The Thanks of Congress is a series of formal resolutions passed by the United States Congress originally to extend the government's formal thanks for significant victories or impressive actions by American military commanders and their troops. Although it began during the American Revolutionary War, the practice peaked during the American Civil War. Similarly, the Confederate Congress also passed resolutions honoring extraordinary performance to individuals or military units.
During the American Revolution, the official Thanks of Congress from the Continental Congress was often accompanied by a specially struck commemorative gold or silver medal. Among the recipients were George Washington, Horatio Gates, John Eager Howard, John Stark, Baron von Steuben, and Henry Lee (See also List of Congressional Gold Medal recipients).
Other recipients in the early years of the United States include all participants in the Battle of Tippecanoe (1811), Alexander Macomb (War of 1812) (1814), Oliver Hazard Perry (War of 1812) (1814), James Lawrence (War of 1812) (1814), Charles Gratiot in the same war, and Andrew Jackson (epilogue to the War of 1812) (1815), William Henry Harrison (1818) and Zachary Taylor (1847).
During the American Civil War, the Thanks of Congress were joint resolutions of Congress which were published in the Statutes at Large to honor officers from late 1861 through May 1866 for significant victories or impressive actions. A total of thirty officers were named in these acts during the war, fifteen in the Union Army and fifteen in the Union Navy. Two naval officers were immediately promoted after receiving the award, John L. Worden of USS Monitor and William B. Cushing. Because the Thanks of Congress was only awarded to officers, the Medal of Honor was created at this time to honor soldiers in the Army, and over 1,500 men received the medal by the end of the war. Only one officer, General Ulysses S. Grant, received both the Thanks of Congress and a Congressional Gold Medal during the Civil War.
The first citation during the American Civil War recognized "the gallant and patriotic services of the late Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon, and the officers and soldiers under his command at the Battle of Wilson's Creek, 10 Aug. 1861." Admiral David Dixon Porter was honored the most, on four separate occasions.
|Recipient||Date of approval||Military action||Ref.|
|Nathaniel Lyon and officers and men under his command||December 24, 1861||Wilson's Creek, 1861|||
|Samuel F. Dupont, and officers, petty-officers, seamen, and marines under his command||February 22, 1862||Port Royal, 1861|||
|Officers, soldiers, and seamen of the army and navy||February 22, 1862||General award|||
|Andrew H. Foote, and to the officers and men under his command in the Western Flotilla||March 19, 1862||Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, 1862|||
|David G. Farragut and officers and men under his command||July 11, 1862||Forts Jackson & St. Philip, 1862|||
|Louis M. Goldsborough and officers, petty officers, seamen, and marines under his command||July 11, 1862||Roanoake Island, 1862|||
|John L. Worden and crew of the USS Monitor||July 11, 1862||Hampton Roads, 1862|||
|Andrew H. Foote||July 19, 1862||Island No. Ten, 1862|||
|John L. Worden||February 3, 1863||Hampton Roads, 1862|||
|Charles H. Davis||February 7, 1863||Memphis, 1862|||
|John A. Dahlgren||February 7, 1863||None|||
|Stephen C. Rowan||February 7, 1863||Battle of New Bern|||
|David D. Porter||February 7, 1863||Arkansas Post, 1863|||
|Silas H. Stringham||February 7, 1863||Forts Hatteras and Clark, 1861|||
|William S. Rosecrans, and the officers and men under his command||March 3, 1863||Stones River, 1862–1863|||
|Ulysses S. Grant, and officers and men under his command||December 17, 1863||"The Rebellion"|||
|John Rodgers||December 23, 1863||Battle of Wassaw Sound|||
|Nathaniel P. Banks and officers and men under his command||January 28, 1864||Port Hudson, 1863|||
|Ambrose E. Burnside||January 28, 1864||Knoxville, 1863|||
|Joseph Hooker, Oliver O. Howard, George G. Meade, and the Army of the Potomac||January 28, 1864||Gettysburg Campaign, 1863|||
|Cornelius Vanderbilt||January 28, 1864||None|||
|William T. Sherman, and the officers and soldiers under his command||February 19, 1864||Chattanooga, 1863|||
|Volunteer soldiers who have reenlisted||March 3, 1864||None|||
|Cadwalader Ringgold and the officers and crew of the USS Sabine||March 7, 1864||rescue of the USS Governor, 1861 and USS Vermont, 1862|||
|David D. Porter||April 19, 1864||Vicksburg, 1863|||
|Joseph Bailey||June 4, 1864||Red River Campaign, 1864|||
|William B. Cushing and the officers and men who assisted him||December 20, 1864||Sinking of the CSS Albemarle|||
|John A. Winslow and the officers and men under his command on board the USS Kearsarge||December 20, 1864||Sinking the CSS Alabama, 1863|||
|William T. Sherman and officers and soldiers of his command||January 19, 1865||Atlanta Campaign and March to the Sea, 1864|||
|David D. Porter, and officers, petty officers, seamen, and marines under his command||January 24, 1865||Fort Fisher, 1865|||
|Alfred H. Terry, and the officers and men under his command||January 24, 1865||Fort Fisher, 1865|||
|Philip H. Sheridan||February 9, 1865||Cedar Creek, 1864|||
|George H. Thomas and army under his command||March 3, 1865||Nashville, 1864|||
|David G. Farragut and the officers and men under his command||February 10, 1866||Mobile Bay, 1864|||
|Winfield S. Hancock||April 21, 1866||Gettysburg, 1863|||
Later honorees included Admiral of the Navy George Dewey (1898) and Captain Arthur Rostron, for his captaining of the SS Kroonland (1914). In 1914, the Thanks of Congress were given to three Latin American diplomats: Domício da Gama, Rómulo Sebastián Naón, and Eduardo Suárez Mujica, for their work at the Niagara Falls peace conference which helped avert a war with Mexico.: 1228 In 1915, they were extended to members of the Isthmian Canal Commission.: 1191 In 1919 Congress thanked General of the Armies John J. Pershing at a special joint session. In August 1962 Congress thanked General of the Army Douglas MacArthur at a special joint session.