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.
Although Yeagertown’s Holy Communion Lutheran Cemetery is a stone’s throw from Route 322, those passing would never know it exists due to a hill and tree growth between the two. As I drove eastward on Route 322, my GPS informed me I was supposed to go off-road from my current position, but I wisely decided to continue to the Burnham exit.
Taking Freedom Avenue into Burnham, I turned northward onto North Logan Boulevard. The communities of Burnham and Yeagertown bleed into each other, and North Logan Boulevard became Main Street at the town line. Soon after the road changed names, I made the turn onto Fourth Street and parked in a small lot at the rear of the Holy Communion Lutheran Church.
I entered the sacred grounds of the Lutheran Cemetery through the entrance behind the church and as I entered the cemetery, I could see the grave I sought a short distance away. I followed the grassy roadway through the cemetery, scanning the stones on both sides of the pathway, taking in the names of residents who eternally slumber in these sacred grounds.
When I arrived at the grave of James P. Landis, I paused to pay my respects to the man whose actions would be remembered with the Medal of Honor.
James Parker Landis was born July 20, 1843 in Mifflin County to Martin and Mary Landis. By 1860, he was listed as living in Lewistown with his parents and older brother, Joseph.
At the age of eighteen, Landis enrolled on August 18, 1861, at Lewistown to serve in the U.S. Civil War, and would be mustered into service at Camp Jones near Washington, D.C. on August 27 of that year. He would be a sergeant and bugler in Company C of the 1st Pennsylvania Cavalry, which was comprised of men mostly from Mifflin County. His unit was initially a part of the defense of the capitol, but the following year would see action at the Second Battle of Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg.
He was promoted from sergeant to Chief Bugler of Company C on May 1, 1863. On June 9 of the same year, he was wounded during the Battle of Brady Station, but recovered in time to see action at Gettysburg. He would be mustered out of service in late 1863 but reenlisted on February 1, 1864.
On April 5, 1865, during the Battle of Paine’s Crossroads – also known as the Battle of Sailor’s, or Sayler’s, Creek – Landis would capture an enemy battle flag. The conflict saw the Union army, which included the 1st Pennsylvania Cavalry, attack the Confederate supply line and block the means for the Confederate army to escape the Union advance. The Union victory saw the capture of supply wagons, artillery, approximately 7,700 soldiers and teamsters, 11 battle flags, and 8 Confederate generals. Three days after the major defeat, General Robert E. Lee would surrender at Appomattox Court House.
For the capture of a Confederate battle flag, on May 3, 1865, Landis was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. The citation for his medal reads: “The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Chief Bugler James Parker Landis, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism on 5 April 1865, while serving with 1st Pennsylvania Cavalry, in action at Paines Crossroads, Virginia, for capture of flag.”
Landis survived the war and was mustered out of service on June 20, 1865 at Clouds Mills, Virginia. After the war, he returned to Mifflin County, married and settled in Lewistown. After the death of his first wife, he remarried around 1890 and would also outlive his second wife, Carrie. He died December 1, 1924 at the age of eighty-one and was placed to rest next to Carrie in the Lutheran Cemetery in Yeagertown.
I finished paying my respects to the Medal of Honor recipient and slowly began making my way across the cemetery, leaving Landis to rest within the sacred grounds.