A resolution offered by state Rep. Shane Hernandez (R-Port Huron) to encourage the Congress of the United States to posthumously award a Medal of Honor to Sgt. Thomas Henry Sheppard of Marlette for his actions during the Civil War received a unanimous vote of the Military and Veteran Affairs Committee, and now proceeds for consideration by the full House.
Sgt. Sheppard was a Union color guard in the First Michigan Cavalry and rode four lengths behind Gen. George Custer at Gettysburg during one of the greatest cavalry charges in military history. During this turning point in the war, Union forces intercepted and defeated Confederate cavalrymen that intended on attacking the Union rear during Pickett’s charge. Sheppard was wounded and captured during the charge and subsequently spent a rough 505 days in Confederate prison camps. Sgt. Sheppard protected the flag, successfully keeping it concealed from the guards that entire time, by often wrapping it around his body beneath his clothing. The flag returned home with Sgt. Sheppard in 1866, bearing 72 bullet holes, and is currently on display at the Dearborn Historical Museum.
During an era in which flag signals were the principal means of communication on a battlefield, protecting the flag was a mission-critical errand. Although Sgt. Sheppard’s courageous acts were similar to many other Medal of Honor recipients, it seems he simply slipped through the cracks of history and failed to be recognized in a comparable manner.
Rep. Hernandez said: “This resolution was directly the result an inquiry received from my constituents, who I am happy to serve. I am proud of the people of Michigan’s 83rd District for their desire to ensure we properly recognize those who were from here for the courageous sacrifices made in the service of our country.” Sgt. Sheppard had also lived in state Rep. Gary Howell’s district, who joined with the representatives representing districts of Sheppard’s known living decedents and several others in co-sponsoring HCR 0014 with bipartisan support. If awarded the Medal of Honor, Sheppard would join Union artillery officer Alonzo Cushing, the most recent Civil War figure who received the award posthumously in 2014.