#OnThisDay 1830 Bernard J.D. Irwin, the first (chronologically by action) Medal of Honor recipient was born in Roscommon. As an assistant army surgeon during the Apache Wars, his actions on 13 Feb 1861 are the earliest for which the Medal of Honor was awarded.
Cochise, the Chiricahua Apache chief, and a group of Apache warriors had been accused of kidnapping a boy and a small group of U.S. soldiers in the Arizona Territory after the Army had captured Cochise’s brother and nephews. When the Army refused to make a prisoner exchange, Cochise killed his prisoners. Soldiers then killed Cochise’s brother and nephews. Second Lieutenant George Nicholas Bascom led a group of 60 men from the 7th Infantry after Cochise but was soon besieged, prompting a rescue mission by the army.
In response to the siege of Bascom and his men, Irwin set out on a rescue mission with 14 men of the 1st Dragoons. He was able to catch up with the Apaches at Apache Pass in present-day Arizona. He strategically placed his small unit around Cochise and his men, tricking the Apache leader into thinking that Irwin had a much larger army with him. The Apaches fled and Bascom and his men were saved. Bascom and his men joined Irwin and together they were able to track Cochise into the mountains and rescued the young boy that Cochise had captured previously.
The Medal of Honor wasn’t established until 1862 but it wasn’t until just before he retired as a Brigadier General that Irwin received the award in 1894.