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Today's Medal of Honor Moment for 24 June

There are five Medals awarded for actions on this day.  We start with the Civil War, the battles of Weldon Railroad, and Saint Mary's (Samaria) Church.  We discussed Weldon Railroad yesterday, a 5 day fight in 1864 where Grant was trying to isolate Lee's army in Petersburg from its supply base to the west.  First up is a pretty classic Civil War medal for capturing an enemy color.

Rank and organization: Corporal, Company C, 12th Kentucky Infantry. Place and date: At Weldon Railroad, Va., 24 June 1864. Entered service at: Albany, Ky. Born: 21 January 1841, Fentress County, Tenn. Date of issue: 1 August 1865. Citation: Capture of flag of 11th South Carolina (C.S.A.).

Next is St. Mary's Church, the closing fight of the bigger campaign that included the battle at Trevilian Station.  There were two Medals for this fight, one for Colonel Smith of the First Maine, and one for Captain Henry Weir, Assistant Adjutant General of the Second Division.  I just finished a book-length analysis of the campaign, called Glory Enough for All, by Eric J. Wittenberg.  A very readable history of Sheridan's second raid and it's climax at Trevilian.  Not a dry classic history, this one is full of the words and spirit of the times.  From Wittenberg's perspective, Sheridan's reputation takes on some tarnish after his study of the campaign, and Wade Hampton's star waxes ascendant.  Here's Wittenberg's description of Smthi's Medal action:

"Col. Charles H. Smith of the First Maine, a thirty-seven-year-old-school-teacher, was shot in the leg.  The same ball also killed his horse.  His men became demoralized and started falling back.  Despite the pain of his wound, Smith refused to leave the field.  Instead, he rallied his troopers, who in spite of the din of battle, called out three cheers for their injured commander.  The Maine men turned on the enemy and made a stand, the tide of battle flowing back and forth.  One of the Maine men wrote, "Up close to our works they come and after a few rounds are fired, muskets are clubbed, and savagely the conflict rages."  They repulsed three attacks before finally being driven from the field by the ferocity of the Southern attack.  IN the closing moments of the fight, the Colonel lost a second horse shot out from under him.  Mounting an orderly's horse, the injured Colonel rallied his troopers, preventing them from breaking and running.  Smith was the last member of the First Maine to leave the field, and he received a brevet to Brigadier General of Volunteers for his gallantry that day.  When Smith returned to duty, he received command of a brigade of cavalry that was specifically assembled for him."

Rank and organization: Colonel, 1st Maine Cavalry. Place and date: At St. Mary's Church, Va., 24 June 1864. Entered service at: Maine. Birth: Hollis, Maine. Date of issue: 11 April 1895. Citation: Remained in the fight to the close, although severely wounded.
This is what Wittenberg has to say about Captain Weir:

"The road to Charles City Court House, jammed by led horses and artillery mixed up with pack mules and panicked mounted and dismounted men, was a cacophony of shouting and cursing.  Gregg and his staff officers and orderlies joined the rear guard, controlling the pace of the retreat as well as possible.  At one point, Gregg dismounted beside a downed Union officer, who lay on the ground mortally wounded.  The advancing enemy nearly captured the inattentive division commander.  Gregg's assistant adjutant general, Captain Henry C. Weir, had gotten separate from the division commander and his other staff officers.  Riding back, Weir alerted Gregg to the imminent danger, getting Gregg to mount and ride off just in time to avoid capture.  Weir, whose father was an instructor at West Point, wheeled and faced the enemy armed only with his revolver.  He opened fire, blunting the Confederate pursuit.  Weir mounted his horse and escaped.  The staff officer was known as "intensely patriotic, high-toned in character, and one of the bravest men" in the Second Division.  Gregg later praised Weir's "great daring and love of fighting... he was always seeking opportunity to be in the midst of the severest fighting."  He also commented that when Weir was caught up in the maelstrom of the rout on June 24 and did not turn up at divisional headquarters immediately, "I concluded that he had been killed or captured."

 Weir joined the fray as the retreat milled back.  One of his fellow staff officers fell beside him in the melee. "Who did that?" asked Weir, pulling up his horse and wheeling around.  An orderly pointed out the Rebel officer who had fired the shot. "The next moment Weir was among the enemy, and had blown out the rebel's brains.  Then, with the same suddenness, he dashed back to our line."  Weir gave his horse to the wounded officer and rallied some of the dismounted troopers.  Armed with only his revolver, the heroic captain held fend off the last charges of Hampton's men before they called off the pursuit.  Colonel John P. Taylor of the First Pennsylvania Cavalry, Weir's former regiment, wrote, "I feel sir if there is a soldier in the Army of the Potomac worth of a Medal is it...H. C. Weir.  Weir received a brevet to Major for conspicuous gallantry and meritorious service in August 1864, and got the Medal of Honor in May 1899 as a reward for his actions at Samaria Church."

Rank and organization: Captain and Assistant Adjutant General, U.S. Volunteers. Place and date: At St. Mary's Church, Va., 24 June 1864. Entered service at: ------. Birth: West Point, N.Y. Date of issue: 18 Nay 1899. Citation: The division being hard pressed and falling back, this officer dismounted, gave his horse to a wounded officer, and thus enabled him to escape. Afterwards, on foot, Captain Weir rallied and took command of some stragglers and helped to repel the last charge of the enemy.
War with Spain

On to the War with Spain, and the Battle of Las Guasimas, where Civil War Rebel cavalry General galvanized himself to aid in ousting the Spanish from Cuba, though this wasn't his best battle.  Teddy Roosevelt was in this fight, as were Fort Leavenworth's own Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th US Cavalry.

Rank and organization: Assistant Surgeon, 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry. Place and date: At Las Guasimas, Cuba, 24 June 1898. Entered service at: Washington, D.C. Birth: Chicago, Ill. Date of issue: 10 January 1906. Citation: In addition to performing gallantly the duties pertaining to his position, voluntarily and unaided carried several seriously wounded men from the firing line to a secure position in the rear, m each instance being subjected to a very heavy fire and great exposure and danger.

The Medal took a break from World Wars I and II, and next surfaced on this day in June during the Korean War.  Private First Class Bennett's fight came during the very early stage of Phase 5 (as the Army history parses the war) of the Korean War. His fight, much less PFC Bennett, doesn't make it into the Army official history. In fact, despite the blood, sweat, tears, maiming and death of the combat as both sides expended thousands of lives for minor gains at the negotiating table, this period of the war, from a historical narrative perspective... is boring.

Unless you were there, of course.

Here's about all there is from Army sources:

Armistice talks began at Kaesong on 10 July 1951. North and South Korea were willing to fight on, but after twelve months of large-scale but indecisive conflict, their Cold War supporters—the People’s Republic of China and the Soviet Union on one side, the United States and its UN allies on the other—had concluded it was not in their respective interests to continue. The chief negotiator for the UN was American Vice Adm. C. Turner Joy; his counterpart was Lt. Gen. Nam Il, the chief of staff of the North Korean People’s Army. At the first session it was agreed that military operations could continue until an armistice agreement was actually signed. The front lines remained relatively quiet, though, as the opposing sides adopted a cautious watch-and-wait stance.

Lt. Gen. James A. Van Fleet’s Eighth Army had fortified its positions along Line Kansas and along Line Wyoming, a bulge north of Kansas in the west-central area known as the Iron Triangle. Both the Kansas line in the east and the Wyoming bulge were above the 38th Parallel, the prewar boundary between the two Koreas. On the west, the front line dipped below the 38th Parallel north of Seoul, the South Korean capital, and then continued to fall toward the coast. This uneven line led to the first impasse in negotiations, when the North Korean and Chinese side argued that the armistice line should be the 38th Parallel, while the UN negotiators called for a line reflecting current positions, which they argued were more defensible and secure than the old border.

When the Communist side broke off negotiations on 23 August, General Matthew B. Ridgway’s United Nations Command (UNC) responded with a limited new offensive. General Van Fleet sent the U.S. X Corps and the Republic of Korea (ROK) I Corps to gain terrain objectives in east-central Korea five to seven miles north of Kansas—among them places that resonate with veterans, such as the Punchbowl, Bloody Ridge, and Heartbreak Ridge. In the west, five UN divisions (the ROK 1st, the 1st British Commonwealth, and the U.S. 1st Cavalry and 3d and 25th Infantry) struck northwest along a forty-mile front to secure a new position beyond the Wyoming line to protect the vital Seoul-Ch’orwon railway. The U.S. IX Corps followed by driving even farther north to the edge of Kumsong.

Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company B, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3d Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Sobangsan, Korea, 24 June 1951. Entered service at: Cocoa, Fla. Born: 20 December 1929, New Smyrna Beach, Fla. G.O. No.: 11, 1 February 1952. Citation: Pfc. Bennett a member of Company B, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty in action against an armed enemy of the United Nations. At approximately 0200 hours, 2 enemy battalions swarmed up the ridge line in a ferocious banzai charge in an attempt to dislodge Pfc. Bennett's company from its defensive positions. Meeting the challenge, the gallant defenders delivered destructive retaliation, but the enemy pressed the assault with fanatical determination and the integrity of the perimeter was imperiled. Fully aware of the odds against him, Pfc. Bennett unhesitatingly left his foxhole, moved through withering fire, stood within full view of the enemy, and, employing his automatic rifle, poured crippling fire into the ranks of the onrushing assailants, inflicting numerous casualties. Although wounded, Pfc. Bennett gallantly maintained his l-man defense and the attack was momentarily halted. During this lull in battle, the company regrouped for counterattack, but the numerically superior foe soon infiltrated into the position. Upon orders to move back, Pfc. Bennett voluntarily remained to provide covering fire for the withdrawing elements, and, defying the enemy, continued to sweep the charging foe with devastating fire until mortally wounded. His willing self-sacrifice and intrepid actions saved the position from being overrun and enabled the company to effect an orderly withdrawal. Pfc. Bennett's unflinching courage and consummate devotion to duty reflect lasting glory on himself and the military service.

*Indicates a posthumous award.