(Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in a 2017 edition fo the Gallipolis Daily Tribune. It appears here to remind readers of the sacrifice of veterans who served in the Civil War.)
GALLIPOLIS, Ohio — The Congressional Medal of Honor is an award given out to members of the United States Armed Forces for exemplary actions and extraordinary valor.
One man who received this honor for actions he took during the Civil War, rests in Pine Street Cemetery.
According to Mary Lee Marchi, former director of the Gallia County Historical Society, Samuel O. McElhinny received his Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Salyers Creek, April 6, 1865. Along with McElhinny, 55 other soldiers also received this honor from the events of Sailor’s creek, which it is also known by.
This places McElhinny’s medal as one of the earliest to be awarded. According to Marchi, McElhinny earned the medal due to his bravery in capturing the enemy flag. After eight hours of intense battle, he is said to have walked across the battlefield with bullets flying by, grabbed the enemy’s flag, and stated that “This is over, we’ve captured your flag.” With a statement such as this and valor that set him apart from his fellow soldiers, he earned the Medal of Honor.
Little else is known of his life after the Civil War, save that he passed away of unknown causes in a veterans home in May of 1923. Having been a local citizen, born in Meigs County, enlisting in Point Pleasant, and living in Gallia County, it is fitting that his final resting place be in the Pine Street Cemetery.
The presentation of the Medal of Honor was originally signed into law and ratified by Abraham Lincoln in 1862 as a means of encouraging servicemen to perform beyond the standard call of duty. One version of the bill wrote it this way: “The President shall distribute medals to privates in the Army of the United States who shall distinguish themselves in battle.”