James Wilson Grimes was born October 20, 1816 in Deering, New Hampshire.
Grimes went on to graduate from Hampton Academy before attending Dartmouth College to study law.
On September 21, 1832, the United States government acquired land from Native American tribes after the Black Hawk War with a treaty that has become known as the Black Hawk Purchase.
The Black Hawk Purchase contained some 6 million acres in what is now Iowa.
Grimes was drawn to the west and perceived an opportunity to practice law in this new territory. He ended up settling down in a town established by the American Fur Company.
A settler named John Gray purchased the first lot to build a home and for an additional $50 was allowed to name the town Burlington, after his former hometown of Burlington, Vermont.
Grimes set up shop as a lawyer in addition to farming.
In 1837, Burlington became the second territorial capital of what was then known as the Wisconsin Territory.
Then in 1838, the area was reorganized as the Iowa Territory with Burlington becoming its first territorial capital.
James Grimes became a member of the Iowa Territorial House of Representatives which met in “Old Zion,” the first Methodist Church in the Iowa Territory.
In 1854, James Grimes became the third Governor of Iowa elected as a member of the Whig party.
However in 1855, Grimes became a guiding force in the establishment of the Republican Party in Iowa.
In 1859, James Grimes was elected as a Republican to the United States Senate. In the Senate, Grimes served as chairman of the Committee on the District of Columbia (in the 37th and 38th Congresses), and the Committee on Naval Affairs (in the 39th through 41st Congresses). He also served on the Joint Committee on Reconstruction which drafted the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
In 1861, James Grimes was a member of the Peace Convention held in Washington, D.C. in an effort to devise means to prevent the impending American Civil War which began on April 12, 1861.
Then in September of 1861, since there were no military awards or medals at the beginning of the war, a memorandum of valor was proposed as a battlefield decoration for Winfield Scott (the general in chief of the Union Army) by Lt. Colonel Edward D. Townsend, and assistant adjutant at the War Department and Scott’s chief of staff.
Winfield Scott however, was strictly against medals being awarded as was the European tradition, and rejected the honor.
So after Winfield Scott retired on October 1, 1861, the Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, proposed an idea for a decoration to recognize and honor distinguished naval service.
Public Resolution 82
In response to this proposal, on October 9, 1861 Senator James Grimes introduced a senate bill known as Public Resolution 82, “to promote the efficiency of the Navy” which included a provision for a Navy Medal of Valor.
Then on December 21, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln signed the resolution into law (12Stat329), “to be bestowed upon such petty officers, seamen, landsmen, and marines as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry and other seamen-like qualities during the present war.”
Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles then directed the Philadelphia Mint to design the new military decoration.
Senator James Grimes was reelected to the Senate in 1865 but was forced to resign on December 6, 1869 due to ill health.
James W. Grimes died in Burlington on February 7, 1872 at the age of 55.
He is buried in the Aspen Grove cemetery, in Burlington, Iowa.
Today, the plot of land that his home was once located on is now home to an elementary school that bears his name. The town of Grimes, Iowa is also named for James W. Grimes.
Senator Grimes senate bill “Public Resolution 82” eventually led to the creation of the “Medal of Honor” even though it initially was only designated for Navy and Marine personnel.
The Medal of Honor is the United States of America’s highest military honor, awarded for personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty. The medal is awarded by the President of the United States in the name of Congress to US military personnel only.
Today, there are three versions of the medal, one for the Army, one for the Navy, and one for the Air Force. Personnel of the Marine Corps and Coast Guard receive the Navy version.
There have been 3,468 Medals of Honor awarded to our nation’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coast guardsmen since the decoration’s creation in 1861.
As the only award available during the American Civil War, almost half of all Medals of Honor presented to date were awarded for actions in the four years of the Civil War.
The Medal of Honor is usually presented by the President at the White House in a formal ceremony intended to represent the gratitude of the American people, with posthumous presentations made to the primary next of kin.
In 1990, Congress designated March 25th 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.
Now WE know em