George Washington Lucas (1845–1921)

George Washington Lucas was a young soldier in a Missouri cavalry regiment during the Civil War. He was awarded a Medal of Honor for killing an Arkansas militia general in Benton (Saline County) in 1864.

George Washington Lucas was born in 1845 in Brown County, Illinois, to wealthy physician Daniel B. Lucas and his wife, Sarah Ann Lucas; he had five brothers and a sister. After the Civil War began, the eighteen-year-old private crossed the Mississippi River to enlist in Company C of the Third Missouri Cavalry (US) at Palmyra, Missouri, on February 21, 1862; his occupation was listed as farmer.

Lucas was engaged in several scouting expeditions while the Third Missouri served in Arkansas, including one on July 25, 1864, in which the regiment rode into Benton. While there, they surprised Confederate militia general George Holt, who was visiting his family. Holt jumped on his horse and fled, but Private Lucas chased him down and shot him to death, an action that led the U.S. Congress to award the young soldier a Medal of Honor because he “pursued and killed Confederate Brig. Gen. George M. Holt, capturing his arms and horse.”

Colonel Delos B. Sackett, inspector general of the U.S. Army, intended to personally present the award to Lucas during a tour of Arkansas in which he inspected Colonel John F. Ritter’s Cavalry Brigade in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on October 30, 1864, an event attended by Major General Frederick Steele and several brigadier generals. However, Lucas was not present at the time. Instead, he received the medal on December 17 in a ceremony before the assembled Third Missouri Cavalry at which Lieutenant Colonel John Reed said, “Sir, in the name of the United States Congress, I present you this badge of honor, hoping that you may wear it untarnished, and hand it down to posterity, as an emblem of the discharge of your duty to a grateful country.” Lucas mustered out with his regiment in Little Rock on February 20, 1865.

Lucas returned to Illinois after the war and is listed as “at home” in the 1870 census. He married Josephine Kilbey on April 11, 1872, and they had two sons and a daughter. The 1880 census shows that George Lucas had followed his father into a career as a physician. He died on May 17, 1921, and is buried in Mounds Cemetery at Timewell, Illinois.

For additional information:
“George Washington Lucas.” (accessed February 13, 2018).

Medal of Honor Recipients 1863–1978, Prepared for the Committee on Veterans Affairs United States Senate, February 14, 1979. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1979.

Petty, A. W. M. A History of the Third Missouri Cavalry from Its Organization at Palmyra, Missouri, 1861, up to November Sixth, 1864: With an Appendix and Recapitulation. Little Rock: J. Wm. Demby, 1865.

Ross, Margaret. “Recipient Not on Hand to Get Medal of Honor.” Arkansas Gazette, October 30, 1964, p. 13B.

The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series 1, Vol. 41, Part 1. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1889.

Mark K. Christ
Little Rock, Arkansas


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