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PHOTOGRAPHY > Surgeon & General B.J.D. Irwin, MOH, Personal Collection

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SURGEON & GENERAL BERNARD JOHN DOWLING IRWIN COLLECTION


Surgeon Irwin was the very first recipient of the United States Medal of Honor by date of action, February 13, 1861


(1830-1917) Born in County Roscommon, Ireland, he immigrated with his parents to the United States in the 1840s. He attended New York University from 1848 to 1849, and then served as a private in the New York Militia. In 1850, he entered Castleton Medical College, and he later transferred to New York Medical College, where he graduated in 1852.

He served as a surgeon and physician at the State Emigrant Hospital on Ward's Island, New York City, until his appointment as assistant surgeon in the U.S. Army in 1856. He was an assistant army surgeon during the Apache Indian Wars, and has the distinct honor of being the very first Medal of Honor recipient in United States military history, by date of action, February 13, 1861, at Apache Pass, Arizona. The citation on his medal of honor reads; "Voluntarily took command of troops and attacked and defeated hostile Indians he met on the way. Surgeon Irwin volunteered to go to the rescue of 2nd Lieutenant George N. Bascom, 7th U.S. Infantry, who, with 60 men, was trapped by Chiricahua Apaches under their famous Chief Cochise. Irwin and 14 men, not having horses, began the 100 mile march riding mules. After fighting and capturing Indians, recovering stolen horses and cattle, he reached Lieutenant Bascom's column and helped break the siege and rescued Bascom and his men."

Cochise, the Apache Indian chief, and a group of Apache warriors were 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. 2nd Lieutenant George Nicholas Bascom led a group of 60 men from the 7th U.S. Infantry to go 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 U.S. 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 he had a much larger army with him. The Apaches escaped and Bascom and his men were saved. They then joined Irwin and together they were able to track down Cochise in the mountains & rescued the young boy that Cochise had captured.

The Medal of Honor did not exist during the time of the “Bascom Incident,” and would not be established until a year later in 1862. However, the actions of Irwin were well remembered, and he was awarded the Medal of Honor just prior to his retirement. Irwin's actions were the earliest for which the Medal of Honor was awarded, predating the outbreak of the American Civil War.

Irwin subsequently served with the Union army during the Civil War, and was promoted to captain in August 1861, and the next year was appointed medical director under Major General William "Bull" Nelson. He improvised one of the first field hospitals used by the U.S. Army at the Battle of Shiloh, on April 7, 1862. He was captured during the Battle of Richmond, Ky., while attempting to save the wounded General Nelson. He was promoted to major in September 1862, and after his release from a Rebel prison he became medical director in the Army of the Southwest. From 1863 to 1865, he was superintendent of the military hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, and in March of 1865, he was brevetted to the rank of colonel. He was a companion of the California Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, and the Order of the Indian Wars of the United States. After the Civil War, Irwin served as a senior medical officer at several U.S. army posts, including West Point from 1873 to 1878. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in September 1885, to colonel in August 1890, and to brigadier general in April 1904. He died in Ontario, Canada, on December 15, 1917, and is buried in the West Point Cemetery, at the U.S. Military Academy, New York.

General Irwin was an admirer and collector of photographs, and he put together a very large, and superb collection of Union and Confederate images. Interestingly, he collected photographs of both Rebel and Yankee alike. I have owned several famous military photograph albums before and never came across one that collected images from both sides of the rebellion. He numbered each individual image, and wrote a brief historical notation on each one. The collection was split up by another dealer, and by the time I found out about it, I was still very fortunate to be able to acquire about one third of his superb Civil War image collection.

In reality each of these images are "one of a kind" having come from the very special General Irwin collection, Medal of Honor recipient.

Item #

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Click here to enlarge image and see more about item cdv9696: CDV, General Philip Kearny

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cdv9696

CDV, General Philip Kearny

"Kearny the Magnificent"

At the Mexican War battle of Churubusco, his left arm was severely wounded necessitating amputation!

He was killed at Chantilly, Virginia on September 1, 1862!

From the personal collection of Surgeon & General Bernard John Dowling Irwin. Irwin has the distinct honor of being the first recipient of the Medal of Honor in U.S. military history by date of action, February 13, 1861


(1815-62) Born in New York City to a wealthy Irish American family, he attended Columbia College, in NYC, and...  

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Click here to enlarge image and see more about item cdv9695: CDV, General Samuel Jones

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cdv9695

CDV, General Samuel Jones

From the personal collection of Surgeon & General Bernard John Dowling Irwin. Irwin has the distinct honor of being the first recipient of the Medal of Honor in U.S. military history by date of action, February 13, 1861

(1819-87) Born at "Woodfield," his family's plantation in Powhatan County, Va. Graduated in the West Point class of 1841. From 1846-51 Jones held the position of assistant professor of mathematics and instructor of infantry and artillery tactics at the United States Military Academy. He resigned from the U.S. Army...  

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Click here to enlarge image and see more about item cdv9692: CDV, General Thomas L. Rosser

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cdv9692

CDV, General Thomas L. Rosser

Wounded 3 times during the War Between the States

Commanded the "Laurel Brigade"

From the personal collection of Surgeon & General Bernard John Dowling Irwin. Irwin has the distinct honor of being the first recipient of the Medal of Honor in U.S. military history by date of action, February 13, 1861


(1836-1910) Born on a farm called "Catalpa Hill," in Campbell County, Virginia. Appointed to West Point in 1856, at that time a 5 year course, his roommate was John Pelham. Rosser resigned on April 22, 1861, two...  

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Click here to enlarge image and see more about item cdv9691: CDV, General William W. Averell

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cdv9691

CDV, General William W. Averell

Colonel of the 3rd Pennsylvania Cavalry

From the personal collection of Surgeon & General Bernard John Dowling Irwin. Irwin has the distinct honor of being the first recipient of the Medal of Honor in U.S. military history by date of action, February 13, 1861


(1832-1900) Born in Cameron, New York, he graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1855. His pre-war army career included garrison duty at Jefferson Barracks, Mo., a tour at the Cavalry School in Carlisle, Pa., and two years of rugged service fighting the western...  

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Click here to enlarge image and see more about item cdv9688: CDV, General John A. Logan

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cdv9688

CDV, General John A. Logan

Wounded at Fort Donelson, Tennessee, and in the Atlanta, Georgia campaign!

General Logan was instrumental in founding Memorial Day to honor our war veterans!

United States Senator and Congressman from Illinois

From the personal collection of Surgeon & General Bernard John Dowling Irwin. Irwin has the distinct honor of being the first recipient of the Medal of Honor in U.S. military history by date of action, February 13, 1861


(1826-86) Nicknamed "Black Jack," he served in the Mexican War as a lieutenant of...  

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Click here to enlarge image and see more about item cdv9687: CDV, General Leonidas Polk

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cdv9687

CDV, General Leonidas Polk

Killed at Pine Mountain, Ga. in June 1864

From the personal collection of Surgeon & General Bernard John Dowling Irwin. Irwin has the distinct honor of being the first recipient of the Medal of Honor in U.S. military history by date of action, February 13, 1861


(1806-64) Born in Raleigh, North Carolina, he was known as the "Bishop Militant." Polk graduated in the West Point class of 1827 with an impressive academic record, excelling in rhetoric and moral philosophy. He graduated eighth of 38 cadets, and was appointed a...  

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Click here to enlarge image and see more about item cdv9686: CDV, General Edward Johnson

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cdv9686

CDV, General Edward Johnson

He was seriously wounded during the 1862 Shenandoah Valley Campaign

Johnson led General Stonewall Jackson's old division at Gettysburg, the Wilderness, and Spotsylvania

He was captured at Spotsylvania while defending the Bloody Angle in May 1864

Johnson was captured at the battle of Nashville, Tennessee in December 1864

From the personal collection of Surgeon & General Bernard John Dowling Irwin. Irwin has the distinct honor of being the first recipient of the Medal of Honor in U.S. military history by date of action,...  

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Click here to enlarge image and see more about item cdv9683: CDV, General John B. Magruder

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cdv9683

CDV, General John B. Magruder

From the personal collection of Surgeon & General Bernard John Dowling Irwin. Irwin has the distinct honor of being the first recipient of the Medal of Honor in U.S. military history by date of action, February 13, 1861

(1807-71) Known as "Prince John," a resplendently uniformed man with a theatrical manner, he attained a reputation for his social grace and etiquette. Born at Port Royal, Virginia, he graduated in the West Point class of 1830. He fought gallantry during the Mexican War, while an artillery officer, and at the Battle...  

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Click here to enlarge image and see more about item cdv9675: CDV, Army and Navy U.S.V.

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cdv9675

CDV, Army and Navy U.S.V.

From the personal collection of Surgeon & General Bernard John Dowling Irwin. Irwin has the distinct honor of being the first recipient of the Medal of Honor in U.S. military history by date of action, February 13, 1861

Wet plate, albumen carte de visite photograph, mounted to 2 3/8 x 3 7/8 card. Features portraits of 100 Union Generals and Naval Officers in a collage format. Each individual person is identified by a number, and the corresponding numbers with their names are printed on the verso. Published by C.D. Fredricks & Co., 587...  

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Click here to enlarge image and see more about item cdv9673: CDV, Admiral Andrew H. Foote

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cdv9673

CDV, Admiral Andrew H. Foote

He died while on active service in 1863

From the personal collection of Surgeon & General Bernard John Dowling Irwin. Irwin has the distinct honor of being the first recipient of the Medal of Honor in U.S. military history by date of action, February 13, 1861


(1806-63) He entered the navy in 1822, and sailed in the West Indies, off Africa, and along the China coast. He was appointed commander of the western flotilla at the beginning of the Civil War, and in Feb. 1862, with the cooperation of Gen. U.S. Grant, captured Fort Henry on the...  

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Click here to enlarge image and see more about item cdv9672: CDV, General Simon B. Buckner

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cdv9672

CDV, General Simon B. Buckner

Confederate Lieutenant General

Governor of Kentucky

From the personal collection of Surgeon & General Bernard John Dowling Irwin. Irwin has the distinct honor of being the first recipient of the Medal of Honor in U.S. military history by date of action, February 13, 1861


(1823-1914) He was born at Glen Lily, his family's estate near Munfordville, Kentucky. His closest friend in Munfordville was Thomas J. Wood, who would become a Union Army general opposing Buckner at the Battles of Perryville, Ky., and at Chickamauga, Ga....  

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Click here to enlarge image and see more about item cdv9671: CDV, General David S. Stanley

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cdv9671

CDV, General David S. Stanley

Medal of Honor Recipient for gallantry in the battle of Franklin, Tennessee where he was wounded

From the personal collection of Surgeon & General Bernard John Dowling Irwin. Irwin has the distinct honor of being the first recipient of the Medal of Honor in U.S. military history by date of action, February 13, 1861


(1828-1902) Born in Cedar Valley, Wayne County, Ohio, he graduated in the West Point class of 1852. His first assignment was on the western frontier where he was engaged in surveying railroads which ultimately led to...  

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