Around New England

Joe Biden Calls New Medal of Honor Recipient ‘A Hell of a Debater’

July 4, 2024

President Joe Biden called a new Medal of Honor recipient from the Civil War “a hell of a debater” during a ceremony Wednesday.

“He was a father, mechanic, and he was a hell of a debater,” Biden said of Private George Wilson. “He always was ready to persuade, argue, and as one family member put it, dress anyone down, if the need be.”

Biden’s comment, during which he smiled, occurred Wednesday, July 3 at the White House, six days after his presidential debate against former President Donald Trump on Thursday, June 27, a halting, stumbling performance that led many observers to question his mental competence and has led some Democrats to call for him to drop out of the presidential race.

Biden got through his approximately nine-minute speech, which he read from a TelePrompter, without a major gaffe, though he had trouble pronouncing certain words. At one point, while describing the 1862 raid in Georgia that led to the Medal of Honor bestowals, Biden said a group of two dozen Union soldiers were sent “to steal a Confederate chain,” before correcting himself by saying it was “a train.”

Wilson and another Ohio private, Philip Shadrach (sometimes spelled Shadrack), were members of a group of Union soldiers and civilians who participated in the Great Locomotive Chase in northern Georgia in April 1862, during which Union raiders wearing civilian clothes stole a Confederate train and attempted to cut off communications with the city of Knoxville, Tennessee to make it easier for Union troops to capture it.

Wilson, about 32, and Shadrach, 21, were among eight of the participants in the raid hanged as spies by Confederate forces after being captured.

Most of the participants who were members of the U.S. Army were awarded the Medal of Honor during the Civil War, but Wilson and Shadrach were not, until Wednesday.


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