Ask Hamilton – Charles H. Coolidge National Medal of Honor Museum

Charles H. Coolidge National Medal of Honor Museum


(Above) Medal of Honor recipients at the grand opening of the Charles H. Coolidge National Medal of Honor Heritage Museum


Photos Courtesy of Charles H. Coolidge National Medal of Honor Heritage Museum




Dear Hamilton,

With National Medal of Honor Day just around the corner, I was wondering, are there are any recipients from Chattanooga? 


Puzzled Patriot 


Charles H. Coolidge

Charles H. Coolidge, after whom the National Medal of Honor Heritage Museum was named, was presented with a Medal of Honor in 1945 for his role in World War II.


Dear Puzzled Patriot,

When it comes to recognizing Medal of Honor recipients, the U.S. Department of Defense credits the recipient based on where they enlisted to serve, not where they were born. That being said, there are officially 38 recipients who were born in the state of Tennessee, and Chattanooga is home to the Charles H. Coolidge National Medal of Honor Heritage Museum.

The 19,000-square-foot museum, located downtown in Aquarium Plaza, officially opened on February 22, 2020, but it has roots dating back to 1987. It was in this year that the Medal of Honor Hall of Valor Museum was officially incorporated, and before long, it was occupying office and exhibit space in the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Auditorium. In the past, the museum has also rented space from the City of Chattanooga and even had a home at Northgate Mall for 16 years where it saw an annual attendance of roughly 6,000 visitors. 


visitors looking at an exhibit at the Medal of Honor Heritage Museum

This exhibit from the Medal of Honor Heritage Museum depicts an event from the Battle of Okinawa in May of 1945. 


And that’s not all! The very first recipient and several of his comrades, who later received the honor, performed their heroic service right outside of Chattanooga. The first to receive the Medal of Honor was Private Jacob Parrott, who was one of 24 men, nicknamed Andrews’ Raiders, that led The Great Locomotive Chase of 1862. 

Parrott and his team penetrated 200 miles into enemy territory and captured a railroad train at Big Shanty, Georgia. The group attempted to destroy the track and burn bridges between Atlanta and Chattanooga, but the locomotive ran out of fuel just north of Ringgold, Georgia, leaving the men to flee. They were all captured within several weeks. Nineteen of the 24 were awarded the Medal of Honor, which continues to be our nation’s highest military award.


Dr. Mary Edwards Walker

Dr. Mary Edwards Walker is the first and only woman to receive a Medal of Honor for her work as a surgeon during the Civil War.


Later joining this group of recipients was Dr. Mary Walker of the Chattanooga Hospital and Moses Veale of Brown’s Ferry. Four men were also recognized for their courageous actions in the Battle of Lookout Mountain, along with 18 men from the Battle of Missionary Ridge and nine men from the Battle of Chickamauga. 

The Civil War is not the only conflict where you will find Medal of Honor recipients from the state of Tennessee. In total, there are 25 eras and conflicts where there has been a Medal of Honor recipient, and with the exception of the War on Terror, a Tennessean has received recognition in each of them.


Jacob Parrott

Jacob Parrott was the first-ever recipient of the Medal of Honor and received the recognition on March 25, 1863.


In addition to profiling the individuals who have received a Medal of Honor, the museum also aims to inform its visitors about the six character traits that each recipient embodies – Patriotism, Citizenship, Courage, Integrity, Sacrifice, and Commitment. 

Today, more than 3,500 people have received a Medal of Honor – only 69 of whom are still alive – and every year on March 25, our nation comes together to honor these soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who have made a true sacrifice. 

Hope this helps!

Hamilton Bush

Resident History Hound

Chattanooga, Tennessee

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