The Medal of Honor, sometimes erroneously called the Congressional Medal of Honor, was awarded to Henry I. Smith for his bravery during the Battle of Averasboro. Smith was a First Lieutenant, Company B, 7th Iowa Infantry. His heroic act of valor took place at Black River, N.C., 15 March 1865. He entered service at: Shell Rock Fall, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa. Smith was born 4 May,1840, in England. His MOH was issued 7 September 1894. His act of valor was that he voluntarily and under fire rescued a comrade from death by drowning.
On the evening of March 15, 1865, the 7th Iowa Infantry moved down river from a bridge over the Black River, North Carolina, which was held by Confederates. Here they attempted to construct a pontoon bridge over a portion of the flooded river and then wade the waste-deep waters to the other shore. Fighting the current, darkness, snags, and the constant fire from the defenders, the regiment succeeded in achieving its goal and dislodging the Confederates. In the midst of the struggle, one soldier, whose name is not recorded, was swept away in the current. Capt. Smith threw off his coat and sword and swam to the soldier’s rescue, bringing him to shore to continue their mission.
The Medal of Honor was established July 12, 1862, and was first awarded to recipients during the Civil War. Although Confederate Soldiers could not become recipients of the Medal of Honor, the Confederacy authorized a similar award of valor, “the Roll of Honor” after each battle whereby Confederate Soldiers who distinguished themselves in battle with heroic valor could be posted on the Roll of Honor. Since metal was a scarcity in the Confederacy, no medals were made. No Confederate soldier, to the editor’s knowledge, was the recipient of the Roll of Honor designation for either the Battle of Averasboro or the Battle of Bentonville. Four additional Union soldiers were the recipients of the Medal of Honor from valor at the Battle of Bentonville: Peter Anderson, George W. Clute, Allan H. Dougall, and Henry E. Plant.