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Jacob Wilson Parrott, First Medal of Honor Winner Paying with Confederate money, 18-year-old Ohio soldier Jacob Wilson Parrott calmly bought a train ticket in Marietta, Georgia, one April morning in 1862. The Civil War, the great American war between the North and the South, the Rebels and the Union, was a year old. Looking around, Parrott saw and recognized 19 Northern comrades. Led by James J. Andrews, a full-time spy for the Union, these Union soldiers would become known as Andrews Raiders. They had volunteered for a risky raid behind enemy lines. The mission? Capture a Rebel train and destroy bridges and train track between Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Atlanta, Georgia. Parrott and his fellow Andrews Raiders hijacked the train in Big Shanty, Tennessee, when the crew got off for breakfast. The train was pulled by the Western & Atlantic Railroad engine known as The General. The Yanks quickly unhitched cars from the train, leaving them to block the tracks, and took off in The General. The Rebel crew came running when the train’s alarm bell began to clang, and the chase was on. A few miles later, the Raiders stopped to cut telegraph wires and load crossties onto the train. These would be used to burn bridges after they were crossed. Further on, at Kingston, the Raiders had to wait 65 minutes on a sidetrack while three freight trains passed them. Behind them, the Rebels had been stalled by the same freight trains, but they managed to find a mail train and go around the detour. After 90 miles, The General’s fuel was gone, and the Union soldiers were stopped and captured. Seven Raiders including Andrews were hanged. Others were put in prison. Parrott was captured, whipped and imprisoned, but he managed to escape. He served in the Union Army for the rest of the war. Parrott and the remaining Andrews’ Raiders were called to Washington, D.C., on March 25, 1863, by Secretary of War William Stanton. After praising the men for their bravery, he presented them with a new medal, the Congressional Medal of Honor. Parrott was the first of the six to receive it, thus becoming the nation’s very first recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. He returned to Kenton, Ohio, became a cabinetmaker and married Sarah Lawrence. Their son, John Marion, married Edith Gertrude Brown, daughter of Raider Wilson W. Brown. Parrott died in Kenton on December 22, 1908.
Jacob Wilson Parrott (Photo courtesy of HomeofHeroes.com)
Words to Know: risky crosstie imprisoned sidetrack telegraph mission recipient For Discussion: 1. Andrews Raiders did not complete their assignment as planned. What was wrong with the plan? Could the outcome have been different? How? 2. Synonyms are words that have similar meanings. What synonyms do you notice in this story? 3. Parrott’s Congressional Medal of Honor is now on display in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. Why is it appropriate for his medal to be displayed there? 4. Where could you go to research the names and heroics of other Congressional Medal of Honor winners?
Newspaper Activity: Imagine this story had appeared as a news story in a newspaper before 1909. Write as many different newspaper headlines for it as you can. “Ohio: The Inside Story” is produced through a grant from The Ohio Newspapers Foundation, a nonprofit charitable and educational organization affiliated with The Ohio Newspaper Association. This is one of a series of 24 Ohio profiles.
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