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Petersburg Medals of Honor: A Hero from the South




Private, Co. G. 12th West Va. Inf.
Born in Hamson Co., West Virginia, in 1844.

With an innate love for justice and the righteousness of the Union cause seventeen-year-old Charles Reeder tore away from his home in a little Virginia village and joined the Union army at the very outbreak of the war. This was the more praise worthy as he had been reared amidst surroundings which were decidedly hostile to Northern sentiment. His father was a stanch follower of the Confederate cause and objected to his course. But young Reeder’s mind was made up. In the conflict between home and parents and the Union and justice he did not hesitate in making his choice and decided for the latter. He enlisted in the Federal Army and became a private in Company G, Twelfth West Virginia Infantry.

In speaking of the action in which he won the medal, he says: “In the early dawn of the morning of April 2, 1865, we moved out from our breastworks preparatory to making a charge upon Petersburg. Silence prevailed in the ranks. The enemy had not fired since the evening before, thinking probably that we would not attack them, fortified as they were behind strong intrenchments and a field full of mines.

“The first thing we did was to drag some heavy guns as close as we could to their works, to force an entrance into their fortifications. When within one hundred yards we were discovered by the enemy, who at once opened a heavy fire upon us with artillery. Amid this rain of shot and shell we threw up some slight fortifications for our guns and returned shot for shot. This, however, could not last long, for our defenses were slight, while those of the enemy were most formidable. Suddenly a large shell from one of our guns burst in their midst, throwing the defenders into momentary confusion. Such an opening was too good to be lost.

“We received the command to fix bayonets, and then, firing a volley, charged right up into their lines. The assault became a severe hand-to-hand fight, every man for himself. Presently I found myself in the most perilous position I had been in during the war. Being to the right of Company G, I was cut off from my comrades and lost in the wild confusion. Surrounded by the enemy I could only parry thrusts and cuts from bayonets and sabres until almost exhausted. My determination then was to sell my life as dearly as possible, and I clubbed right and left. A color-bearer was among my assailants and he, too, received the butt of my gun. Seizing the flag from his grasp was the work of but a moment, and with it I quickly ran towards my comrades, thus bringing into our lines a stand of Confederate colors.”


Read about even more Medal of Honor winners at the Siege of Petersburg:


  1. Beyer, Walter F. and Keydel, Oscar F. Deeds of Valor: How America’s Heroes Won the Medal of Honor…, Volume 1 (The Perrien – Keydel  Company: 1901), pp. 514-515
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