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The Question:

I understand that more than 3,400 men and one woman have won the Congressional Medal of Honor. Who was the woman?

The Answer:

On November 11, 1865, Dr. Mary E. Walker, surgeon for the U.S. Army during the Civil War, became the sole woman in American history to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Rank and organization: Contract Acting Assistant Surgeon (civilian), U.S. Army.
Places and dates of service:
  • Battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861;
  • Patent Office Hospital, Washington, D.C., October 1861;
  • Chattanooga, Tenn., following Battle of Chickamauga, September 1863;
  • Prisoner of War, April 10, 1864-August 12, 1864, Richmond, Va.;
  • Battle of Atlanta, September 1864.

The citation read:

Whereas it appears from official reports that Dr. Mary E. Walker, a graduate of medicine, “has rendered valuable service to the Government and her efforts have been earnest and untiring in a variety of ways,” and that she was assigned to duty and served as an assistant surgeon in charge of female prisoners at Louisville, Ky., upon the recommendation of Major Generals Sherman and Thomas, and faithfully served as contract surgeon in the service of the United States, and has devoted herself with much patriotic zeal to the sick and wounded soliders, both in the field and hospitals, to the detriment of her own health, and has also endured hardships as a prisoner of war four months in a Southern prison while acting as contract surgeon.

—The Editors

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