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Civil War

During the Civil War, three Tennesseans received the Medal of Honor.  The first Medal of Honor recipient from Tennessee was Corporal Harrison Collins for his heroic actions during the Battle of Nashville on February 24, 1865.


Harrison Collins

Rank: Corporal

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company A, 1st Tennessee Cavalry

Born: March 10, 1836, Hawkins County, Tennessee

Place/Date: At Richland Creek, Tennessee, December 24, 1864

Citation: Capture of flag of Chalmer’s Division (C.S.A.).

Additional Information: Collins saw the Confederate standard bearer, under the direction of a major, trying to rally his troops. Collins led a charge to kill the major, capture the flag and route the enemy. He chased the enemy all the way to the Tennessee River. Harrison Collins was the first Tennessean to be awarded the Medal of Honor


George L. Gillespie, Jr.

Rank: First Lieutenant

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Corps of Engineers

Born: October 7, 1841, Kingston, Tennessee

Place/Date: Near Bethesda Church, Virginia, May 31, 1864

Citation: Exposed himself to great danger by voluntarily making his way through the enemy’s lines to communicate with Gen. Sheridan. While rendering this service he was captured, but escaped; again, came in contact with the enemy, was again ordered to surrender, but escaped by dashing away under fire.

Additional Information: Gillespie graduated 2nd in his class at West Point in 1862. He entered service in Chattanooga, TN. He commanded two companies of the engineer battalion which built fortifications and pontoon on bridges in the Virginia campaigns of the Civil War. Gillespie was promoted to Brigadier General in the Spanish-American war. He served as President of the Board of Engineers for the Mississippi River Commission.

He redesigned the Medal of Honor in 1904, replacing the “Minerva repelling Discord” scene with a simple portrait of the helmeted Minerva, and replacing the red/white/blue ribbon with a light blue one.


Gaines Lawson

Rank: First Sergeant

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company D, 4th East Tennessee Infantry

Born: September 4, 1840, Hawkins County, Tennessee

Place/Date: At Minville, Tennessee, October 3, 1863

Citation: Went to the aid of a wounded comrade between the lines and carried him to a place of safety.

Additional Information: After the Civil War Lawson served with distinction commanding the 25th Infantry Regiment of the “Buffalo Soldiers.” He was Commanding Officer in the campaign against Sitting Bull following the Battle of Little Big Horn. He served twice as Commanding Officer of Fort Gibson.