Medal of Honor timeline
March 3, 1847: Congress authorizes a “certificate of merit” to be presented by the president when a “private soldier distinguishes himself in the service.”
Feb. 13, 1861: Army Assistant Surgeon Bernard J.D. Irwin rescues 60 soldiers at Apache Pass, Ariz. Though the Medal of Honor wouldn’t be presented to him until 1894, it was the first heroic act for which the medal would be awarded.
May 24, 1861: In Alexandria, Va., Army Pvt. Francis Edwin Brownell performs the first action of the Civil War to merit the Medal of Honor.
July 21, 1861: Dr. Mary Walker, the only woman to receive the medal, and 10 soldiers at the Battle of Bull Run perform actions that eventually will make them recipients of the Medal of Honor.
Dec. 9, 1861: Iowa Sen. James W. Grimes, chairman of the Senate Naval Committee, introduces federal bill S.J.R. No. 82 in Congress to create a medal of honor to promote the efficiency of the Navy.
Feb. 17, 1862: Massachusetts Sen. Henry Wilson introduces a bill to provide for an Army Medal of Honor.
March 3, 1863: The Act of 3 March 1863 extended the presentations of the Army Medal of Honor to officers, as well as non-commissioned officers and privates.
March 25, 1863: Secretary of War Edwin Stanton presents Medals of Honor to six of the surviving members of Andrew’s Raiders. They are the first medals ever presented.
July 18, 1863: At Fort Wagner, S.C., the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry faced their first major test of combat. William Harvey Carney became the first African-American awarded the medal.
April 23, 1890: The Medal of Honor Legion is established.
March 3, 1915: The president is authorized to present the medal to officers. Previously it was for enlisted personnel.
1946: The Congressional Medal of Honor Society is formed.
Aug. 14, 1958: The Medal of Honor Society is absorbed into the Congressionally Chartered Congressional Medal of Honor Society of the United States of America.
1965: The Air Force introduces the design for their Air Force Medal of Honor. Each branch of service now has its own medal design.
April 24, 1991: World War I had yielded no African-American Medal of Honor recipients, due to prejudices of the time. President George H. W. Bush corrected this when he presented the Medal of Honor to the family of Cpl. Freddie Stowers.
Jan. 13, 1997: Racial prejudice had also prevented the awarding of the medal to any African-American soldiers during World War II. President Bill Clinton presented medals to the families of six deceased World War II heroes and one living hero, Vernon Baker.
June 21, 2000: In ceremonies at the White House, Clinton presented the Medal of Honor to 22 World War II veterans. All the medals went to Asian-Americans who were denied earlier recognition due to racism.
Feb. 11, 2013: President Barack Obama presented the award to Staff Sgt. Clinton L. Romesha for the war on terrorism. It is the ninth award presented since March 31, 2009, and the most recent.
Source: Congressional Medal of Honor Society