembering his bravery and service in the face of death as he helped capture the group of Confederate soldiers during the Battle of Gettysburg. I reverently stepped away and headed back to the vehicle, leaving him to rest on the hillside overlooking Newry.