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Today's Medal of Honor Moment for 25 June

There are 29 Medals awarded for actions on this day.  

Today is a very representative day for the Medal of Honor.  We have Medals awarded to take the sting out of failure, we have Medals awarded that are classics of the genre, and we have Medals awarded that would not be awarded under today's criteria.  A little microcosm of the changes the Medal has gone through over the decades.

We start with the Civil War.  First up, the Battle of Oak Grove in 1862.  If you want to find something that will start a geek-fight, find some medieval Bishops and ask 'em how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, find some Army colonels and ask 'em to define strategic communications (is that *with* an 's' or without?) or some other doctrinal term du jour, or ask a Virginia-based Civil War roundtable about whether or not the Battle of Oak Grove is, as conventionally portrayed, the opening battle of the Seven Days, or should it more properly be classified as the final battle of McClellan's Peninsular Campaign?  Regardless, the fight stands 'twixt the two, and for a named battle of the Civil War had a moderately low casualty count, with Union losses running at around 600 to all causes, with the Confederates about 450.  And it provided a chance for Private Dillon of the 2nd New Hampshire to shine while helping out some Gunners at Williamsburg and doing a little reconnaissance at Oak Grove.

DILLON, MICHAEL A.

Rank and organization: Private, Company G, 2d New Hampshire Infantry. Place and date: At Williamsburg, Va., 5 May 1862. At Oak Grove, Va., 25 June 1862. Entered service at: Wilton, N.H. Birth: Chelmsford, Mass. Date of issue: 10 October 1889. Citation: Bravery in repulsing the enemy's charge on a battery, at Williamsburg, Va. At Oak Grove, Va., crawled outside the lines and brought in important information.

Next we find that Lieutenant McKeen distinguished himself at Murfreesboro and a smaller skirmish at Liberty Gap, all part of Rosecran's Chattanooga Campaign.  I say smaller skirmish - to the people being shot at, it's a frontal assault, regardless.

McKEEN, NINEVEH S.

Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, Company H, 21st Illinois Infantry. Place and date: At Stone River, Tenn., 30 December 1862. At Liberty Gap, Tenn., 25 June 1863. Entered service at: Marshall, Clark County, Ill. Birth: Marshall, Clark County, Ill. Date of issue: 23 June 1890. Citation: Conspicuous in the charge at Stone River, Tenn., where he was three times wounded. At Liberty Gap, Tenn., captured colors of 8th Arkansas Infantry (C.S.A.).
 
These next three awards were for sailors aboard USS Monticello, doing the dangerous work of snooping about a defended harbor, seeking information.


SULLIVAN, JOHN

Rank and organization: Seaman, U.S. Navy. Born: 1839, New York, N.Y. Accredited to: New York. G.O. No.: 45, 31 December 1864. Citation: Served as seaman on board the U.S.S. Monticello during the reconnaissance of the harbor and water defenses of Wilmington, N.C. 23 to 25 June 1864. Taking part in a reconnaissance of enemy defenses which covered a period of 2 days and nights, Sullivan courageously carried out his duties during this action, which resulted in the capture of a mail carrier and mail, the cutting of a telegraph wire, and the capture of a large group of prisoners. Although in immediate danger from the enemy at all times, Sullivan showed gallantry and coolness throughout this action which resulted in the gaining of much vital information of the rebel defenses.

WARREN, DAVID

Rank and organization: Coxswain, U.S. Navy. Born: 1836, Scotland. Accredited to: New York. G.O. No.: 45, 31 December 1864. Citation: Served as coxswain on board the U.S.S. Monticello during the reconnaissance of the harbor and water defenses of Wilmington, N.C., 23 to 25 June 1864. Taking part in a reconnaissance of enemy defenses which lasted 2 days and nights, Warren courageously carried out his duties during this action which resulted in the capture of a mail carrier and mail, the cutting of a telegraph wire, and the capture of a large group of prisoners. Although in immediate danger from the enemy, Warren showed gallantry and coolness throughout this action which resulted in the gaining of much vital information of the rebel defenses.

WRIGHT, WILLIAM

Rank and organization: Yeoman, U.S. Navy. Born: 1835, London, England. Accredited to: Maryland. G.O. No.: 45, 31 December 1864. Citation: Served as yeoman on board the U.S.S. Monticello during the reconnaissance of the harbor and water defenses of Wilmington, N.C., 23 to 25 June 1864. Taking part in a reconnaissance of enemy defenses which covered a period of 2 days and nights, Wright courageously carried out his cutting of a telegraph wire and the capture of a large group of prisoners. Although in immediate danger from the enemy at all times, Wright showed gallantry and coolness throughout this action which resulted in the gaining of much vital information of the rebel defenses.

We move on to another Medal involving the colors.  Keep in mind that unit and national colors played a huge role in combat of the era, being guided upon to maintain the dress and cover of units, so that gaps didn't develop, and providing logical rally points - in addition to the power of the symbol that the soldiers invested in them.  Planting the National Color on the enemy's breastworks is a great way to inspire the soldiers following in the assault to ever greater effort... and to make yourself a target for anyone who can see you
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TAYLOR, HENRY H.

Rank and organization: Sergeant, Company C, 45th Illinois Infantry. Place and date: At Vicksburg, Miss., 25 June 1863. Entered service at: Galena, Jo Daviess County, Ill. Birth: Jo Daviess County, Ill. Date of issue: 1 September 1893. Citation: Was the first to plant the Union colors upon the enemy's works.

Now we meed Private Ward, who distinguished himself in one of the many cavalry raids that took place during the Petersburg campaign.  These raids were conducted with the intent of disrupting the logistics of Lee's pinned Army of Northern Virginia.  Why go secure the body of his captain?  In the Civil War, we didn't have dog tags, though many troops would put their name on a piece of paper and pin it to their uniform.  Both sides tended to just dump enemy bodies in large mass graves, and if body recovery took too long after a battle, many friendly casualties went unidentified as well.  It would appear Private Nelson thought highly of his captain.

WARD, NELSON W.

Rank and organization: Private, Company M, 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry. Place and date: At Staunton River Bridge, Va., 25 June 1864. Entered service at: ------. Birth: Columbiana County, Ohio. Date of issue: 10 September 1897. Citation: Voluntarily took part in a charge; went alone in front of his regiment under a heavy fire to secure the body of his captain, who had been killed in the action.

Next up: Little Big Horn, 25 June, 1876.  There are 18 Medals for that fight, which represents more the need of the nation and the Army to have some heroes out of that massacre which shocked us to our core, than it does for truly outstanding bravery.  It's not unusual in circumstances like this - though today most of these medals would be Bronze Stars with V or perhaps Silver Stars - but the Medal of Honor was the only pawn in play at that time.  Lest you think we don't give out Medals for larger morale purposes - I just point to General MacArthur's Medal of Honor for losing the Philippines.  Roosevelt needed a hero in those dark days. MacArthur was the best he could do.  Truth is, well-run battles don't provide much opportunity for heroism.  Those pop up when things start to go south.

I'm one of those who subscribe to the theory that the Native American accounts of the battle of Little Big Horn are largely correct, down to the seeming drunken behavior of the 7th Cavalry troopers.  The behavior is consistent with brittle troops who are heavily invested in their commander when the commander is taken out of the fight, especially when he hasn't informed his subordinates of his overall plans. 

Lord Moran's work on battlefield morale has several instances of troops behaving as the Native Americans describe the troopers of the 7th behaving as things fell apart.  Because of language and translation issues, it came across that the troopers were behaving drunkenly, when in fact they were in a powerful funk and great fear of what would happen if they fell into native hands alive, as events on the battlefield later proved. 

There is no doubt that Custer was a personally very brave soldier.  He was not, however, a great general.  Arguably, he wasn't that good a field grade officer, either, in important aspects.  He did great work at Gettysburg, and he fought bravely (but arguably not well) at Trevilian Station - though he there displayed his penchant for splitting his forces in the face of the enemy, as he would do there and at other Civil War battles and later in several Indian fights - where he routinely got smaller detachments badly mauled or destroyed.  At Little Big Horn, that caught up with him.  He needed to be a wire-guided missile.  He  could do great things when given clear instructions and monitored closely.  Let him off on his own... and his nose for glory got people killed, and on this day in 1876, he finally got himself killed.


BANCROFT, NEIL

Rank and organization: Private, Company A, 7th U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: At Little Big Horn, Mont., 25 June 1876. Entered service at: Chicago, Ill. Birth: Oswego, N.Y. Date of issue: 5 October 1878. Citation: Brought water for the wounded under a most galling fire.

BRANT, ABRAM B.

Rank and organization: Private, Company D, 7th U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: At Little Big Horn, Mont., 25 June 1876. Entered service at: St. Louis, Mo. Birth: New York, N.Y. Date of issue: 5 October 1878. Citation: Brought water for the wounded under a most galling fire.

CRISWELL, BANJAMIN C.

Rank and organization: Sergeant, Company B, 7th U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: At Little Big Horn River, Mont., 25 June 1876. Entered service at:------. Birth: Marshall County, W. Va. Date of issue: 5 October 1878. Citation: Rescued the body of Lt. Hodgson from within the enemy's lines; brought up ammunition and encouraged the men in the most exposed positions under heavy fire.

CUNNINGHAM, CHARLES

Rank and organization: Corporal, Company B, 7th U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: At Little Big Horn River, Mont., 25 June 1876. Entered service at: New York, N.Y. Birth: Hudson, N.Y. Date of issue: 5 October 1878. Citation: Declined to leave the line when wounded in the neck during heavy fire and fought bravely all next day.

DEETLINE, FREDERICK

Rank and organization: Private, Company D, 7th U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: At Little Big Horn, Mont., 25 June 1876. Entered service at: Baltimore, Md. Birth: Germany. Date of issue: 15 October 1878. Citation: Voluntarily brought water to the wounded under fire.

GEIGER, GEORGE

Rank and organization: Sergeant, Company H, 7th U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: At Little Big Horn River, Mont., 25 June 1876. Entered service at: ------. Birth: Cincinnati, Ohio. Date of issue: S October 1878. Citation: With 3 comrades during the entire engagement courageously held a position that secured water for the command.

HANLEY, RICHARD P.

Rank and organization: Sergeant, Company C, 7th U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: At Little Big Horn River, Mont., 25 June 1876. Entered service at:------. Birth: Boston, Mass. Date of issue: 5 October 1878. Citation. Recaptured, singlehanded, and without orders, within the enemy's lines and under a galling fire lasting some 20 minutes, a stampeded pack mule loaded with ammunition.

HARRIS, DAVID W.

Rank and organization: Private, Company A, 7th U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: At Little Big Horn River, Mont., 25 June 1876. Entered service at: Cincinnati, Ohio. Birth: Indianapolis, Ind. Date of issue: 5 October 1878. Citation: Brought water to the wounded, at great danger to his life, under a most galling fire from the enemy.

HARRIS, WILLIAM M.

Rank and organization: Private, Company D, 7th U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: At Little Big Horn River, Mont., 25 June 1876. Entered service at: Mt. Vernon, Ky. Birth: Madison County, Ky. Date of issue: 5 October 1878. Citation: Voluntarily brought water to the wounded under fire of the enemy.

HOLDEN, HENRY

Rank and organization: Private, Company D, 7th U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: At Little Big Horn River, Mont., 25 June 1876. Entered service at: ------. Birth: England. Date of issue: 5 October 1878. Citation: Brought up ammunition under a galling fire from the enemy.

HUTCHINSON, RUFUS D.

Rank and organization: Sergeant, Company B, 7th U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: At Little Big Horn River, Mont., 25 June 1876. Entered service at: Cincinnati, Ohio. Birth: Butlerville, Ohio. Date of issue: 5 October 1878. Citation: Guarded and carried the wounded, brought water for the same, and posted and directed the men in his charge under galling fire from the enemy.

MECHLIN, HENRY W. B.

Rank and organization: Blacksmith, Company H, 7th U.S. Cavalry Place and date: At Little Big Horn, Mont., 25 June 1876. Entered service at: Pittsburgh, Pa. Born: 14 October 1851, Mount Pleasant, Westmoreland County, Pa. Date of issue: 29 August 1878. Citation: With 3 comrades during the entire engagement courageously held a position that secured water for the command.

MURRAY, THOMAS

Rank and organization: Sergeant, Company B, 7th U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: At Little Big Horn, Mont., 25 June 1876. Entered service at:------. Birth: Ireland. Date of issue: S October 1878. Citation: Brought up the pack train, and on the second day the rations, under a heavy flre from the enemy.

PYM, JAMES

Rank and organization: Private, Company B, 7th U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: At Little Big Horn River, Mont., 25 June 1876. Entered service at: Boston, Mass. Birth: Oxfordshire, England. Date of issue: S October 1878. Citation: Voluntarily went for water and secured the same under heavy fire.

ROY, STANISLAUS

Rank and organization: Sergeant, Company A, 7th U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: At Little Big Horn, Mont., 25 June 1876. Entered service at:------. Birth: France. Date of issue: 5 October 1878. Citation: Brought water to the wounded at great danger to life and under a most galling fire of the enemy.

THOMPSON, PETER

Rank and organization: Private, Company C, 7th U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: At Little Big Horn, Mont., 25 June 1876. Entered service at: Pittsburgh, Pa. Birth: Scotland. Date of issue: 5 October 1878. Citation: After having voluntarily brought water to the wounded, in which effort he was shot through the head, he made two successful trips for the same purpose, notwithstanding remonstrances of his sergeant.

TOLAN, FRANK

Rank and organization: Private, Company D, 7th U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: At Little Big Horn, Mont., 25 June 1876. Entered service at: Boston, Mass. Birth: Malone, N.Y. Date of issue: 5 October 1878. Citation: Voluntarily brought water to the wounded under fire.

VOIT, OTTO

Rank and organization: Saddler, Company H, 7th U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: At Little Big Horn, Mont., 25 June 1876. Entered service at: ------. Birth: Germany. Date of issue: 5 October 1878. Citation: Volunteered with George Geiger, Charles Windolph, and Henry Mechlin to hold an exposed position standing erect on the brow of the hill facing the Little Big Horn River. They fired constantly in this manner for more than 20 minutes diverting fire and attention from another group filling canteens of water that were desperately needed.
 
Interim Awards, 1871-1898.  This is another Medal of Honor that today would be a Navy and Marine Corps Medal, the highest award for bravery not involving combat.


SADLER, WILLIAM

Rank and organization: Captain of the Top, U.S. Navy. Born: 1854, Boston, Mass. Accredited to: Massachusetts. G.O. No.: 326, 18 October 1884. Citation: For jumping overboard from the U.S.S. Saratoga, off Coasters Harbor Island, R.I., 25 June 1881, and sustaining until picked up by a boat from the ship, Frank Gallagher, second class boy, who had fallen overboard.
We move on to WWII.  Three Medals, from both the European and Pacific Theaters. 

First up - Marine Private First Class Epperson, with the 6th Marines on Saipan.
Epperson saw some hard fighting in his short military career.  He also fought at Guadalcanal and Tarawa.


*EPPERSON, HAROLD GLENN

Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. Born: 14 July 1923, Akron, Ohio. Accredited to: Ohio. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, 2d Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on the Island of Saipan in the Marianas, on 25 June 1944. With his machinegun emplacement bearing the full brunt of a fanatic assault initiated by the Japanese under cover of predawn darkness, Pfc. Epperson manned his weapon with determined aggressiveness, fighting furiously in the defense of his battalion's position and maintaining a steady stream of devastating fire against rapidly infiltrating hostile troops to aid materially in annihilating several of the enemy and in breaking the abortive attack. Suddenly a Japanese soldier, assumed to be dead, sprang up and hurled a powerful hand grenade into the emplacement. Determined to save his comrades, Pfc. Epperson unhesitatingly chose to sacrifice himself and, diving upon the deadly missile, absorbed the shattering violence of the exploding charge in his own body. Stouthearted and indomitable in the face of certain death, Pfc. Epperson fearlessly yielded his own life that his able comrades might carry on the relentless battle against a ruthless enemy. His superb valor and unfaltering devotion to duty throughout reflect the highest credit upon himself and upon the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
 
Next, over to France and First Lieutenant Odgen and Technical Sergeant Kelly, both of the 314th Infantry, 79th Infantry Division, at Fort Du Roule, Cherbourg, France.


*KELLY, JOHN D.

Rank and organization: Technical Sergeant (then Corporal), U.S. Army, Company E, 314th Infantry, 79th Infantry Division. Place and date: Fort du Roule, Cherbourg, France, 25 June 1944. Entered service at: Cambridge Springs, Pa. Birth: Venango Township, Pa. G.O. No.: 6, 24 January 1945. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. On 25 June 1944, in the vicinity of Fort du Roule, Cherbourg, France, when Cpl. Kelly's unit was pinned down by heavy enemy machinegun fire emanating from a deeply entrenched strongpoint on the slope leading up to the fort, Cpl. Kelly volunteered to attempt to neutralize the strongpoint. Arming himself with a pole charge about 10 feet long and with 15 pounds of explosive affixed, he climbed the slope under a withering blast of machinegun fire and placed the charge at the strongpoint's base. The subsequent blast was ineffective, and again, alone and unhesitatingly, he braved the slope to repeat the operation. This second blast blew off the ends of the enemy guns. Cpl. Kelly then climbed the slope a third time to place a pole charge at the strongpoint's rear entrance. When this had been blown open he hurled hand grenades inside the position, forcing survivors of the enemy guncrews to come out and surrender The gallantry, tenacity of purpose, and utter disregard for personal safety displayed by Cpl. Kelly were an incentive to his comrades and worthy of emulation by all.

OGDEN, CARLOS C.

Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, U.S. Army, Company K, 314th Infantry, 79th Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Fort du Roule, France, 25 June 1944. Entered service at: Fairmont, Ill. Born: 19 May 1917, Borton, Ill. G.O. No.: 49, 28 June 1945. Citation: On the morning of 25 June 1944, near Fort du Roule, guarding the approaches to Cherbourg, France, 1st Lt. Ogden's company was pinned down by fire from a German 88-mm. gun and 2 machineguns. Arming himself with an M-1 rifle, a grenade launcher, and a number of rifle and handgrenades, he left his company in position and advanced alone, under fire, up the slope toward the enemy emplacements. Struck on the head and knocked down by a glancing machinegun bullet, 1st Lt. Ogden, in spite of his painful wound and enemy fire from close range, continued up the hill. Reaching a vantage point, he silenced the 88mm. gun with a well-placed rifle grenade and then, with handgrenades, knocked out the 2 machineguns, again being painfully wounded. 1st Lt. Ogden's heroic leadership and indomitable courage in alone silencing these enemy weapons inspired his men to greater effort and cleared the way for the company to continue the advance and reach its objectives.


*Indicates a posthumous award.

10 Comments

RE: Truth is, well run battles don't provide much opportunity for heroism. Those pop up when things start to go south.

As will be evidenced once again in a posthumous award for action 1 through 23 July 1970 that will be coming up shortly.
 
Couple of things.  Splitting the force into three columns was a standard tactic in attacking an Indian encampment.  Its just the village was so darn big...  Most modern officers taking the Little Big Horn staff ride do the same thing.   A good lesson to take away would be listen to your scouts. 

Seems the medals went to Reno's men and Benteen's after they united on the bluff -- duh.

BTW, Yello Hair was the first casualty of his battalion crossing the Greasy Grass according to the Indians.  Since he had cut his hair prior to leaving Fort Lincoln they didn't recognize him when describing the event -- they just identified his clothes.  Had Custer made it into the village and attacked the whole thing might have ended much differently.  As it was, he was at least mortally wounded crossing the creek in the face of fewer than 10 Indians and his unit fell back -- another indicator that he was the casualty.  Hindsight...

In the War Between the States there was a use of primitive metal dog tags by the Union.  They were made of a highly corrosive metal and so they didn't last long underground. 
 
Just because it was a standard tactic didn't make it a good one or one well implemented, Jim.  I still assert Custer was a fighter, but not anywhere near the leader the legend created.  And when the students do it at the Staff Ride - do they do it as Custer did, regarding Benteen?

And Benteen doesn't really count as a third column in the attack, he was split off for a different scouting mission (aside from possibly apocryphal notion put forth by Benteen's supporters that it was just to keep him from the fight and the glory due to the personal issues between he and Custer).   Cooke did send the now famous "Come on...big village, be quick...bring pacs" [sic] message which wasn't all that informative and indicates Custer was winging it (which, once contact is initiated, we all do, I know). 

And Custer did *not* make his plans clear to his subordinates, nor did he have his command and control mechanism well established.  Not at least as I understand it.

There's lots of blame to go around, but I think Custer at times evades too much because he died.
 
Believe it or not I agree with you.  I am no fan of Custer, just sayin'  his actions weren't unusual for his time. Clearly his leadership gave him way too much leeway also.   Not taking an extra squadron (battalion) of cavalry because it was from another regiment and refusing gattling guns at the start of his separation from Gibbon indicate a certain lack of realism and care.  Crook didn't do so well on the Rosebud either.  There is plenty of blame to go around in this debacle.  Poor campaign plan, faulty leadership, arrogance, impetuousness and failure to issue clear orders are just a few of the problems with this mess.  My purpose was to try and explain how 226 cavalrymen could be slaughtered as it needs explanation.  226 men should have been able to establish a defense on high ground and hold out like Reno and Benteen.  Recent archeological investigation shows the Custer battalion being defeated in detail.  No coherent defense was attempted.  There is evidence that a couple of companies, Captain Myles Keogh's being one, were overrun in skirmish order but isolated from the other companies at the time.  The Indians say many of the soldiers were shooting each other or themselves - one company died in a cluster and they may have done what the Indians said.  As you say, Custer was no great leader he believed in Custer's luck, so did his troops, and that day his luck ran out with extreme consequences for the entire command.
 
And staying in character, only theologians would ask the question about pinheads.  Bishops were generally nowhere near educated enough during those times.  Now I will grant some bishops might have been theologians but hardly all theologians  were or are bishops.  Now a days there is a big change in that laymen are now the lion's share of theologians not churchmen.
 
Don't you have something work-ish to do?  ;^ )
 
Just burning G time.  You know that life. 
 
Somewhere in Leavenworth, there's a HAZMAT team searching for mouse poo that's badly in need of someone to follow it around with a clipboard...
 
Bill,

Do you have a billable number for that?  If you do, I'll get right on it.
 
Lessee...

*click* *scroll* *click* *right-click* *click* *enter* *scroll* *click* *click* *click* *click*

Got one for you if you're fluent in Guanche and can access the server in the Rift Valley.