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 was in Cumberland, Maryland to pay my respects to two Medal of Honor recipients who rest in cemeteries located at the opposite ends of the city. Rather than passing through the center of town, I made my way back to Interstate 64, drove eastward for two exits and got back off at the Baltimore Road exit. After passing under the interstate, I immediately saw a cemetery on my left. I was curious about the older stones, but my GPS was taking me in a different direction. At the top of the hill, I turned right onto the very narrow Yale Street. Note: More about the first Medal of Honor recipient can be found here: William Shuck, Jr
I drove slowly along the narrow street, scanning the old stones on both sides of the road. On the left side of Yale Street is Saint Luke’s Lutheran Cemetery and my GPS stated the grave I was looking for was quickly approaching. I could see the grave, but there was no parking and the entrance to the cemetery was gated off. I paused next to the grave and debated parking there when a vehicle approached from behind. I continued a short distance and found a parking area roughly fifty yards away. I parked there and walked back to the grave I sought. I slipped through the opening in the fence and stood at the grave of a Medal of Honor Recipient. Note: The main entrance for Saint Luke’s Lutheran Cemetery is at the end of Goethe Street. If entering through this entrance, the plot for John Hart, is along the roadway straight back from the entrance.
The plot for John Hart immediate caught my attention. He had a family stone, a U.S. Military stone, and also a U.S. Military Stone with the Medal of Honor engraved it in.
John William Hart was born July 30, 1833 in Germany. He immigrated to the United States and settled in Maryland. Hart enrolled to serve in the U.S. Civil War on April 4, 1861 in Chambersburg, Franklin County, Pennsylvania. He would be mustered into service as a private in Company D of the Sixth Pennsylvania Reserves – which would become the 35 Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers – on July 27, 1861. Note: I used the information for his service provided in the “Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1866” found in the “Pennsylvania Digital Archives.” Many other places state he enlisted and was mustered into service at Cumberland, Maryland.
Hart eventually rose to the rank of Sergeant in the unit and during the Battle of Gettysburg, he would be part of a six men group who would be honored with the Medal of Honor. The action took place during the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. Hart and five others volunteered to attack a small cabin occupied by Confederate sharpshooters. As the six men approached the cabin, they were spotted and the sharpshooters began firing at them. Hart and the five others rushed the building and forced their way inside, taking the twelve Confederate soldiers prisoner.
Hart would continue serving through the end of the war and was mustered out of service on June 11, 1964. He would receive the Medal of Honor in a ceremony on August 3, 1897. The citation on 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.”
After the being mustered out of service, Hart returned to Cumberland, Maryland, where he married Christina Stark that autumn and would raise a family there. He lived the rest of his life in Cumberland, where he passed on June 2, 1907. Although Hart’s grave was marked with a military stone, it was not until November 2004 that a military stone recognizing him as a recipient of the Medal of Honor was placed at his gravesite.
I finished paying my respects to John Hart, and left him to slumber in the sacred grounds of Saint Luke’s Lutheran Cemetery, knowing that his service and bravery has not been forgotten.
Note: The six men of the Sixth 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.