Valor Friday

| January 13, 2023

This week’s article will be a little different. With the new Congress being seated, my curiosity turned to politics as it relates to valor awards. In our history, who are the elected representatives that have earned our nation’s highest honors? Let’s take a look. Some of these names, particularly the latter day inclusions, will be familiar, but I think you’ll find that most are not.


There are, in the history of the US, seven United States Senators that were recipients of the Medal of Honor. One of these men, prior to being elected to the Senate, was also a Representative.

There are some interesting trends;

  • Of the seven, only two (DuPont and Kerrey) received the Medal of Honor prior to their Senate service. Indeed, neither man was involved in politics at the time of their awards.
  • Six of the men were officers, only Warren was an enlisted man at the time of his award.
  • Five were Republicans, two (Inouye and Kerrey) were Democrats.
  • Five were received for actions during the Civil War.
  • Six of the seven awards were made 25 or more years after the action for which it was awarded. Inouye’s was the most delayed award, occurring more than 55 years after his battlefield heroics. Kerrey was the only one to have received his Medal of Honor contemporaneously with the action for which it was awarded. This should not be taken as unusual. Many Medals of Honor for Civil War gallantry were similarly awarded decades after the fact (and one as late as the Obama Administration). Likewise, the delayed recognition of Inouye’s bravery (and the bravery of many of his contemporaries) was due to racial discrimination.

Adelbert Ames

Ames’ father was a sea captain who later owned Ames Mill in Northfield, Minnesota, which later became famous as the manufacturer of Malt-O-Meal. After Ames spent some time as a seaman he attended West Point, graduating 5th out of 45 in May 1861. With the Civil War having started the month previous, he was immediately pressed into service as an artillery officer. By July he was a first lieutenant and was in the Battle of First Bull Run.

During the battle, Ames was seriously wounded in his right thigh, but remained at his post. He was brevet promoted to major for battlefield bravery (the most common award during the war for officers) and in 1893 was awarded the Medal of Honor for it. His citation reads;

Remained upon the field in command of a section of Griffin’s Battery, directing its fire after being severely wounded and refusing to leave the field until too weak to sit upon the caisson where he had been placed by men of his command.

While a distinguished artillery officer, he realized the infantry was where the promotions would be found. After recovering from his wounds he commanded the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He had been brevetted to lieutenant colonel and made a substantive colonel of volunteers by the end of August 1862, commanding the 20th Maine in action in Maryland, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. Then he served on the staff of General Meade, after which Ames was promoted to brigadier general in May 1863. He’d been a USMA cadet just two years previously and was only 27.

After admirable service in the Battle of Gettysburg, Ames was given a brevet to colonel in the Regular Army. He saw more combat service during the rest of the war. By the end of the conflict he was a substantive captain in the Regular Army, a substantive major general of volunteers, and a brevet major general in the Regular Army. In 1866 he was promoted to substantive lieutenant colonel in the Regular Army.

In 1868 Ames was appointed the military governor of Mississippi. From that position he appointed the first black people to state leadership roles, fought to secure the rights of freedmen, and ensured the first election occurred. In 1870 the Mississippi Legislature elected him to the US Senate after the state was readmitted to the Union. He served there for four years before becoming Governor of Mississippi.

As Governor, Ames was driven out of office after Democrat violence and terrorism kept Republicans from the polls in 1875. When the now heavily Democratic legislature convened in 1876, they moved to impeach Ames (after already removing his black Lt. Gov.). In a deal with Democrats, they dropped the charges, and he resigned from office.

He moved to Northfield and worked with his father and brother in their flour mill. Thanks to his investment in the bank in town, Jesse James and his gang made a famous and ill-fated attempt to rob the First National Bank of Northfield. Ames them moved to New York City before being an executive in a flour mill in Massachusetts.

In 1898, when the US went to war with Spain, Ames volunteered and was commissioned a brigadier general of volunteers. He saw action in Cuba during the war, including at the Battle of San Juan Hill and the Siege of Santiago. San Juan Hill of course is a famous battle. There he served alongside then-Colonel Theodore Roosevelt (who posthumously received the MoH more than 100 years after the battle), then-Brigadier General Leonard Wood (MoH recipient from the Indian Wars), and Major General Joseph Wheeler (one of only three men to have been generals in the Confederate Army and later generals in the US Army).

After his second war, Ames worked on entertainment projects in Atlantic City and Florida. He lived until 1933, dying at the age of 97, and was one of the last living Union Civil War generals.

Matthew Quay

By the start of the Civil War Quay was already active in Pennsylvania politics, having worked his way up from simple country lawyer to private secretary of the governor at age 27. When the war broke out, Quay was among the earliest volunteers from the state. He was commissioned a first lieutenant in May of 1861 in the 19th Division Pennsylvania Uniformed Militia. He didn’t take that post though, because the governor made him a lieutenant colonel and assistant commissary general for the state.

When the state militias were federalized, Quay remained with the governor as his personal secretary. He longed for a combat assignment though, and was finally given one as the colonel of the 134th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment in 1862. They joined McClelland’s Army of the Potomac in their pursuit of General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia after the Battle of Antietam.

Soon thereafter Quay fell ill from typhoid fever. On medical advice, and to become Pennsylvania’s military representative in Washington, he resigned his commission. Though the slowness of the postal service at the time delayed the acceptance of that.

Quay’s resignation acceptance was received just days before the Battle of Fredericksburg. Quay refused to leave his men on the eve of the battle. He begged his commanders to accept him as a voluntary aide-de-camp. His surgeon told him his health was such that he should not return to battle, but he joined his men nonetheless.

Despite having significantly more troops, the Union Army suffered a crushing defeat at Fredericksburg. Quay led his men in an ill-fated assault on Marye’s Heights. Upon horseback he urged his men forward after they were attacked relentlessly by the well-entrenched enemy force holding the high ground. They only retreated after half the Union men lay dead or wounded.

For his performance during the battle, with notes that he went into action despite having been excused from service, he was awarded the Medal of Honor 1888.

Colonel Quay then took his leave from federal service and was in Washington as Pennsylvania’s military attache. In 1864 he was elected to the US House of Representatives for a few years. He then led a series of greater and greater state-level positions that put him in charge of Republican politics in Pennsylvania for years.

In 1887 he was elected by the state legislature to the US Senate. He held the post until political in-fighting in 1899 saw the Pennsylvania Legislature fail to elect anyone to the Senate. The logjam wasn’t broken until 1901 when Quay resumed office. He remained a senator until 1904 when he died.

William Sewell

Sewell was born in Ireland before emigrating to the US as a young boy. He was 26 when the Civil War started and secured appointment as a captain 5th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry in August 1861. He rapidly rose the ranks, being made a lieutenant colonel in July 1862 and colonel in January 1863.

At the Battle of Chancellorsville in April and May 1863, what has been called “Lee’s perfect battle”, the Union Army was defeated by an inferior number of Rebel troops. During the battle, on 3 May, Sewell assumed command of his brigade. Rallying around his colors, he cobbled together a group of men from a variety of embattled regiments. Leading these men in harrowing combat, over the coming hours, he remained in command despite suffering severe wounds. For his performance here, Colonel Sewell would be awarded the Medal of Honor in 1896.

After Chancellorsville, Sewell was again seriously wounded in action, on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. His wounds kept him from duty until late in 1864, but soon again led to his leaving the service in June 1865. He was nominated by President Johnson post-war in January 1866 to the rank of brevet brigadier general for “gallant and meritorious services at the Battle of Chancellorsville, Va.” In 1868 he was again nominated by the president to the grade of brevet major general.

After the war, Sewell went into the railroad industry before being elected to the New Jersey State Senate in 1872. He was President of the New Jersey Senate from 1876. He was then elected to two non-consecutive US Senate terms (1881-1887 and 1895-1901). He died while in office, from complications of heart disease and diabetes. He was 66 years old.

Francis Emery Warren

Hailing from Massachusetts, Warren was only 16 when the Civil War started. Despite this, he soon enlisted in the 49th Massachusetts Infantry, first raised in October 1862. Assigned to the Department of the Gulf, the 49th Mass. saw heavy action during the Siege of Port Hudson in Louisiana from May-July 1863.

At just 19 years old, now-Corporal Warren answered a call for volunteers on 27 May during the siege. As part of a platoon-sized force, they were tasked with taking out some enemy artillery. Taking withering fire from the artillery, the men suffered heavy casualties. All of the men lay dead or wounded, with Warren suffering a severe scalp wound, as the Confederate cannons tore into them. Alone and injured, Warren stormed the parapet and took out the enemy position. For this he would, in 1893, receive the Medal of Honor.

Warren would later serve as a captain in the Massachusetts Militia, but he returned to life as a farmer and raised livestock after the war. In 1868 he moved to the Wyoming Territory in the days of the Wild West. There he became quite wealthy as he embarked on a variety of endeavors, including Cheyenne’s first lighting system. From there he went into politics.

He served in a variety of elected positions before being appointed territorial governor in 1885. Removed by the subsequent president in 1886, he was reappointed in 1889. He was soon elected as the first governor of the newly admitted State of Wyoming. He was only governor for about a month before he was elected by the state legislature to be one of the state’s first US Senators. He held the office for three years, then was re-elected again in 1895. He held the position as Senator from Wyoming for more than 30 years, until his death in office in 1929 at age 85.

At the time of his death, Warren was the longest serving Senator in history. Any Air Force folks will probably recognize the abbreviated version of Warren’s name as F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming is a major ICBM facility. Warren’s daughter Frances Warren married then-Captain John J Pershing. Unfortunately she and three daughters perished in a 1915 house fire at The Presidio, San Francisco, with a son being the only survivor. Pershing of course became the legendary commander of the American Expeditionary Force in Europe during WWI and was the only person to be promoted to the rank of General of the Armies within his lifetime (a rank also held, posthumously, by both George Washington and Ulysses Grant, and superior to the similar sounding five-star rank General of the Army).

Henry du Pont

Henry du Pont’s last name is familiar as he was a member of the wealthy, prominent du Pont family of American industrialists, whose eponymous mega-corporation still does more than $16 Billion in revenue annually. He was the grandson of the founder of the Du Pont corporation, which found great success in the manufacture of gunpowder in the mid-19th Century.

Du Pont graduated at the top of his West Point class in May 1861, four places higher than Adelbert Ames (above). There was a third man to receive the Medal of Honor from this class, Captain Samuel N. Benjamin (who graduated 12th). Since West Point was (and is) an engineering school, du Pont was commissioned into the engineers.

Within a matter of weeks though du Pont was promoted to first lieutenant in the artillery with the 5th Regiment of Artillery. He spent most of the war as a light artillery officer and staff officer before being promoted to captain in 1864. From there he was assigned to General Sheridan’s Army of the Shenandoah. During the Battle of Cedar Creek on 19 October 1864 du Pont would receive his accolades.

While Confederate General Jubal Early appeared to have a victory early in the day, the Union forces rallied upon the arrival of General Sheridan. With Sheridan’s presence, the retreating blue uniforms were turned back into the rebel grays. By late afternoon, the Union’s superior cavalry had routed Early’s force and had the Confederates in retreat.

As Sheridan was arriving, the Union lines had broken and were retreating. Du Pont, as a captain of the 5th Artillery, weathered the enemy’s direct fire to remain at his post. He encouraged his men to remain with their guns, halting the advance of the enemy. This allowed the revitalized men under Sheridan to press the attack and win the day.

In addition to the Medal of Honor (received 1898), du Pont received two brevet promotions for bravery in action. The first to the rank of major for the Battles of Opequon and Fisher’s Hill. The second was to the rank of lieutenant colonel for Cedar Creek. Both brevets were dated 1864.

After the war du Pont remained in the Army as a career officer. He left the Army in 1875, a year after marrying. He returned to his home of Delaware and became a railroad executive and experimental farmer. In 1906 he was elected to the US Senate. He was re-elected once, but lost in the first popular vote for his position in 1916.

Du Pont died in 1926 at the age of 88.

Daniel Inouye

Growing up in Hawaii, Inouye was a high school senior when he witnessed the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor. A Red Cross first aid instructor, Inouye was called to a local school to help treat civilians wounded in the surprise attack. Though he wanted to enlist after graduating in 1942, as a Nisei (second-generation Japanese-American) he was prohibited, since Roosevelt had listed them as “enemy aliens.” Instead Inouye started college, with the plan to later attend medical school.

In March 1943, the Roosevelt Administration organized an all-Nisei unit, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Inouye was first denied enlistment because his on-going work with the Red Cross was considered wartime critical, but persisted and was enlisted later that month.

After about a year of training, the 442nd RCT was deployed to Italy in May 1944 to join the European Theater of the war. Within months Inouye was promoted to sergeant, as the 442nd RCT earned a reputation as one of the finest infantry units of the war. Fighting through Italy they were then sent to France.

In France, about 275 men of the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment were trapped behind enemy lines, completely surrounded for several days. Known as “The Lost Battalion” (and not to be confused with the First World War’s similarly named “Lost Battalion”), all efforts to relieve them were for naught. The last ditch effort to get the men out was assigned to the 442nd RCT.

Over a period of four days the 442nd RCT fought their way through German lines to rescue 211 men of the Lost Battalion. They suffered 800 casualties in the process. During the battle Inouye had distinguished himself enough that he was given a battlefield commission, becoming the youngest officer in the regiment. He’d nearly died during the fighting when a German bullet struck him in the chest, right near his heart. Fortunately he had a couple of silver dollars in his pocket that stopped the bullet.

On 12 April, 1945, the 442nd RCT was again called into action. In the final month of the war, the Allies were trying to drive the Germans out of Italy for good. The Germans were holed up along the final of their defensive lines across the Italian Peninsula, known as the Gothic Line.

While trying to flank an enemy machine gun position, Inouye was shot in the stomach. Ignoring his wound, he led his men forward and eliminated the first of two machine gun nests. With his squad distracting a third machine gun squad, Inouye crawled forward to the second machine gun nest, coming to within 10 yards of the enemy emplacement.

As Inouye prepared to throw a grenade, a German fired an anti-personnel rifle grenade at the young lieutenant, hitting him in the right arm. While the grenade didn’t detonate, the blunt force trauma of the round was enough that it mangled and nearly severed his arm at the elbow.

His arm reflexively clamped onto the live grenade, but Inouye was no longer in control of the hand. The now twice wounded soldier, suffering from extremely painful and life threatening injuries, was staring at his own grenade, held in his own hand, that was about to kill him.

Inouye’s comrades moved up to come to his aid, but he ordered them to stay back. He was afraid the hand would relax, dropping the live bomb. He then pried the grenade from his own hand, and when the enemy paused to reload, he lobbed the grenade with his left hand into the enemy bunker, killing the man.

Inouye struggled to his feet and pressed the attack, killing at least one more German, possibly two, before being wounded yet again in the leg. Falling unconscious, he came to with his men surrounding him. His ghastly appearance, mutilated as he was, had them looking at him worriedly. As he was being carried off to the aid station, he called to them, “Nobody called off the war!” By the end of the day the ridge had fallen to American hands, and none of Inouye’s platoon were killed in the action. At a nearby field hospital, what was left of Inouye’s right arm was cut off, without anesthesia, as he’d been given too much morphine already.

Inouye’s war was over, but he faced a long road to rehabilitation. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his bravery in action, an award which was upgraded decades later to the Medal of Honor after a review of awards to men of the 442nd RCT (which became the most decorated unit for its size in Army history). Nineteen other men of the 442nd RCT also had their awards upgraded to the Medal of Honor during this review. While recovering at an Army hospital in the US, Inouye became friends with another wounded warrior, fellow future Senator Bob Dole.

Returning home, Inouye went back to school and became active in Democratic politics. He’d be elected to the Hawaiian Territory House of Representatives in 1954 and with Hawaii’s statehood in 1959 he was elected to be the state’s first US Representative. In 1962 he was elected to be Hawaii’s US Senator. He held that post until his death in 2012. To date, he is the second longest serving Senator, behind only Robert Byrd (a contemporary of his and fellow Democrat).

Inouye would also receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom (posthumously), the Order of the Paulownia Flowers (Japan’s second highest national honor), and was a chevalier (knight) in the French Legion of Honor. The 442nd RCT has also received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civil honor bestowed by the US Congress, and a whopping eight Presidential Unit Citations (five earned in a single month).

Bob Kerrey

As mentioned earlier, J Robert “Bob” Kelley was the only US Senator to have received his Medal of Honor contemporaneously with the event for which it was awarded. Kelley earned his Medal of Honor in Vietnam, when he was a Navy SEAL officer.

Born in 1943 in Nebraska, after college, Kelly joined the US Navy, completing Officer Candidate School in 1967. Later that year he graduated from BUD/S, and was directly assigned to SEAL Team One. Normally, new special operators were sent to the Underwater Demotion Teams first. After extensive pre-deployment training, Kerrey was sent to Vietnam with Delta Platoon, SEAL Team One in January 1969.

In March of that year, his team was sent to an island in the area of Nha Trang. Acting on reliable intelligence, they were to capture some high value enemy targets. To surprise the enemy, they scaled a 350ft cliff to get above the enemy (who had camped just short of the cliff, assuming it would provide security). From there, Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Kerrey split his men into two teams.

As they made the clandestine, dangerous descent from the cliff top to the enemy’s camp they came under fire from the enemy. Facing heavy enemy fire, Kelley was grievously wounded early in the engagement. An enemy grenade exploded at his feet and threw him back into some jagged rocks. Despite the profuse bleeding and severe pain, the young lieutenant continued to direct his men’s fire into the heart of the enemy camp. Using his radioman, he called in fire from the other half of his team, causing mass confusion among the enemy.

The SEAL’s withering crossfire attack silenced the enemy fire. Even then, the near mortally wounded Kerrey continued to remain calm and directed his men in clearing the encampment and securing an exfiltration point. Nearly unconscious from blood loss and pain, Kerrey continued to lead his men until he was evacuated by helicopter. The enemy soldiers captured provided valuable intelligence.

Kerrey received the Medal of Honor in 1970 for this action. Losing one of his feet to his combat injuries, his naval career was over though. He returned home to Nebraska and became a very successful businessman.

Kerrey was elected Governor of Nebraska in 1982, holding the position for two terms. In 1988 he was elected to the US Senate, holding that post until 2001. He ran for president in 1992, losing in the primaries to Bill Clinton, and tried to regain his senate seat in 2012. After his Senate term, Kerrey was a member of the 9/11 Commission.

Something that will perhaps draw even more envy among men than the gold medal on blue silk ribbon that Kerrey wears around his neck, he dated actress Debra Winger for about two years in the 1980s during his first term as Governor of Nebraska. This was after his first marriage ended in divorce. He has since married again, having one child with his second wife and two from the previous marriage.

Tune in next week as we move over to the House.

Other Senate valor award recipients;

Sam Ervin (D-NC) – Distinguished Service Cross and Silver Star as an Army private with the 28th Infantry during WWI

Spessard L. Holland (D-FL) – DSC as a lieutenant with the Army Air Service as an aerial observer during WWI

James Webb (D-VA) – Navy Cross and Silver Star as a USMC lieutenant during Vietnam.

John McCain (R-AZ) – Silver Star (and other awards) as a Naval Aviator turned POW during Vietnam.

Category: Army, Historical, Medal of Honor, Navy, Valor, We Remember

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Friday the 13th… the day for having cajones.


Thanks for this recurring event.

Its a bit ironic that being a Democrat from Hawaii neither party or state are known for being staunch defenders of the 2nd amendment.

The following is used just for such things.


Another great write up of Genuine War Heroes, Mason. Muchly appreciated. Damn shame that most Kongress Klowne Kritters only have the desire to enrich themselves V actually serving the Country. “That such men lived.”

Those of you that haven’t put a crowbar into your wallet and pried out some coin of the realm to place an order for Mason’s works need to do so. Received my copies and have been poring over them whilst I await CW’s Tomes. Very well written and laid out. You may want to consider some extrys to donate to your local library. Not so many War Hero Stories sitting on library shelves these days.


 was driven out of office after Democrat violence and terrorism kept Republicans from the polls in 1875. When the now heavily Democratic legislature convened in 1876, they moved to impeach Ames”

The more things change….

Awesome stories Mason, may we never forget.


I will never understand why combat arms vets, especially badasses like those above become, or stay democrat. It seems painfully clear that the ideals and standards held by the two groups are diametrically opposed to each other..


Thanks again, Mason.


BZ for your research efforts, Mason!


[…] Continuing from last week’s look at Senators who have earned the country’s highest honor, we now turn to the House of Representatives. As with the Senate, there are some trends. Sixteen Congressmen have received the Medal of Honor. One of those later became a Senator and was discussed at length in last week’s article. […]


[…] Daniel Inouye was a Representative before being elected a Senator, and he was discussed at the start of this series when I talked about Senators with the MoH. […]