Based on more than 300 personal letters written by Civil War winners of the Congressional Medal of Honor, this book by a military historian (Decisive Battles of the Civil War, etc.) tells the story of the ""Badge of Gallantry"" in the War: when, how and by whom the Medal was won. Today, many of these Medal winners would receive a lesser award, as the Congressional Medal, established by Congress in 1861, was both the highest and the only award for gallantry in action given by the North; unfortunately, no awards of any kind were given by the Confederacy for bravery under fire. The letters, many of them published in full for the first time in this book, were all written in the 1890's to one James Olis at his request; they were sold in 1938 to Charles Kohen, a Washington book dealer. The letters, many of them long and detailed, vary in tone from that of a man who lost an arm and was captured at Charleston: ""a man who vaunts his personal deeds is a cad,"" to the third person statement of a man writing of himself; ""his last action cannot find a superior in any army."" Sailors as well as soldiers received Medals and sixteen were awarded to Negro soldiers; the youngest Medal winner was Willie Johnson from Vermont, aged twelve. The book bristles with authentic tales of valor, but such tales, retailed in wholesale lots long after the event, become repetitious, an unavoidable fault in a book which should find a modest place in comprehensive Civil War libraries.