ANOTHER HOOSIER HERO – Captain Elihu Harlam Mason, Union Army, American Civil War, Medal of Honor (1831-1896)

Capt. Elihu Harlam Mason, Medal of Honor, Union Army, Civil War
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Capt. Elihu Harlam Mason, Medal of Honor, Union Army, Civil War

BY DUANE A. VACHON, PH.D   Elihu Harlam Mason was one of Indiana’s earliest recorded heroes.  He was a Union Army soldier in the American Civil War  and either the second or fourth recipient depending on what version of history you choose to believe, of the new, United States military’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honor. Elihu Harlam Mason (March 23, 1831 – September 24, 1896). Mason was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Great Locomotive Chase.

Five feet 10 inches tall, light complexion, blonde hair, blue eyes; 31 years, 19 days of age on day of the Raid.  He was a farmer and married to Nancy L. Kelley, who was from Wausau Indiana.


Mason joined the Army from Pemberville, Ohio, and by April 1862 was serving as a sergeant in Company K of the 21st Ohio Infantry.  During that month, he volunteered for a raid into Confederate territory to disrupt rail transport in Georgia. The mission failed, and all of the raiders were captured. In June, eight of the men, including the raid leader, James J. Andrews, were executed as spies. The remaining raiders, including Mason, made an escape from the Confederate prison on October 16, 1862. Very ill at the time, Mason was unable to keep up with the other soldiers and, at his own urging, was eventually left behind and recaptured by the Confederates. He and five other recaptured raiders were released in a prisoner exchange the next year, on March 18, 1863. For his actions during the mission, he was awarded the newly-created Medal of Honor one week after being exchanged, on March 25, 1863. He was the fourth person ever to receive the medal. Discharged for promotion 1st Lieutenant Co. L 21st Ohio Infantry Regiment, April 10, 1863. Promoted Captain Co. L 21st Ohio Infantry Regiment, December 30, 1864. Saw action in Andrews Raid; at Battle of Chickamauga, September, 1863; at Battle of Dug Gap, GA, September 11, 1863.

Captured at Bridgeport, AL, April 19, 1862; escaped Fulton County Jail, Atlanta, GA, October 16, 1862. Recaptured October 18, 1862; sent to Knoxville, TN for trial but not tried; paroled via City Point, VA, March 17, 1863. Declared exchanged June 26, 1863. Captured again Chickamauga, GA, September 20, 1863; gunshot wound in hip; confined Richmond, VA, November 20, 1863, Macon, GA, May 7, 1864; paroled December 13, 1864, Charleston, SC.

Awarded Medal of Honor, March 25, 1863.



Medal of Honor citation

Mason’s official Medal of Honor citation reads:

One of the 19 of 22 men (including 2 civilians) who, by direction of Gen. Mitchell (or Buell), penetrated nearly 200 miles south into enemy territory and captured a railroad train at Big Shanty, GA, in an attempt to destroy the bridges and track between Chattanooga and Atlanta.

Captain Elihu Harlam Mason is buried in Pemberville Cemetery, Pemberville, Ohio, Plot Lot 193, Center section.


Gravestone for Capt. Elihu H. Mason, Pemberville Cemetery, OH.

The information in this article was sourced from a variety of sources both internal and external. Every effort was made to ensure that the information is current and correct. These articles are presented to honor the heroes they are written about.





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