Watch Live: Biden speaks at Medal of Honor ceremony


Washington — President Biden is awarding posthumous Medals of Honor on Wednesday to two Army privates who were a part of a plot to hijack a train and destroy Confederate infrastructure during the Civil War.

The president will honor Philip Shadrach and George Wilson for their “gallantry and intrepidity” in carrying out a covert operation called the “Great Locomotive Chase,” which played out 200 miles behind Confederate lines in Georgia in 1862, the White House said. 

“In one of the earliest special operations in U.S. Army history, Union Soldiers dressed as civilians infiltrated the Confederacy, hijacked a train in Georgia and drove it north for 87 miles, destroying enemy infrastructure along the way. During what later became known as the Great Locomotive Chase, six of the Union participants became the Army’s first recipients of the newly created Medal of Honor,” a White House official said. 

The operation was hatched by James Andrews, a Kentucky-born civilian spy and scout. He proposed penetrating the Confederacy with the goal of degrading their railway and communications lines to cut off Chattanooga, Tennessee, from Confederate supplies and reinforcements. 

Andrews, together with 23 other men, infiltrated the South in small groups, coming together north of Atlanta. On April 12, 1862, 22 of the men commandeered a locomotive called The General and ventured north, tearing up railroad tracks and cutting telegraph wires as they went. The men became known as the Andrews’ Raiders. 

Shadrach, originally from Pennsylvania and orphaned at a young age, was just 21 when he volunteered for the mission. On Sept. 20, 1861, he left home and enlisted in a Union Army Ohio Infantry Regiment. Wilson, born in Ohio, was a journeyman shoemaker before he enlisted in a Union Army’s Ohio Volunteer Infantry in 1861. He also volunteered for the Andrews’ Raid. 

After the operation, both men were captured, convicted as spies and hanged.

“It is unknown why Private Shadrach and Private Wilson were not originally recommended for the Medal of Honor,” a White House official said. “Both were deserving in 1863, and on July 3, 2024, by order of the President of the United States both will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.”

The ceremony comes as questions mount over Mr. Biden’s future as the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, with his public appearances under intense scrutiny following his halting performance at last week’s presidential debate. After the Medal of Honor ceremony, the president is meeting with Democratic governors to address their concerns and chart his path forward. 


How to watch Biden present the Medal of Honor

  • What: President Biden awards the Medal of Honor
  • Date: July 3, 2024
  • Time: 4:45 p.m. ET
  • Location: White House 
  • Online stream: Live on CBS News in the player above and on your mobile or streaming device.



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