The Cardenas Medal of Honor was established by Joint Resolution of Congress on May 3, 1900.
The Cardenas Medal of Honor commemorates the gallantry of the officers and men of the Revenue Cutter Hudson who, in the face of enemy fire during the Spanish-American War, towed the USS Winslow out of range of the enemy guns at Cardenas harbor on May 11, 1898. In the words of the legislation that created the medal,
"Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That in recognition of the gallantry of First Lieutenant Frank H. Newcomb, of the Revenue-Cutter Service, commanding the revenue cutter Hudson, his officers and the men of his command, for their intrepid and heroic gallantry in the action at Cardenas, Cuba, on the eleventh day of May, eighteen hundred and ninety-eight, when the Hudson rescued the United States naval torpedo boat Winslow in the face of a most galling fire from the enemy's guns, the Winslow being disabled, her captain wounded, her only other officer and half her crew killed. The commander of the Hudson kept his vessel in the very center of the hottest fire of the action, although in constant danger of going ashore on account of the shallow water, until finally he got a line made fast to the Winslow and towed that vessel out of range of the enemy's guns. In commemoration of this signal act of heroism it is hereby enacted that the Secretary of the Treasury be authorized and directed to cause to be prepared and to present to First Lieutenant Frank H. Newcomb, Revenue-Cutter Service, a gold medal, and to each of his officers a silver medal, and to each member of his crew a bronze medal."
ORDER OF PRECEDENCE
Although the Coast Guard (successor to the Revenue Cutter Service) has not established an order of precedence for the Cardenas Medal of Honor, it would probably have been worn after the Civil War Medal and before the Sampson Medal.
No devices were authorized for this medal.
The Cardenas Medal of Honor was designed by Charles Morgan, Chief Engraver at the Philadelphia Mint.
The first award of the Cardenas Medal of Honor went to Lieutenant Frank M. Newcomb, who received his medal in gold (three were awarded in silver to other officers and sixteen in bronze were awarded to enlisted men).
DESCRIPTION AND SYMBOLISM
In the center of a medallion three and one eighth inches in diameter, the draped winged figure of a woman is shown wearing a winged helmet and holding a sword in her right hand and a palm branch in her left. In the background, one ship is seen towing another. The exergue contains the words CARDENAS, MAY 11, 1898.
The two ships are the Hudson which is towing the Winslow, representing the event for which the medal was established (on May 11, 1898 while the torpedo boat Winslow was taking soundings and making observations in the harbor of Cardenas, Cuba, shore batteries opened fire and in the ensuing action the Winslow was disabled. The auxiliary tug Hudson came to the Winslow's rescue under heavy fire, secured a tow line, and pulled the ship to safety).
In the center of a medallion three and one-eighth inches in diameter, a nude figure is portrayed with a mallet and chisel inscribing, JOINT RESOLUTION OF CONGRESS APPROVED MAY 3, 1900, IN RECOGNITION OF THE GALLANTRY OF THE OFFICERS AND MEN OF THE HUDSON WHO IN THE FACE OF A GALLING FIRE TOWED THE WINSLOW OUT OF RANGE OF THE ENEMY'S GUNS. To the left of the figure is a palm leaf, and at the base of the palm leaf is a small wreath of laurel.
A "miniature" Cardenas Medal of Honor one and a quarter inches in diameter was struck to be worn with other service medals. It is identical in design to the original table medal, except that it is reduced in size and is fitted with a ribbon and suspension bar.
The ribbon to the Cardenas Medal of Honor is similar to that of the Dewey Medal and consists of a wide center stripe of gold flanked by dark blue (the gold center stripe in this ribbon is wider than in the Dewey Medal). The ribbon is pinned to the uniform by a pin bar with the name CARDENAS in raised letters. The bar has the same finish as the medal.