Jewish Medal of Honor Recipients
(From a paper read by Simon Wolf before the American Jewish Historical Society, Washington, D. C., December 26, 1894. The American Jew as Patriot, Soldier and Citizen, pp. 106-108)
On the 12th day of July, 1862, President Lincoln gave his approval to an Act of Congress, authorizing the President to cause to be prepared 2,000 Medals of Honor," to be presented to such non-commissioned officers and privates as would especially distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action, and by other soldierly qualities during the war then in progress.
While I am not prepared to say how many soldiers of Hebrew faith were honored with such medals, I can mention seven who have come under my notice.
First, LEOPOLD KARPELES, Color Sergeant, of the 57th Massachusetts Infantry, at the Battle of North Anna, distinguished himself by a noble defence of the flag under a terrific fire from the enemy. Although seriously wounded, he held the colors aloft until through weakness from loss of blood he had at last to give them to a comrade. Sergeant Karpeles has high testimonials from his superior officers for bravery, daring and discipline, and is at present a clerk in the General Post-Office Department.
Second, BENJAMIN B. LEVY, who enlisted at the age of sixteen as a drummer boy, in the 1st New York Volunteers. He was detailed as Orderly to General Mansfield. While on board the steamer “Express,” carrying dispatches to General Wool at Fortress Monroe, the vessel was attacked by the Confederate gunboat, “Seabird.” The “Express” with all on board, was in imminent danger of capture, when young Levy saved the steamer by cutting loose a water schooner which was in tow. For his prompt action, Levy was highly complimented by Generals Mansfield and Wool. At Charles City Cross Roads, two of the colors of his regiment were saved by him from capture, for which act he was promoted on the field by General Kearney to Color Sergeant of his regiment. At the expiration of his term, he re-enlisted in the 40th New York (Mozart) regiment, and was seriously wounded at the battle of the Wilderness. He was appointed by President Lincoln to the New York Custom House.
Third, Sergeant Major and Adjutant ABRAHAM COHN, who enlisted as private in the 6th New Hampshire Infantry. For distinguished services he was gradually promoted to Adjutant; he served until the close of the war. Some time after Adjutant Cohn received the “Medal of Honor,” from the Assistant Adjutant General's office, he was addressed the following highly complimentary communication:
The Medal, mentioned within, was given for conspicuous gallantry displayed in the battle of the Wilderness, in rallying and forming disorganized troops, under heavy fire; also for bravery and coolness in carrying orders to the advance lines under murderous fire in the battle of the Mine, July 3o, 1864.
S. N. BENJAMIN,
Adjutant Cohn has the most gratifying testimonials from his superior officers. Before enlisting in the 6th New Hampshire he had served in the 68th New York as a private and rose gradually to be captain. Owing to sickness he was honorably discharged, being then, in the opinion of the surgeons, unfit for further duty. Notwithstanding his discharge as Captain, when strong and able again, he re-enlisted as Private, in the 6th New Hampshire, and rose to the rank of Adjutant.
Fourth, DAVID OBRANSKI, of the 58th Ohio Infantry, who received a Medal of Honor for distinguished bravery and coolness under heavy fire at Shiloh, Tennessee, and at Vicksburg, Mississippi.
Fifth, HENRY HELLER, of Company A, 66th Ohio Infantry. He earned the Medal of Honor for daring bravery at Chancellorsville.
*Sixth, ABRAHAM GRUNWALT, of Company G, 104th Ohio Infantry, who earned his Medal of Honor, at Franklin, Tennessee, November 3o, 1864 in the capture of Corps headquarters' flag.
*[Note by Jewish-history.com: Abraham Grunwalt was a practicing Christian. There is no record of Jewish ancestry]
*Seventh, Corporal ISAAC GANS, of the 2nd Ohio Cavalry, who for bravery displayed on the battle-field was appointed escort to the colors captured by the Third Division.
*[Note by Jewish-history.com: There is no record of anyone named Gans receiving the Medal of Honor. There was an MOH awarded to an Isaac Gause, but he was not Jewish.]