Congressional Medal of Honor for a Jewish Hero

Stand for Israel  |  June 30, 2020

Battle of Charles City Road (Glendale). where Benjamin Levy earned Congressional Medal of Honor, June 30, 1862
Battle of Charles City Road (Glendale). where Benjamin Levy earned Congressional Medal of Honor, June 30, 1862

More than a century and a half has passed since the first Jewish-American earned the Congressional Medal of Honor. As we prepare to salute America on the anniversary of her independence, let us also salute a Jewish-American hero, Benjamin Bennett Levy.

On this date in 1862, the sixth day of the Seven Days Battles of the Civil War raged. This skirmish known as the Battle of Glendale, occurred in the Richmond, Virginia area, near Frayser’s Farm. There, a Jewish drummer boy traded his instrument for a weapon and the American flag.

Union Drummer Boys

Born and raised in New York, Benjamin Bennett Levy and his younger brother Robert enlisted as boys in the Union Army during the first year of the Civil War. The brothers became drummers for the Union.

Escape on a Steamboat

Levy first showed his heroism not in battle, but aboard a steamship. Carrying dispatches to a general at Fort Monro, the soldier found the steamboat under attack by a rebel gunboat. Sure to be taken prisoner, Levy cut loose a schooner towed by the steamboat, allowing it to escape the Confederates.

The Battle of Glendale

The fields of Frayser’s Farm found Levy acting just as heroically. Stricken, Levy’s tentmate couldn’t fight.

Levy tossed aside his drum (already damaged in the battle) and took up his companion’s gun. Twice, he witnessed the regiment’s color-bearer fall. And twice, Benjamin Levy picked up Old Glory and continued the battle.

The Bravery of Benjamin Levy

While Levy earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for his exploits at the Battle of Glendale, his wartime accomplishments were not over. Reenlisting after his first term of service, Levy fought in the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864. While fighting bravely, Levy received a horrific wound – a compound fracture of his left femur. Lying on the field even after the battle, he became a prisoner of the South. Benjamin Levy lay in that field for two weeks, his left leg’s wound open. At last, Union troops rescued their captured compatriots, and Levy received medical attention.

Benjamin Bennett Levy, having proven his bravery on multiple fields of battle, received the Congressional Medal of Honor with this commendation:

This soldier, a drummer boy, took the gun of a sick comrade, went into the fight, and when the color bearers were shot down, carried the colors and saved them from capture.