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.
I had spent the morning exploring the Raystown Lake region and before heading home, I wanted to pay my respects to a man who rests on the hill overlooking the community of Huntingdon. Passing through town on Fifth Street, I turned onto Cemetery Street and entered the sacred grounds. Following the road, I stopped at the second intersection and stepped out of the vehicle. At the corner of the two roadways was the gravesite of the man I had come to honor.
The center of the family plot is marked with a large memorial with the Reed family name on it. I could see the American flag in front of the stone and walked over to the the military plaque it stood guard over. Stepping onto the grassy family plot, I paused at the grave of a man whose actions would be remembered with the Medal of Honor.
William Reed was born February 21, 1839 near Laurelton in Union County. Reed moved westward as a young man and would teach school until the outbreak of the U.S. Civil War when he made the decision to enlist. He would be mustered in as a private in Company H of the 8th Missouri Volunteers. During his time of service, Reed saw action in the Battles of Fort Donelson and Vicksburg.
During the Battle of Vicksburg, Reed would join a group of 150 volunteers who stormed the Confederate earthworks which guarded the road leading to the northeast from the city. For volunteering for the charge and attacking the Confederate defenses, Reed would receive the Medal of Honor.
Reed continued to serve until he was mustered out of service on July 7, 1864. On December 12, 1895, William Reed would be recognized for his part in the charge on the Confederate entrenchments. 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 Private William Reed, United States Army, for gallantry in the charge of the volunteer storming party on 22 May 1863, while serving with Company H, 8th Missouri Infantry, in action at Vicksburg, Mississippi.”
After the war ended, Reed returned to Pennsylvania and settled in Hartleton where he ran a small merchandise business. In 1868, he married Helen Glover of Hartleton and they moved to Clearfield. He remained in Clearfield until 1879, where he raised his family – Helen bore him seven children. In early 1879, he left for Martinsburg, West Virginia, but only remained there a couple months before returning and settling in Huntingdon. Helen would pass in December 1888 and Reed would marry Alice Pellman of Mifflinburg in 1890. Reed outlived his second wife – who passed on August 11, 1915 – and two of his children.
At the age of seventy-nine, Reed would pass May 30, 1918 at his home in Huntingdon. Reed had planned on marching in the Memorial Day parade as he had in the past, but was not feeling well that morning. He passed that afternoon and as the Memorial Services for the veterans was taking place, it was announced the well-liked and respected member of the community had died.
I finished paying my respects and carefully stepped from the family plot and onto the roadway. I paused one last time to thank him for his service before I respectfully left Medal of Honor recipient William Reed to eternally slumber in the sacred grounds overlooking Huntingdon.