Letter from the War Department to Lida Poynter explaining why Mary Walker was not listed as a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient
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Walker was the only woman physician to serve as such in the Civil War. She was appointed as a contract surgeon for the 52nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry in March 1864. In April 1864, Dr. Mary was captured by Confederate soldiers and held prisoner for four months in Richmond, Virginia. In recognition of her services to the Union Army, President Andrew Johnson gave her a Medal of Honor in November 1865. The award recognized her wartime services, but there was no mention of valor in combat. However, in 1916, Congress reviewed all past Medal of Honor recipients. At the time, the medals were easily copied and could be bought, sold, and worn by anyone. Thirty years after Walker was awarded her Medal of Honor, an Act of Congress cancelled her award and those of numerous others. The reason was that the recipients of the Medals of Honor were not involved in physical conflict with the enemy, as required by the law. Congress demanded those medals which had been revoked to be returned to the Army. However, Walker refused to return hers and wore it until her death in 1919. In June 1977, thanks to efforts by Walker’s great-grandniece, her name was once again added to the list of Medal of Honor recipients by President Jimmy Carter.
Mary Edwards Walker was (and still is) the only woman to receive a Medal of Honor. Mary Walker was the only woman physician to serve as a government-commissioned surgeon in the American Civil War. She was appointed contract surgeon for the 52nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry in March 1864. In April 1864, Walker was captured by Confederate soldiers and held prisoner for four months in Richmond, Virginia. In recognition of her services to the Union Army, President Andrew Johnson awarded her a Medal of Honor in November 1865. However, in 1916, an Act of Congress of revoked Walker's Medal. The official reason for the cancellation of the Medal is explained briefly in this letter from the War Department, providing few details.
Creator: McKinley, James F. (James Fuller), 1880-1941
Contributor: Poynter, Lida
Item Number: a026_011
Size: 20.32 x 27.94cm
Physical Collection: Papers of Lida Poynter ca.1850-1946 (ACC-026), ACC-026
Finding Aid: http://dla.library.upenn.edu/dla/pacscl/ead.html?q=poynter&id=PACSCL_DUCOM_WMSC126&
Link to OPAC Record: http://innopac.library.drexel.edu/search/c?SEARCH=ACC-026
Cite this source: Title of document, date. A Female Civil War Surgeon: How Dr. Mary is Remarkable. Doctor or Doctress?: Explore American history through the eyes of women physicians. The Legacy Center, Drexel University College of Medicine Archives & Special Collections. Philadelphia, PA. Date of access. http://lcdc.library.drexel.edu/islandora/object/islandora:1494
Walker, Mary Edwards, 1832-1919
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865
United States. Adjutant-General's Office. War Department Records Branch
1306 South 35th Ave, Omaha, Nebraska