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  • Writer's pictureFriends of Sinn Féin USA

The 1st Irish Medal of Honor Winner

Medal of Honor Recipient Michael Madden's Grave in Harrisburg, PA

Two hundred and fifty seven Irish-born Americans have received the US Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest citation for bravery the United States can give. That number represents more than half of all Medal of Honor awards given to foreign born Americans, true testament to the character of Irish American immigrants. A monument to these Irish-born heroes is located at Valley Forge, PA where George Washington and the Continental Army wintered in 1778 during their Revolutionary War campaign against the British. It is worth the visit for those who can. If you did, the first name you might find among the listed is that of Michael Madden.

Michael was born September 21st 1841 in County Limerick, Ireland. He emigrated to New York City as a child and enlisted in the 42nd New York Infantry Regiment in June of 1861, shortly after the Civil War broke out. Michael was a private in rank and fought in many battles for his adopted nation but earned his Medal of Honor and his place in history at a skirmish on Mason’s Island, Maryland on September 3rd 1861. Part of his Medal of Honor citation reads: ‘Assisted a wounded comrade to the riverbank and, under heavy fire of the enemy, swam with him across a branch of the Potomac to the Union lines.’

The award given to Limerick born US Civil War hero Michael Madden

Michael was the first Irish-born American to receive this distinction but he would not be the last. Irish Americans have won this prestigious award in all major conflicts the United States has been involved in since the creation of the award.

Michael lived to the age of 78 and died on August 7th 1920. He is buried in Mt Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Harrisburg, PA where he lived after the war. Michael and his wife Annie had 7 children and lived a long and purposeful life after the war. His grave is well visited to this day as many Irish-Americans remember the first to go above and beyond the call of duty to win the Medal of Honor.

Today on Veteran's Day we remember all veterans who served and especially those who gave their lives so that others might be free.

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