The United States of America known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U. S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D. C. and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico; the State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean; the U. S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The diverse geography and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.
Paleo-Indians migrated from Siberia to the North American mainland at least 12,000 years ago. European colonization began in the 16th century; the United States emerged from the thirteen British colonies established along the East Coast. Numerous disputes between Great Britain and the colonies following the French and Indian War led to the American Revolution, which began in 1775, the subsequent Declaration of Independence in 1776; the war ended in 1783 with the United States becoming the first country to gain independence from a European power. The current constitution was adopted in 1788, with the first ten amendments, collectively named the Bill of Rights, being ratified in 1791 to guarantee many fundamental civil liberties; the United States embarked on a vigorous expansion across North America throughout the 19th century, acquiring new territories, displacing Native American tribes, admitting new states until it spanned the continent by 1848. During the second half of the 19th century, the Civil War led to the abolition of slavery.
By the end of the century, the United States had extended into the Pacific Ocean, its economy, driven in large part by the Industrial Revolution, began to soar. The Spanish–American War and World War I confirmed the country's status as a global military power; the United States emerged from World War II as a global superpower, the first country to develop nuclear weapons, the only country to use them in warfare, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Sweeping civil rights legislation, notably the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, outlawed discrimination based on race or color. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union competed in the Space Race, culminating with the 1969 U. S. Moon landing; the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 left the United States as the world's sole superpower. The United States is the world's oldest surviving federation, it is a representative democracy.
The United States is a founding member of the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Organization of American States, other international organizations. The United States is a developed country, with the world's largest economy by nominal GDP and second-largest economy by PPP, accounting for a quarter of global GDP; the U. S. economy is post-industrial, characterized by the dominance of services and knowledge-based activities, although the manufacturing sector remains the second-largest in the world. The United States is the world's largest importer and the second largest exporter of goods, by value. Although its population is only 4.3% of the world total, the U. S. holds 31% of the total wealth in the world, the largest share of global wealth concentrated in a single country. Despite wide income and wealth disparities, the United States continues to rank high in measures of socioeconomic performance, including average wage, human development, per capita GDP, worker productivity.
The United States is the foremost military power in the world, making up a third of global military spending, is a leading political and scientific force internationally. In 1507, the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller produced a world map on which he named the lands of the Western Hemisphere America in honor of the Italian explorer and cartographer Amerigo Vespucci; the first documentary evidence of the phrase "United States of America" is from a letter dated January 2, 1776, written by Stephen Moylan, Esq. to George Washington's aide-de-camp and Muster-Master General of the Continental Army, Lt. Col. Joseph Reed. Moylan expressed his wish to go "with full and ample powers from the United States of America to Spain" to seek assistance in the revolutionary war effort; the first known publication of the phrase "United States of America" was in an anonymous essay in The Virginia Gazette newspaper in Williamsburg, Virginia, on April 6, 1776. The second draft of the Articles of Confederation, prepared by John Dickinson and completed by June 17, 1776, at the latest, declared "The name of this Confederation shall be the'United States of America'".
The final version of the Articles sent to the states for ratification in late 1777 contains the sentence "The Stile of this Confederacy shall be'The United States of America'". In June 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote the phrase "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" in all capitalized letters in the headline of his "original Rough draught" of the Declaration of Independence; this draft of the document did not surface unti
The Union Navy was the United States Navy during the American Civil War, when it fought the Confederate States Navy. The term is sometimes used carelessly to include vessels of war used on the rivers of the interior while they were under the control of the United States Army called the Union Army; the primary missions of the Union Navy were: 1. Maintain the blockade of Confederate ports by restraining all blockade runners. 2. Meet in combat the war vessels of the CSN. 3. Carry the war to places in the seceded states that were inaccessible to the Union Army, but could be reached by water. 4. Support the Army by providing both gunfire support and rapid transport and communications on the rivers of the interior. To accomplish these, the Union Navy had to undergo a profound transformation, both technical and institutional. During the war, sailing vessels were supplanted by ships propelled by steam for purposes of combat. Vessels of differing character were built from the keel up in response to peculiar problems they would encounter.
Wooden hulls were at first protected by armor plating, soon were replaced by iron or steel throughout. Guns increased in size and range; the institutional changes that were introduced during the war were significant. The Bureau of Steam Engineering was added to the bureau system, testimony to the U. S. Navy's conversion from sail to steam. Most important from the standpoint of Army-Navy cooperation in joint operations, the set of officer ranks was redefined so that each rank in the U. S. Army had its equivalent in the U. S. Navy; the establishment of the ranks of admirals implied a change of naval doctrine, from one favoring single-ship operations to that of employing whole fleets. At the start of the war, the Union Navy had 42 ships in commission. Another 48 were laid up and listed as available for service as soon as crews could be assembled and trained, but few were appropriate for the task at hand. Most were sailing vessels, some were hopelessly outdated, one served on Lake Erie and could not be moved to the ocean.
During the course of the war, the number in commission was increased by more than a factor 15, so that at the end the U. S. Navy had 671 vessels. More significant than the increase in raw numbers was the variety of ship types that were represented, some of forms that had not been seen in naval war anywhere; the nature of the conflict, much of which took place in the interior of the continent or in rather shallow harbors along the coast, meant that vessels designed for use on the open seas were less useful than more specialized ships. To confront the forms of combat that came about, the federal government developed a new type of warship, the monitor, based on the original, USS Monitor; the U. S. Navy took over a class of armored river gunboats created for the U. S. Army, but designed by naval personnel, the Eads gunboats. So-called double-enders were produced to maneuver in the confined waters of the harbors; the Union Navy experimented with submarines. Building on Confederate designs, the Union Navy produced and used torpedo boats, small vessels that mounted spar torpedoes and were forerunners of both the modern torpedo and destroyer type of warship.
Because of haste in their design and construction, most of the vessels taken into the U. S. Navy in this period of rapid expansion incorporated flaws that would make them unsuitable for use in a permanent system of defense. Accordingly, at the end of the war, most of them were soon stricken from the service rather than being mothballed; the number of ships at sea fell back to its prewar level. The highest rank available to an U. S. naval officer when the war began was that of captain. The Confederate constitution provided for the rank of admiral, but it was to be awarded for valor in battle. No Confederate officer was made admiral until Franklin Buchanan was named such after the Battle of Hampton Roads; this created problems when many ships had to operate together, with no established chain of command. Worse, when the Navy worked with the Army in joint operations, the customary rank equivalency between the two services meant that the naval captain, equivalent to an army colonel, would always be inferior to every army general present.
After the existing arrangement had been used for the first year of the war, the case was made that the interests of the nation would be better served by organizing the Navy along lines more like that of the Royal Navy of Great Britain. A set of officer ranks was established in the summer of 1862 that matched the set of Army ranks; the most visible change was that henceforth some individuals would be designated commodore, rear admiral, vice admiral, admiral, all new formal ranks, equivalent to brigadier general, major general, lieutenant general, general. A doctrinal shift took place at the same time. Prior to the war, the United States Navy emphasized single-ship operations, but the nature of the conflict soon made use of whole fleets necessary. At the Battle of Port Royal, 77 vessels, including 19 warships, were employed; this was the largest naval expedition that had sailed under the U. S. flag. Subsequent operations at New Orleans and several positions in the interior confirmed the importance of large fleets in mod
Philadelphia, sometimes known colloquially as Philly, is the largest city in the U. S. state and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the sixth-most populous U. S. city, with a 2017 census-estimated population of 1,580,863. Since 1854, the city has been coterminous with Philadelphia County, the most populous county in Pennsylvania and the urban core of the eighth-largest U. S. metropolitan statistical area, with over 6 million residents as of 2017. Philadelphia is the economic and cultural anchor of the greater Delaware Valley, located along the lower Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, within the Northeast megalopolis; the Delaware Valley's population of 7.2 million ranks it as the eighth-largest combined statistical area in the United States. William Penn, an English Quaker, founded the city in 1682 to serve as capital of the Pennsylvania Colony. Philadelphia played an instrumental role in the American Revolution as a meeting place for the Founding Fathers of the United States, who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 at the Second Continental Congress, the Constitution at the Philadelphia Convention of 1787.
Several other key events occurred in Philadelphia during the Revolutionary War including the First Continental Congress, the preservation of the Liberty Bell, the Battle of Germantown, the Siege of Fort Mifflin. Philadelphia was one of the nation's capitals during the revolution, served as temporary U. S. capital while Washington, D. C. was under construction. In the 19th century, Philadelphia became a railroad hub; the city grew from an influx of European immigrants, most of whom came from Ireland and Germany—the three largest reported ancestry groups in the city as of 2015. In the early 20th century, Philadelphia became a prime destination for African Americans during the Great Migration after the Civil War, as well as Puerto Ricans; the city's population doubled from one million to two million people between 1890 and 1950. The Philadelphia area's many universities and colleges make it a top study destination, as the city has evolved into an educational and economic hub. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Philadelphia area had a gross domestic product of US$445 billion in 2017, the eighth-largest metropolitan economy in the United States.
Philadelphia is the center of economic activity in Pennsylvania and is home to five Fortune 1000 companies. The Philadelphia skyline is expanding, with a market of 81,900 commercial properties in 2016, including several nationally prominent skyscrapers. Philadelphia has more outdoor murals than any other American city. Fairmount Park, when combined with the adjacent Wissahickon Valley Park in the same watershed, is one of the largest contiguous urban park areas in the United States; the city is known for its arts, culture and colonial history, attracting 42 million domestic tourists in 2016 who spent US$6.8 billion, generating an estimated $11 billion in total economic impact in the city and surrounding four counties of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia has emerged as a biotechnology hub. Philadelphia is the birthplace of the United States Marine Corps, is the home of many U. S. firsts, including the first library, medical school, national capital, stock exchange and business school. Philadelphia contains 67 National Historic Landmarks and the World Heritage Site of Independence Hall.
The city became a member of the Organization of World Heritage Cities in 2015, as the first World Heritage City in the United States. Although Philadelphia is undergoing gentrification, the city maintains mitigation strategies to minimize displacement of homeowners in gentrifying neighborhoods. Before Europeans arrived, the Philadelphia area was home to the Lenape Indians in the village of Shackamaxon; the Lenape are a Native American tribe and First Nations band government. They are called Delaware Indians, their historical territory was along the Delaware River watershed, western Long Island, the Lower Hudson Valley. Most Lenape were pushed out of their Delaware homeland during the 18th century by expanding European colonies, exacerbated by losses from intertribal conflicts. Lenape communities were weakened by newly introduced diseases smallpox, violent conflict with Europeans. Iroquois people fought the Lenape. Surviving Lenape moved west into the upper Ohio River basin; the American Revolutionary War and United States' independence pushed them further west.
In the 1860s, the United States government sent most Lenape remaining in the eastern United States to the Indian Territory under the Indian removal policy. In the 21st century, most Lenape reside in Oklahoma, with some communities living in Wisconsin, in their traditional homelands. Europeans came to the Delaware Valley in the early 17th century, with the first settlements founded by the Dutch, who in 1623 built Fort Nassau on the Delaware River opposite the Schuylkill River in what is now Brooklawn, New Jersey; the Dutch considered the entire Delaware River valley to be part of their New Netherland colony. In 1638, Swedish settlers led by renegade Dutch established the colony of New Sweden at Fort Christina and spread out in the valley. In 1644, New Sweden supported the Susquehannocks in their military defeat of the English colony of Maryland. In 1648, the Dutch built Fort Beversreede on the west bank of the Delaware, south of the Schuylkill near the present-day Eastwick neighborhood, to reassert their dominion over the area.
The Swedes responded by building Fort Nya Korsholm, or New Korsholm, named after a town in Finland with a Swedish majority. In 1655, a
United States Army Center of Military History
The United States Army Center of Military History is a directorate within TRADOC. The Institute of Heraldry remains within the Office of the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army; the center is responsible for the appropriate use of history and military records throughout the United States Army. Traditionally, this mission has meant recording the official history of the army in both peace and war, while advising the army staff on historical matters. CMH is the flagship organization leading the Army Historical Program. CMH is behind the National Museum of the U. S. Army, under construction at Fort Belvoir and projected to open in 2020; the center traces its lineage back to historians under the Secretary of War who compiled the Official Records of the Rebellion, an extensive history of the American Civil War begun in 1874. A similar work on World War I was prepared by the Historical Section of the Army War College; the modern organization of the army's historical efforts dates from the creation of the General Staff historical branch in July 1943 and the subsequent gathering of a team of historians, translators and cartographers to record the official history of World War II.
They began publication of the United States Army in World War II series, which numbers 78 volumes, in 1946. Since the Center has produced detailed series on the Army's role in the Korean and Vietnam Wars and has begun a series on the U. S. Army in the Cold War; these works are supplemented by other publications on a mix of topics. Since its formation, the center has provided historical support to the Army Secretariat and Staff, contributing background information for decision making, staff actions, command information programs, public statements by army officials, it has expanded its role in the areas of military history education, the management of the army's museum system, the introduction of automated data-retrieval systems. The center's work with army schools ensures that the study of history is a part of the training of officers and noncommissioned officers. Much of this educational work is performed in army museums. Under the direction of the chief of military history and his principal adviser, the army's chief historian, CMH's staff is involved in some 50 major writing projects.
Many of these efforts involve new research that ranges from traditional studies in operational and administrative history to the examination of such areas as procurement and the global war on terror. Those works under way and projected are described in the Army Historical Program, an annual report to the Chief of Staff on the Army's historical activities. All center publications are listed in the catalog Publications of the United States Army Center of Military History, which explains how to access them. In addition, army historians maintain the organizational history of army units, allowing the center to provide units of the Regular Army, the Army National Guard, the Army Reserve with certificates of their lineage and honors and other historical material concerning their organizations; the center determines the official designations for army units and works with the army staff during force reorganizations to preserve units with significant histories, as well as unit properties and related historical artifacts.
CMH serves as a clearinghouse for the oral history programs in the army at all levels of command. It conducts and preserves its own oral history collections, including those from the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, the many recent contingency operations. In addition, the center's end-of-tour interviews within the Army Secretariat and Staff provide a basis for its annual histories of the Department of the Army; as tangible representations of the service's mission, military artifacts and art enhance the soldier's understanding of the profession of arms. CMH manages a system of more than 120 army museums and their holdings, encompassing some 450,000 artifacts and 15,000 works of military art; the Center provides professional museum training, staff assistance visits, teams of combat artists such as those deployed under the Vietnam Combat Artists Program, general museum support throughout the army. Current projects include the establishment of a National Museum of the United States Army at Fort Belvoir, a complementary Army Heritage and Educational Center at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania.
The Chief of Military History is responsible for ensuring the appropriate use of military history in the teaching of strategy, tactics and administration. This mission includes a requirement that military leaders at all levels be aware of the value of history in advancing military professionalism. To that end, the center holds workshop. In this effort, the chief of military history is assisted by a historical advisory committee that includes leading academic historians and representatives of the army school system. Staff rides enable military leaders to retrace the course of a battle on the ground, deepening their understanding of the recurring fundamentals of military operations; as one of the army's major teaching devices, staff rides are dependent on a careful knowledge of military history. Center historians lead rides directed by the Secretary of the Army and the Chief of Staff and attended by senior members of the army Staff, it administers the army's Command History Program, to provide historical support to army organizations worldwide.
In addition, since the first Persia
CSS Albemarle was a steam-powered ironclad ram of the Confederate Navy, named for a town and a sound in North Carolina. All three were named for General George Monck, the first Duke of Albemarle and one of the original Carolina Lords Proprietor. On 16 April 1862, the Confederate Navy Department, enthusiastic about the offensive potential of armored rams following the victory of their first ironclad ram CSS Virginia over the wooden-hulled Union blockaders in Hampton Roads, signed a contract with nineteen-year-old detached Confederate Lieutenant Gilbert Elliott of Elizabeth City, North Carolina; these men-of-war had enabled Union troops to hold strategic positions that controlled eastern North Carolina. Since the terms of the agreement gave Elliott freedom to select an appropriate place to build the ram, he established a primitive shipyard, with the assistance of plantation owner Peter Smith, in a cornfield up the Roanoke River at a place called Edward's Ferry, near modern Scotland Neck, North Carolina.
There, the water was too shallow to permit the approach of Union gunboats that otherwise would have destroyed the ironclad while still on its ways. Using detailed sketches provided by Elliott, the Confederate Navy's Chief Constructor John L. Porter finalized the gunboat's design, giving the ram an armored casemate with eight sloping, 30-degree angle sides. Within this thick-walled bunker were two 6.4-inch Brooke pivot rifles, one forward, the other aft, each capable of firing from three different fixed positions. Both cannons were protected on all sides behind six heavy iron shutters; the ram was propelled by twin 3-bladed screw propellers powered by two steam engines, each of 200 hp, built by Elliott. Construction of the ironclad continued on during the next year. Word of the gunboat reached the Union naval officers stationed in the region, they appealed to the War Department for an overland expedition to destroy the ship, to be christened Albemarle after the body of water into which the Roanoke emptied, but the Union Army never felt it could spare the troops needed to carry out such a mission.
Albemarle was equipped with two 6.4-inch Brooke rifled cannon. Both cannons were positioned along the ironclad's center-line in the armored casemate, one forward, the other aft; the field of fire for both pivot rifles was 180-degrees, from port to starboard: each cannon could fire from one of three gun ports, allowing Albemarle to deliver a two cannon broadside. Albemarle's projectiles consisted of explosive shells, anti-personnel canister shot, grape shot, blunt-nosed, solid wrought iron "bolts" for use against Union armored ships; these were an early attempt at armor-piercing shot. Such projectiles could not be fired from a traditional smoothbore naval gun, as the lack of stability would cause the shot to tumble in flight. In April 1864 the newly commissioned Confederate States Steamer Albemarle, under the command of Captain James W. Cooke, got underway down-river toward Plymouth, North Carolina, she anchored about three miles above the town, the pilot, John Lock, set off with two seamen in a small boat to take soundings.
The river was high and they discovered ten feet of water over the obstructions that the Union forces had placed in the Thoroughfare Gap. Captain Cooke ordered steam and, by keeping to the middle of the channel, they passed safely over the obstructions; the ironclad's armor protected them from the Union guns of the forts at Warren's Neck and Boyle's Mill. However, two paddle steamers, USS Miami and USS Southfield, lashed together with spars and chains, approached from up-river, attempting to pass on either side of Albemarle in order to trap her between them. Captain Cooke turned to starboard, getting outboard of Southfield, but running dangerously close to the southern shore. Turning back into the river, he rammed the Union sidewheeler, driving her under; as Southfield sank, she rolled over before settling on the riverbed. Miami fired a shell into Albemarle at point-blank range while she was trapped by the wreck of Southfield, but the shell rebounded off Albemarle's sloping iron armor and exploded on Miami, killing her commanding officer, Captain Charles W. Flusser.
Miami's crew attempted to board Albemarle to capture her but were soon driven back by heavy musket fire. With the river now clear of Union ships, with the assistance of Albemarle's rifled cannon, General Hoke attacked and took Plymouth and the nearby forts. On May 5 Albemarle and CSS Bombshell, a captured steamer, were escorting the troop-laden CSS Cotton Plant down the Roanoke River.
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a war fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865, between the North and the South. The Civil War is the most studied and written about episode in U. S. history. As a result of the long-standing controversy over the enslavement of black people, war broke out in April 1861 when secessionist forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina shortly after Abraham Lincoln had been inaugurated as the President of the United States; the loyalists of the Union in the North proclaimed support for the Constitution. They faced secessionists of the Confederate States in the South, who advocated for states' rights to uphold slavery. Among the 34 U. S. states in February 1861, secessionist partisans in seven Southern slave states declared state secessions from the country and unveiled their defiant formation of a Confederate States of America in rebellion against the U. S. Constitutional government; the Confederacy grew to control over half the territory in eleven states, it claimed the additional states of Kentucky and Missouri by assertions from exiled native secessionists without territory or population.
These were given full representation in the Confederate Congress throughout the Civil War. The two remaining slave holding states of Delaware and Maryland were invited to join the Confederacy, but nothing substantial developed; the Confederate States was never diplomatically recognized by the government of the United States or by that of any foreign country. The states that remained loyal to the U. S. were known as the Union. The Union and the Confederacy raised volunteer and conscription armies that fought in the South over the course of four years. Intense combat left 620,000 to 750,000 people dead, more than the number of U. S. military deaths in all other wars combined. The war ended when General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at the Battle of Appomattox Court House. Confederate generals throughout the southern states followed suit. Much of the South's infrastructure was destroyed the transportation systems; the Confederacy collapsed, slavery was abolished, four million black slaves were freed.
During the Reconstruction Era that followed the war, national unity was restored, the national government expanded its power, civil rights were granted to freed black slaves through amendments to the Constitution and federal legislation. In the 1860 presidential election, led by Abraham Lincoln, supported banning slavery in all the U. S. territories. The Southern states viewed this as a violation of their constitutional rights and as the first step in a grander Republican plan to abolish slavery; the three pro-Union candidates together received an overwhelming 82% majority of the votes cast nationally: Republican Lincoln's votes centered in the north, Democrat Stephen A. Douglas' votes were distributed nationally and Constitutional Unionist John Bell's votes centered in Tennessee and Virginia; the Republican Party, dominant in the North, secured a plurality of the popular votes and a majority of the electoral votes nationally. He was the first Republican Party candidate to win the presidency.
However, before his inauguration, seven slave states with cotton-based economies declared secession and formed the Confederacy. The first six to declare secession had the highest proportions of slaves in their populations, with an average of 49 percent. Of those states whose legislatures resolved for secession, the first seven voted with split majorities for unionist candidates Douglas and Bell, or with sizable minorities for those unionists. Of these, only Texas held a referendum on secession. Eight remaining slave states continued to reject calls for secession. Outgoing Democratic President James Buchanan and the incoming Republicans rejected secession as illegal. Lincoln's March 4, 1861, inaugural address declared that his administration would not initiate a civil war. Speaking directly to the "Southern States", he attempted to calm their fears of any threats to slavery, reaffirming, "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly to interfere with the institution of slavery in the United States where it exists.
I believe I have no lawful right to do so, I have no inclination to do so." After Confederate forces seized numerous federal forts within territory claimed by the Confederacy, efforts at compromise failed and both sides prepared for war. The Confederates assumed that European countries were so dependent on "King Cotton" that they would intervene, but none did, none recognized the new Confederate States of America. Hostilities began on April 1861, when Confederate forces fired upon Fort Sumter. While in the Western Theater the Union made significant permanent gains, in the Eastern Theater, the battle was inconclusive during 1861–1862. In September 1862, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which made ending slavery a war goal. To the west, by summer 1862 the Union destroyed the Confederate river navy much of its western armies, seized New Orleans; the successful 1863 Union siege of Vicksburg split the Confederacy in two at the Mississippi River. In 1863, Robert E. Lee's Confederate incursion north ended at the Battle of Gettysburg.
Western successes led to Ulysses S. Grant's command of all Union armies in 1864. Inflicting an ever-tightening naval blockade of Confederate ports, the Union marshaled the resources and manpower to attack the Confederacy from all directions, leading to the fall of Atlanta to William T. Sherman and his march to th
Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor is the United States of America's highest and most prestigious personal military decoration that may be awarded to recognize U. S. military service members who have distinguished themselves by acts of valor. The medal is awarded by the President of the United States in the name of the U. S. Congress; because the medal is presented "in the name of Congress", it is referred to informally as the "Congressional Medal of Honor". However, the official name of the current award is "Medal of Honor." Within the United States Code the medal is referred to as the "Medal of Honor", less as "Congressional Medal of Honor". U. S. awards, including the Medal of Honor, do not have post-nominal titles, while there is no official abbreviation, the most common abbreviations are "MOH" and "MH". There are three versions of the medal, one each for the Army and Air Force. Personnel of the Marine Corps and Coast Guard receive the Navy version; the Medal of Honor was introduced for the Navy in 1861, soon followed by an Army version in 1862.
The Medal of Honor is the oldest continuously issued combat decoration of the United States armed forces. The President presents the Medal of Honor in Washington, D. C. at a formal ceremony, intended to represent the gratitude of the U. S. people, with posthumous presentations made to the primary next of kin. According to the Medal of Honor Historical Society of the United States, there have been 3522 Medals of Honor awarded to the nation's soldiers, airmen and Coast Guardsmen since the decoration's creation, with just less than half of them awarded for actions during the four years of the American Civil War. In 1990, Congress designated March 25 annually as "National Medal of Honor Day". Due to its prestige and status, the Medal of Honor is afforded special protection under U. S. law against any unauthorized adornment, sale, or manufacture, which includes any associated ribbon or badge. The modern-day Medal of Honor had a number of precursors; the first medal for military service in the United States was issued in 1780, after its creation in the same year by the Continental Congress.
Known as the Fidelity Medallion, it was a small medal worn on a chain around the neck, similar to a religious medal, awarded only to three militiamen from New York state. They received it for the capture of John André, a British officer and spy connected directly to General Benedict Arnold during the American Revolutionary War; the capture saved the fort of West Point from the British Army. The first formal system for rewarding acts of individual gallantry by U. S. soldiers was established by George Washington when he issued a field order on August 7, 1782, for a Badge of Military Merit to recognize those members of the Continental Army who performed "any singular meritorious action". This decoration is America's first combat decoration and was preceded only by the Fidelity Medallion, the Congressional medal for Henry Lee awarded in September 1779 in recognition of his attack on the British at Paulus Hook, the Congressional medal for General Horatio Gates awarded in November 1777 in recognition of his victory over the British at Saratoga, the Congressional medal for George Washington awarded in March 1776.
Although the Badge of Military Merit fell into disuse after the American Revolutionary War, the concept of a military award for individual gallantry by members of the U. S. Armed Forces had been established. After the outbreak of the Mexican–American War a Certificate of Merit was established by Act of Congress on March 3, 1847, "to any private soldier who had distinguished himself by gallantry performed in the presence of the enemy". 539 Certificates were approved for this period. The certificate was discontinued after the war and reintroduced in 1876 effective from June 22, 1874, to February 10, 1892, when it was awarded for extraordinary gallantry by private soldiers in the presence of the enemy. From February 11, 1892, through July 9, 1918, it could be awarded to members of the Army for distinguished service in combat or noncombat; this medal was replaced by the Army Distinguished Service Medal, established on January 2, 1918. Those Army members who held the Distinguished Service Medal in place of the Certificate of Merit could apply for the Army Distinguished Service Cross effective March 5, 1934.
During the first year of the Civil War, a proposal for a battlefield decoration for valor was submitted to Winfield Scott, the general-in-chief of the army, by Lt. Colonel Edward D. Townsend, an assistant adjutant at the War Department and Scott's chief of staff. Scott, was against medals being awarded, the European tradition. After Scott retired in October 1861, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles adopted the idea of a decoration to recognize and honor distinguished naval service. On December 9, 1861, U. S. Senator James W. Grimes, Chairman on the Committee on Naval Affairs, submitted Bill S. 82 during the Second Session of the 37th Congress, "An Act to further promote the Efficiency of the Navy". The bill included a provision for 200 "medals of honor", "to be bestowed upon such petty officers, seamen and marines as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action and other seaman-like qualities during the present war..." On December 21, the bill was passed and signed into law by P