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Texas family to donate Civil War soldier's Medal of Honor, earned at Chancellorsville, to national park

 Pvt. John F. Chase's valor at Chancellorsville earned him the Medal of Honor.
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Date published: 5/1/2009


Steve Chase will set foot on the Chancellorsville battlefield for the first time Sunday afternoon, bringing a priceless gift from his home in the hill country of West Texas.

Chase will give the American people a treasure that has been in his family for four generations: His great-grandfather's Medal of Honor, earned for courage under fire during the Battle of Chancellorsville, 146 years before to the day.

The medal, the nation's highest military honor, will join the collection of artifacts in the National Park Service's Chancellorsville Visitor Center, one of the most popular sites in Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. Park officials will be there at 1 p.m. Sunday to meet Chase and his family, and accept the medal awarded to Pvt. John F. Chase of Augusta, Maine.

"This is truly an extraordinary event," Park Superintendent Russ Smith said.

The Chase Medal of Honor, only the second to be entrusted to the park, will immediately go on display at the Visitor Center. His is one of 26 received for actions performed in the battle, which pitted 70,000 Union troops against 40,000 Confederates. Historians have called it Gen. Robert E. Lee's greatest victory, a beating-the-odds feat of Southern generalship.

Pvt. Chase's artillery unit, the 5th Maine Battery, was among the last defenders of the Chancellorsville crossroads in the fighting all around it on the morning of May 3, 1863.

John Chase's Medal of Honor citation reads:

"Nearly all the officers and men of the battery having been killed or wounded, this soldier with a comrade continued to fire his gun after the guns had ceased. The piece was then dragged off by the two, the horses having been shot, and its capture by the enemy was prevented."

Later, he returned to the battlefield to rescue a Union officer whose leg had been shattered by enemy fire.


Pvt. Chase survived Chancellorsville and went on to serve with his battery at Gettysburg, helping defend Culps Hill--a crucial piece of high ground--against Confederate artillery. On July 2, 1863, he was horribly wounded by an exploding shell, suffering 48 shrapnel wounds.

Days later, a Southern soldier realized that Pvt. Chase, left for dead, was still alive.

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WHAT: Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park officials to accept Medal of Honor donated by great-grandson of its recipient, Union Pvt. John F. Chase.

WHEN: 1 p.m., Sunday WHERE: Chancellorsville Visitor Center, 9001 Plank Road VISIT THE SITE: After the ceremony, visitors are invited to follow a park historian to the Chancellorsville clearing off State Route 3 for a short walk over the ground where Pvt. Chase performed his heroic deeds. COST: Free, open to public ON THE NET: nps.gov/frsp