Beyond the Call of Duty
This gallery is the only place in the Commonwealth where you can learn the history of the brave Virginians who have been awarded the nation’s highest and most prestigious military honor for valor.
Of the more than 25 million men and women who have served and sacrificed in our nation’s wars, fewer than 3,600 have received the Medal of Honor. And of those, 50 have been officially attributed to the Commonwealth of Virginia by the Department of Defense.
Each of the Virginia recipients is remembered in this gallery with a plaque that bears the recipient’s full name, hometown, military unit, a description of the recognized action, and the full text of the citation.
Also in the gallery are video stations where honorees can be researched, and additional information about the individuals and the events related to their service can be reviewed. Below are a few of Virginia’s Medal of Honor recipients you can learn about in the gallery.
Jimmie W. Monteith, Jr.
The citation for this brave Virginian reads:
“1st Lt. Monteith landed with the initial assault waves on the coast of France under heavy enemy fire. Without regard to his own personal safety he continually moved up and down the beach reorganizing men for further assault.
. . . Completely exposed to the intense fire, 1st Lt. Monteith led the tanks on foot through a minefield and into firing positions. . . . Supervising the defense of his newly won position against repeated vicious counterattacks, he continued to ignore his own personal safety, repeatedly crossing the 200 or 300 yards of open terrain under heavy fire to strengthen links in his defensive chain.
When the enemy succeeded in completely surrounding 1st Lt. Monteith and his unit and while leading the fight out of the situation, 1st Lt. Monteith was killed by enemy fire. The courage, gallantry, and intrepid leadership displayed by 1st Lt. Monteith is worthy of emulation.”
Robert Blake was born into slavery in Virginia. In June 1862, his owner’s plantation was burned during a Union naval expedition up the Santee River. About 400 slaves from the plantation, including Blake, were taken as contraband onto Union ships.
By December 25, 1863, Blake had been transferred to USS Marblehead. While Blake was on the ship’s gun deck, he was knocked down by an exploding Confederate shell.
The explosion had killed a powder boy manning one of the guns. Blake had no assigned combat role and could have retreated to relative safety below deck, but he instead chose to take over the powder boy’s duties.
The Confederates eventually abandoned their position, leaving a gun behind.
For his actions during the firefight, Blake was awarded the Medal of Honor four months later, on April 16, 1864.
James Gardiner worked as an oysterman before enlisting in the Union Army from Yorktown, Virginia, on September 15, 1863. He joined Company I of the 36th Regiment United States Colored Troops as a private.
At the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm, Virginia, on September 29, 1864, Gardiner’s regiment was among a division of black troops assigned to attack the Confederate defenses at New Market Heights. The attack was met with intense Confederate fire; over half of the black troops were killed, captured, or wounded.
The day after the battle, Gardiner was promoted to sergeant. Several months later and three days before the end of the war, on April 6, 1865, he was issued the Medal of Honor for his actions at Chaffin’s Farm.