Biden praises Civil War soldiers, Medal of Honor recipients for ‘heroic deeds’

President Biden on Wednesday posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor to two Civil War-era soldiers whom he lauded for defending America and the values it was founded upon.

Biden, speaking from the White House, praised Pvt. Philip G. Shadrach and Pvt. George D. Wilson for an April 12, 1862, mission behind Confederate lines.

“Their heroic deeds went unacknowledged for over a century, but time did not erase their valor,” Biden said.

Biden added that the Fourth of July on Thursday, marking the 248th birthday of the U.S., was “another reminder of why it’s so important to know our history” and “not to erase our history.”

“Remember, the sacred cause of American democracy did not make up a lost cause to justify the evil of slavery,” he said. “Remember the nation that George and Philip fought for and died for, the United States of America, that’s who we are.”

The descendants of both Shadrach and Wilson accepted the Medal of Honor from Biden, who presented them with the awards folded inside of a display case.

The soldiers honored Wednesday with the nation’s highest military honor had taken part in one of the earliest special forces missions in U.S. Army history.

The mission, known as the Great Locomotive Chase, which inspired the 1926 American silent film classic “The General,” saw the Union soldiers infiltrate the Confederacy posing as civilians.

They hijacked a train in Georgia called The General and drove it north for 87 miles while destroying railroad tracks and cutting telegraph wires. The group abandoned the train close to Chattanooga, Tenn., but were captured within two weeks.

Shadrach and Wilson were among 22 men involved in the mission that is also known as Andrews’s Raid for James J. Andrews, who thought up the infiltration mission. Andrews and seven others, including Shadrach and Wilson, were hanged as spies in Atlanta.

Another group of men were taken into captivity and later released in a prisoner exchange and eventually given the Medal of Honor — the first to receive the honor in the Army.

Biden said both Shadrach and Wilson faced an “enormous” risk and had the opportunity to back out of the mission.

“Philip, George, all the men were given a chance to walk away. Not one of them did. Not one of them walked away,” Biden said Wednesday.

According to Biden, Wilson faced the crowd before his hanging and pronounced that he believed they were wrong.

“But he did not harbor hostility towards the people of the South. He said it was not them, but their leaders were responsible for the rebellion,” Biden said. “And he said the time would come when the union would be restored and the American flag would wave over the entire nation once again.”

Biden added that until “the very end, George and Philip believed in the United States of America,” a nation founded on the idea of equality.

“We haven’t always lived up to that, but like George and Philip, we’ve never walked away from it either,” the president said.

Shadrach is a native Pennsylvanian who enlisted at the age of 21 with the Union’s K 2nd Ohio Infantry Regiment.

Wilson, of Ohio, enlisted in the Union’s Company B, 2nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry at about 32 years old.

In 2008, President George W. Bush signed into law a measure to finally recognize both Wilson and Shadrach for the Medal of Honor.

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