A SHOWER OF STARS by John J. Pullen


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The stars here are a tremendous cluster of Congressional Medals of Honor issued to Maine's 27th Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. In tracking down what happened to those medals (since most of them were never issued after they arrived in Maine), Pullen tells the wonderfully involved story of the CMOH's origin. There were no U.S. medals before the Civil War for gallantry in action, since our military men considered them a European vanity. The CMOH was first struck off for extraordinary heroism in battle, but the mass issuance of it to the Maine regiment devalued the medal to the level of a Good Conduct Medal. It was first given to the Maine volunteers (about 290) who elected to stay and keep fighting after their time was up. But through an administrative error in Washington-- in the War Department, to be exact--it was inadvertently issued to the whole regiment, including those who went home, and some 800 CMOH's were shipped to Maine shortly after the war. Only those first meant to be issued were, however, and some 500 medals have since mysteriously disappeared. Pullen's search for them develops into a whirlwind of mental effort, through correspondence with old Maine residents, and the physical ransacking of attics and the countryside. That he finds them or not doesn't really matter to the reader as much as Pullen's wryly marvelous dissection of Maine wit and values. Major promotion.

Publisher: Lippincott