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Today's Medal of Honor Moment for 17 September

Today is a big day for the Medal during the Civil War, with 17 awarded for actions during the Battle of Antietam. There is a soldier not listed who's citation includes Antietam and a later battle, and as is my custom, I will list him on the last day covered by his citation.  There are 25 Medals for this day, and only two of them are posthumous.

The Battle of Antietam was the single bloodiest day in US military history, with 23,000 casualties, 3,654 of them fatalities. The Union lost Antietam at the tactical level by the standards of the day - that standard pretty much being "who controlled the battlefield at sunset."  However, the victory was a pyrrhic one for General Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia, as the damage done was so severe as to force Lee to retire back into Virginia - making his attack into Maryland a strategic failure, costing him troops and materiel he could ill-afford to lose. 

The real strategic damage was the battle changed the strategic picture to the point that President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which changed the war aims to specifically include the issue of slavery - which served to keep Great Britain on the sidelines of the war, as Queen Victoria's government had been toying with providing more active and direct aid to the South.  When Lincoln made the war explicitly about slavery it made it politically impossible for the British to involve themselves deeper.

 

BEYER, HILLARY

Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, Company H, 90th Pennsylvania Infantry. Place and date: At Antietam, Md., 17 September 1862. Entered service at: Philadelphia, Pa. Birth:------. Date of issue: 30 October 1896. Citation: After his command had been forced to fall back, remained alone on the line of battle, caring for his wounded comrades and carrying one of them to a place of safety.

CARTER, JOHN J.

Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, Company B, 33d New York Infantry. Place and date: At Antietam, Md., 17 September 1862. Entered service at: Nunda, N.Y. Born: 16 June 1842, Troy, N.Y. Date of issue: 10 September 1897. Citation: While in command of a detached company, seeing his regiment thrown into confusion by a charge of the enemy, without orders made a countercharge upon the attacking column and checked the assault. Penetrated within the enemy's lines at night and obtained valuable information.

CHILD, BENJAMIN H.

Rank and organization: Corporal, Battery A, 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery. Place and date: At Antietam, Md., 17 September 1862. Entered service at: Providence, R.I. Born: 8 May 1843, Providence, R.I. Date of issue: 20 July 1897. Citation: Was wounded and taken to the rear insensible, but when partially recovered insisted on returning to the battery and resumed command of his piece, so remaining until the close of the battle.

CLEVELAND, CHARLES F.

Rank and organization: Private, Company C, 26th New York Infantry. Place and date: At Antietam, Md., 17 September 1862. Entered service at: ------. Birth: Hartford, N.Y. Date of issue: 12 June 1895. Citation: Voluntarily took and carried the colors into action after the color bearer had been shot.

CURRAN, RICHARD

Rank and organization: Assistant Surgeon, 33d New York Infantry. Place and date: At Antietam, Md., 17 September 1862. Entered service at: Seneca Falls, N.Y. Born: 4 January 1838, Ireland. Date of issue: 30 March 1898. Citation: Voluntarily exposed himself to great danger by going to the fighting line there succoring the wounded and helpless and conducting them to the field hospital.

GREENE, OLIVER D.

Rank and organization: Major and Assistant Adjutant General, U.S. Army. Place and date: At Antietam, Md., 17 September 1862. Entered service at: Scott, N.Y. Born: 25 January 1833, Scott, N.Y. Date of issue: 13 December 1893. Citation: Formed the columns under heavy fire and put them into position.

GREIG, THEODORE W.

Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, Company C, 61st New York Infantry. Place and date: At Antietam, Md., 17 September 1862. Entered service at: Staten Island, N.Y. Birth: New York. Date of issue: 10 February 1887. Citation: A Confederate regiment, the 4th Alabama Infantry (C.S.A.), having planted its battle flag slightly in advance of the regiment, this officer rushed forward and seized it, and, although shot through the neck, retained the flag and brought it within the Union lines.

GRESSER, IGNATZ

Rank and organization: Corporal, Company D, 128th Pennsylvania Infantry. Place and date: At Antietam, Md., 17 September 1862. Entered service at: Lehigh County, Pa. Born: 15 August 1832, Germany. Date of issue: 12 December 1895. Citation: While exposed to the fire of the enemy, carried from the field a wounded comrade.

HASKELL, MARCUS M.

Rank and organization: Sergeant, Company C, 35th Massachusetts Infantry. Place and date: At Antietam, Md., 17 September 1862. Entered service at: Chelsea, Mass. Birth: Chelsea, Mass. Date of issue: 18 November 1896. Citation: Although wounded and exposed to a heavy fire from the enemy, at the risk of his own life he rescued a badly wounded comrade and succeeded in conveying him to a place of safety.

HYDE, THOMAS W.

Rank and organization: Major, 7th Maine Infantry. Place and date: At Antietam, Md., 17 September 1862. Entered service at: Bath, Maine. Birth: Italy. Date of issue: 8 April 1891. Citation: Led his regiment in an assault on a strong body of the enemy's infantry and kept up the fight until the greater part of his men had been killed or wounded, bringing the remainder safely out of the fight.

JOHNSON, SAMUEL

Rank and organization: Private, Company G, 9th Pennsylvania Reserves. Place and date: At Antietam, Md., 17 September 1862. Entered service at: Connellsville, Pa. Born: 1845, Fayette County, Pa. G.0. No.: 160, 30 May 1863. Citation: Individual bravery and daring in capturing from the enemy 2 colors of the 1st Texas Rangers (C.S.A.), receiving in the act a severe wound.

LIBAIRE, ADOLPHE

Rank and organization: Captain, Company E, 9th New York Infantry. Place and date: At Antietam, Md., 17 September 1862. Entered service at: New York, N.Y. Birth:------. Date of issue: 2 April 1898. Citation: In the advance on the enemy and after his color bearer and the entire color guard of 8 men had been shot down, this officer seized the regimental flag and with conspicuous gallantry carried it to the extreme front, urging the line forward.

MURPHY, JOHN P.

Rank and organization: Private, Company K, 5th Ohio Infantry. Place and date: At Antietam, Md., 17 September 1862. Entered service at: Cincinnati, Ohio. Birth: Ireland. Date of issue: 11 September 1866. Citation: Capture of flag of 13th Alabama Infantry (C.S.A.).

ORTH, JACOB G.

Rank and organization: Corporal, Company D, 28th Pennsylvania Infantry. Place and date: At Antietam, Md., 17 September 1862. Entered service at: ------. Birth: Philadelphia, Pa. Date of issue: 15 January 1867. Citation: Capture of flag of 7th South Carolina Infantry (C.S.A.), in hand_to_hand encounter, although he was wounded in the shoulder.

PAUL, WILLIAM H.

Rank and organization: Private, Company E, 90th Pennsylvania Infantry. Place and date: At Antietam, Md., 17 September 1862. Entered service at: ------. Birth: Philadelphia, Pa. Date of issue: 3 November 1896. Citation: Under a most withering and concentrated fire, voluntarily picked up the colors of his regiment, when the bearer and 2 of the color guard had been killed, and bore them aloft throughout the entire battle.

TANNER, CHARLES B.

Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, Company H, 1st Delaware Infantry. Place and date: At Antietam, Md., 17 September 1862. Entered service at: Wilmington, Del. Birth: Pennsylvania. Date of issue: 13 December 1889. Citation: Carried off the regimental colors, which had fallen within 20 yards of the enemy's lines, the color guard of 9 men having all been killed or wounded; was himself 3 times wounded.

WHITMAN, FRANK M.

Rank and organization: Private, Company G, 35th Massachusetts Infantry. Place and date: At Antietam, Md., 17 September 1862. At Spotsylvania, Va., 18 May 1864. Entered service at: Ayersville, Mass. Birth: Woodstock, Maine. Date of issue: 21 February 1874. Citation: Was among the last to leave the field at Antietam and was instrumental in saving the lives of several of his comrades at the imminent risk of his own. At Spotsylvania was foremost in line in the assault, where he lost a leg.



The next Medal for this date was awarded during the Indian War period.

 

THOMAS, CHARLES L.

Rank and organization: Sergeant, Company E, 11th Ohio Cavalry. Place and date: At Powder River Expedition Dakota Territory, 17 September 1865. Entered service at:------. Birth: Philadelphia, Pa. Date of issue: 24 August 1894. Citation: Carried a message through a country infested with hostile Indians and saved the life of a comrade en route.


The next Medal is an interesting one.  Earned during the "Interim Awards, 1871-1898" period, it is a naval Medal that today would be a Navy and Marine Corps Medal for peacetime heroism.  What catches my eye about this award is that it is the only Medal of Honor awarded for a battle that occurred during the War of 1812.  Sort of. 

 

EILERS, HENRY A.

Rank and organization: Gunner's Mate, U.S. Navy. Born: 1871, Newark, N.J. Accredited to: New Jersey. G.O. No.: 404, 22 November 1892. Citation: On board the U.S.S. Philadelphia during the sham attack on Fort McHenry, Baltimore, Md., 17 September 1892. Displaying extraordinary heroism in the line of his profession on this occasion, Eilers remained at his post in the magazine and stamped out the burning particles of a prematurely exploded cartridge which had blown down the chute.


The Medal next appears during the Philippine Insurrection.

 

MORAN, JOHN E.

Rank and organization: Captain, Company L, 37th Infantry, U.S. Volunteers. Place and date: Near Mabitac, Laguna, Luzon, Philippine Islands, 17 September 1900. Entered service at: Cascade County, Mont. Born: 23 August 1856, Vernon, Windham County, Vt. Date of issue: 10 June 1910. Citation: After the attacking party had become demoralized, fearlessly led a small body of troops under a severe fire and through water waist deep in the attack against the enemy.


We follow with another 'interim' period award, this one from the 1901-1911 period, and it is typical of those awards.

 

FADDEN, HARRY D.

Rand and organization: Coxswain, U.S. Navy. Born: 17 September 1882, Oregon. Accredited to: Washington. G.O. No.: 138, 31 July 1903. Citation: On board the U.S.S. Adams, for gallantry, rescuing O.C. Hawthorne, landsman for training, from drowning at sea, 30 June 1903.


The Medal next makes an appearance during WWI, albeit for a quasi-combat action (which still took great big brass ones).

 

McGUNIGAL, PATRICK

Rank and organization: Shipfitter First Class, U.S. Navy. Born: 30 May 1876, Hubbard, Ohio. Accredited to: Ohio. G.O. No.: 341, 1917. Citation: For extraordinary heroism while attached to the Huntington. On the morning of 17 September 1917, while the U.S.S. Huntington was passing through the war zone, a kite balloon was sent up with Lt. (j.g.) H. W. Hoyt, U.S. Navy, as observer. When the balloon was about 400 feet in the air, the temperature suddenly dropped, causing the balloon to descend about 200 feet, when it was struck by a squall. The balloon was hauled to the ship's side, but the basket trailed in the water and the pilot was submerged. McGunigal, with great daring, climbed down the side of the ship, jumped to the ropes leading to the basket, and cleared the tangle enough to get the pilot out of them. He then helped the pilot to get clear, put a bowline around him, and enabled him to be hauled to the deck. A bowline was lowered to McGunigal and he was taken safely aboard.


Continuing a very busy day, we find ourselves in France, Luxembourg, and Germany in 1944. Schwab's award was made in 2014, resulting from a review of awards for possibly having been downgraded due to racial prejudice. The abbreviated citation is not unusual with those awards.

 

CLARK, FRANCIS J.

Rank and organization: Technical Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company K, 109th Infantry, 28th Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Kalborn, Luxembourg, 12 September 1944; near Sevenig, Germany, 17 September 1944. Entered service at: Salem, N.Y. Birth: Whitehall, N.Y. G.O. No.: 77, 10 September 1945. Citation: He fought gallantly in Luxembourg and Germany. On 12 September 1944, Company K began fording the Our River near Kalborn, Luxembourg, to take high ground on the opposite bank. Covered by early morning fog, the 3d Platoon, in which T/Sgt. Clark was squad leader, successfully negotiated the crossing; but when the 2d Platoon reached the shore, withering automatic and small-arms fire ripped into it, eliminating the platoon leader and platoon sergeant and pinning down the troops in the open. From his comparatively safe position, T/Sgt. Clark crawled alone across a field through a hail of bullets to the stricken troops. He led the platoon to safety and then unhesitatingly returned into the fire-swept area to rescue a wounded soldier, carrying him to the American line while hostile gunners tried to cut him down. Later, he led his squad and men of the 2d Platoon in dangerous sorties against strong enemy positions to weaken them by lightning-like jabs. He assaulted an enemy machinegun with hand grenades, killing 2 Germans. He roamed the front and flanks, dashing toward hostile weapons, killing and wounding an undetermined number of the enemy, scattering German patrols and, eventually, forcing the withdrawal of a full company of Germans heavily armed with automatic weapons. On 17 September, near Sevenig, Germany, he advanced alone against an enemy machinegun, killed the gunner and forced the assistant to flee. The Germans counterattacked, and heavy casualties were suffered by Company K. Seeing that 2 platoons lacked leadership, T/Sgt. Clark took over their command and moved among the men to give encouragement. Although wounded on the morning of 18 September, he refused to be evacuated and took up a position in a pillbox when night came. Emerging at daybreak, he killed a German soldier setting up a machinegun not more than 5 yards away. When he located another enemy gun, he moved up unobserved and killed 2 Germans with rifle fire. Later that day he voluntarily braved small-arms fire to take food and water to members of an isolated platoon. T/Sgt. Clark's actions in assuming command when leadership was desperately needed, in launching attacks and beating off counterattacks, in aiding his stranded comrades, and in fearlessly facing powerful enemy fire, were strikingly heroic examples and put fighting heart into the hard-pressed men of Company K.


*MESSERSCHMIDT, HAROLD O.

Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company L, 30th Infantry, 3d Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Radden, France, 17 September 1944. Entered service at: Chester, Pa. Birth: Grier City, Pa. G.O. No.: 71, 17 July 1946. Citation: He displayed conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty. Braving machinegun, machine pistol, and rifle fire, he moved fearlessly and calmly from man to man along his 40-yard squad front, encouraging each to hold against the overwhelming assault of a fanatical foe surging up the hillside. Knocked to the ground by a burst from an enemy automatic weapon, he immediately jumped to his feet, and ignoring his grave wounds, fired his submachine gun at the enemy that was now upon them, killing 5 and wounding many others before his ammunition was spent. Virtually surrounded by a frenzied foe and all of his squad now casualties, he elected to fight alone, using his empty submachine gun as a bludgeon against his assailants. Spotting 1 of the enemy about to kill a wounded comrade, he felled the German with a blow of his weapon. Seeing friendly reinforcements running up the hill, he continued furiously to wield his empty gun against the foe in a new attack, and it was thus that he made the supreme sacrifice. Sgt. Messerschmidt's sustained heroism in hand-to-hand combat with superior enemy forces was in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service .

SCHWAB, DONALD K.  

Schwab distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on Sept. 17, 1944. His courage and determination resulted in the dismantling of a strong German position and he would take one prisoner of war.
 


We then find ourselves in Korea, on Heartbreak Ridge.

 

*PILILAAU, HERBERT K.

Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company C, 23d Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Pia-ri, Korea, 17 September 1951. Entered service at: Oahu, T.H. Born: 10 October 1928, Waianae, Oahu, T.H. G.O. No.: 58, 18 June 1952. Citation: Pfc. Pililaau, a member of Company C, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and outstanding courage above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. The enemy sent wave after wave of fanatical troops against his platoon which held a key terrain feature on "Heartbreak Ridge." Valiantly defending its position, the unit repulsed each attack until ammunition became practically exhausted and it was ordered to withdraw to a new position. Voluntarily remaining behind to cover the withdrawal, Pfc. Pililaau fired his automatic weapon into the ranks of the assailants, threw all his grenades and, with ammunition exhausted, closed with the foe in hand-to-hand combat, courageously fighting with his trench knife and bare fists until finally overcome and mortally wounded. When the position was subsequently retaken, more than 40 enemy dead were counted in the area he had so valiantly defended. His heroic devotion to duty, indomitable fighting spirit, and gallant self-sacrifice reflect the highest credit upon himself, the infantry, and the U.S. Army.


And finally, a new award, for actions in Vietnam.  Morris' award was made in 2014, resulting from a review of awards for possibly having been downgraded due to racial prejudice. The abbreviated citation is not unusual with those awards.

MORRIS, MELVIN.

Melvin Morris is being recognized for his valorous actions on Sept. 17, 1969, while commanding the Third Company, Third Battalion of the IV Mobile Strike Force near Chi Lang. Then-Staff Sgt. Morris led an advance across enemy lines to retrieve a fallen comrade and single-handedly destroyed an enemy force that had pinned his battalion from a series of bunkers. Staff Sgt. Morris was shot three times as he ran back toward friendly lines with the American casualties, but did not stop until he reached safety.



*Asterisks indicate a posthumous award.
 


1 Comments

Poor OPSEC cost Lee Antietam. I've often wondered how things would have turned out if Lee had won strategically and not just tactically. Whatifs.