On May 22nd 1863 Union General Ulysses S Grant pulled together a plan to attack the Confederate held heights at Vicksburg, Mississippi. Grant was stretching Confederate Lieutenant General John C Pemberton's line of defense. He called for volunteers, as there wasn't much hope for survival. This mission of “forlorn hope” called for the building of a bridge across a ditch, then placing ladders to scale the embankment.
One hundred and fifty men volunteered. They came under Confederate fire at once, and were trapped in the ditch. Even though the Union made several attacks against the Confederates, they were unable to cover the volunteers so they could get back to safety. Out of the 150 men who volunteered for the storming party only 79 survived. They would all received the Medal of Honor.
Among the men who were awarded the Medal of Honor was Leonidas Mahlon Godley. His citation tells the story. “The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to First Sergeant Leonidas Mahlon Godley, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism on 22 May 1863, while serving with Company E, 22d Iowa Infantry, in action at Vicksburg, Mississippi. First Sergeant Godley led his company in the assault on the enemy's works and gained the parapet, there receiving three very severe wounds. He lay all day in the sun, was taken prisoner, and had his leg amputated without anesthetics.”