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Army Medal of Honor

Medal of Honor Citation

Second Lieutenant

Charles B Tanner

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Organization: Company H, 1st Delaware Infantry

Entered Service: Wilmington, Del.

Birth: Pennsylvania.

Date Medal Issued: 13 December 1889.

Date of Action: 17 September 1862.

Place of Action: Antietam, Md.


Carried off the regimental colors, which had fallen within 20 yards of the enemy's lines, the color guard of 9 men having all been killed or wounded; was himself 3 times wounded.

More about this award

" ... Suddenly as the 1st Delaware got within 60 feet of the Sunken Road, the Rebel guns opened up. The right flank of the 1st Delaware was exposed to withering fire of Rebel muskets firing from crude breastworks in the sunken road. Col. Andrews dashed in front with the order: 'Charge!' Lieutenant Tanner and eight others attempted to plant the regimental colors atop the Confederate precipice overlooking the sunken road but had to abandon the idea due to the intense fire. Almost the entire 1st Delaware colorguard was killed while Col. Andrews horse was shot from under him by four bullets. To make matters worse, the 14th Connecticut directly behind the Delawareans opened up a volley at the Rebels and shot at their own soldiers in front of them. The charge was repulsed as the men retreated back a hundred yards across the open land for the cover of the cornfield. Col. Andrews extricated himself from under his dead horse and tried to rally his men. In less than five minutes 286 men of the 1st Delaware Infantry's 635 and eight of ten company commanders lay wounded or dead."

"Delaware's regimental flag lay on the ground 20 yards from the top overlooking the sunken road with the bodies of nine lifeless men who had tried to plant the colors there."

"For over three hours the fighting continued at the sunken road. Rodes's Alabamians, hoping to take advantage of the retreat, rushed out after the Delaware colors but were beaten back. Col. Andrews ordered his men to zero in on the Rebels to keep them from getting it. The enemy charged five times to gain possession of the flag but were driven back each time with relentless slaughter."

"Than a party of thirty men rushed forward to retrieve the colors, two of whow were Captain James Rickards and Lieutenant Tanner. As they neared the fallen flag, Sergeant John Dunn of Company C, who was next to Captain Rickards, noticed a wounded Rebel limping toward them using his rifle for support."

" 'I'll drop that fellow,' Dunn said. Captain Rickards slapped the sergeant's weapon down saying 'You wouldn't shoot a wounded man!' "

"Seconds later the Rebel raised his rifle to his shoulder and shot Rickards. Then a volley of rifle fire spewed forth killing the Rebel as Captain Rickards lay dying."

"Another attempt to retrieve the flag failed after which Major Thomas A. Smyth proposed 25 marksmen lay down a covering fire for still another attempt. It was at this point that Lieutenant Tanner stepped forward and said 'Do it, and I will get there!' In his own words Tanner described the ordeal:

"....While covering that short distance, it seemed as if a million bees were singing in the air. The shouts and yells from either side sounded like menaces and threats. But I had reached the goal, had caught up the staff which was already splintered by shot, and the colors pierced with many a hole, and stained here and there with the lifeblood of our comrades when a bullet shattered my arm. Luckily my legs were still serviceable, and, seizing the precious bunting with my left hand, I made the best eighty yard time on record, receiving two more wounds......"
"The 1st Delaware Infantry once again had their colors."
(from an article at the Delaware Government Information Center)


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