Life's complications have yet again resulted in a few day delay. The Sunday blog ought to be posted for Wednesday night... if not earlier.
Sixty three years ago this week the United States Senate passed a bill authorizing the President to award a medal to four very rare men.
The medal was almost as rare. It was the Congressional Gold Medal and the senate directive to the Treasury Department said they could spend up to $3,500 to strike four medals, send them off to President Eisenhower and he, or his delegate had the authority to present these to the four rarest of rare war veterans.
They were the only ones left. Of the 2,213,000 men (and women) who fought on the Union side, there was only one left. And three from the Confederate side. And its safe to say the Confederates were very rarely awarded medals by the US Congress.
The three inch circular medals of gold authorized by the 18 July 1956 bill contained images, as shown above, of Generals US Grant and Robert E Lee. On the reverse are shown the Union seal at left and Confederate seal on right.
The inscription reads... "presented with honor to the surviving veterans of the War between the States, by Act of Congress, United States of America."
The medals were supposed to be presented to Albert Woolson, a Union soldier from Minnesota, and Confederates William Lundy of Florida, John Salling of Virginia, and Walter Williams of Texas.
Out of several million who served these four were said to be the very last of the last Civil War veterans.
A few months before the end of the war Albert Woolson signed up with the First Minnesota Volunteer Heavy Artillery as a musician. His father was so employed with the unit till killed a few years earlier. His mother finally gave in to his hounding and allowed Albert to take his father's place in the same unit as a 17 yr old drummer boy. Six months later, and after no front line action, he was released at war's end.
Albert spent many active years with the Grand Army of the Republic, and at age 107 was still known to pull out his snare drum to play a few beats. He appears above shortly before death in a hospital bed while his nurse lit his latest cigar. At left a few years earlier he appears, at left, proudly wearing his GAR membership badge. It looks very much like a Medal of Honor, a matter commented on in this space in past blogs.
Just a few weeks after the July announcement of the medal being made, Albert passed away. None of the 4 medals were yet presented and, as being a survivor was mandatory, only three were later awarded... all to Confederate veterans. At death Albert was still serving in the GAR and was in fact its Snr Vice Commodant in Chief. As its last member to pass away, the powerful organization, once numbering over 400,000, was then closed down.
President Eisenhower's birthday wishes to Albert were joined, as in many of his last years, by cards of best wished from thousands.
The President, Vice President Nixon and some 3,000 attended at the famous Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg about a month after Albert's death to witness the Sons of the Union Veterans as they unveiled this, larger than life depiction of him, as an old veteran, sitting on a tree stump and staring off in the direction of the famous on coming Pickett's brigade some nine decades earlier. The monument is not only a trbute to Albert but to all union veterans and their historic Grand Army of the Republic.
This picture of the three Confederate survivors was taken in 1951.
On 5 October 1956 General Twining, the Air Force Chief of Staff at Washington DC presented 108 yr old Willam Lundy with his Congressional Gold Medal in Florida. Lundy passed away a year later. He is believed to be the vet on the left in above picture.
Almost a month later, on 1 November Secretary of the Army Hugh Milton presented John Salling, 110 yrs old, with his medal, and the day after, presented the medal to Walter Williams who was 114 at the time.
Salling is belived to me in the center in above picture, and died in March of 1959. Williams, belived to be on the right, died a week before Christmas in 1959..in his 118th year of life.
He was the last of over 4 million who served in the Civil War!
hope to see you next week
There once was a time when bread was such an important commodity that laws were passed to ensure the baker gave you just what he was supposed to. In other words... he'd better not short you on the total weight and ingredients in what you were buying.
In the early days of Egypt a baker selling you a bill of goods that were not quite up to snuff could get his ear pinned to the wall of his shop. If the baker in Babylon cheated you and got caught, he could get his hand chopped off. In Britain it would take several centuries before tough rules for the bakery profession were slackened.
In order to make sure the baker did not goof up in his or her preparations of the day, many simply decided that more was better than less. Instead of just giving you the dozen ordered, he'd throw in an extra just for safety (his own). And thus, so say some, came the term... the bakers dozen.
Well folks, today I am going to share with you my list of the first bakers dozen of 13 Victoria Crosses being awarded to Canadians, or those with connections to Canada.
And the list will be without sleight of hand. Pardon the pun. hehe.
The idea came to me as a result of recent news with regards to the RCMP doing special sentry duty at Ottawa's Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers/National War Memorial, outside of the Parliament buildings. (shown above)
Back in 2006 some buffoon decided the memorial was fit to urinate on. Since then the summer months have found the memorial under the watchful eyes of volunteer military sentries during daytime hours for the summer months, and recently expanded till Remembrance Day.
The press release by Canadian Press and many others noted that the Mounties have performed this sentry duty on July 5th for years. This is a special day for them, and all Canadians, as it was on that day, 115 years ago that a member of the North West Mounted Police, saved a wounded man from heavy fire in the Boer War and was later awarded the Victoria Cross.
That man was a fellow called Arthur Richardson. He was born at Southport England, but moved to Canada in his youth. He signed up with the NWMP and served several years but asked for a leave to join the military for service in the Boer War. Granted leave, he joined the Strathcona Horse and on 5 July 1900 he rode out under severe enemy fire to rescue another soldier who had his horse shot out from under him and was also under heavy fire. The bravery was recognized by the awarding of the Victoria Cross on 14 September 1900.
Sgt Richardson is shown in all three photo's above. The first probably with the Lord Strathcona's pre July 1900, the center image after his receiving the VC worn in the picture and the third whilst later back with the NWMP.
The Canadian Press (CP) news release dated 3 July told of the RCMP's sentry duties being performed on the 5th. It also had the curious statement that... "Richardson was the first member of the Canadian Armed Forces to be awarded the prize, which is reserved for officers who served the crown in the presence of the enemy."
Regular readers of my blogs know how I and many others feel about any reference to an award that trivilizes it. The Victoria Cross is the most widely known and recognized medal of bravery in the world. IT IS NOT A PRIZE. Prizes come from winning in tiddlywinks.
Further, the CP ought to surely know that the VC is NOT RESERVED FOR OFFICERS, but can be awarded to any man or woman, regarless of rank.
And had CP done some research, it would have also come to the conclusion that there have been several awards for actions NOT IN THE FACE of the enemy.
Past blogs have told that when speaking of the first awards, there are at least three ways to look at the matter. Each produces a separate list. First there is the date of the action resulting in the award. Second is the date the subsequent award is approved and made public, and the third is of course the date in which it is actually presented to the recipient, or relatives in the case of a posthumous award.
Sergeant Richardson's award was a first for a Canadian serving in a Canadian unit you are looking at a list of gazetting dates. But the award was second to Lieutenant William Nickerson when you look at a lits of action dates. Nicherson's took place on 20 April, over two months before Richardson's deed resulting in the VC award.
That being said, here is my compiled list of the first 13 Victoria Crosses awarded to Canadians or those with ties to our country.
By Date Of Deed....
Alexander Dunn from Toronto Ontario
Herbert T Reade from Perth Ontario
Willam Hall from Horton's Bluff NS
George Richardson from Ireland
Timothy O'Hea from Ireland
Douglas Campbell from Grose Ille Quebec
Raymond De Montmorency from Montreal
Henry Douglas from England
William Nickerson from Dorchester NB
Arthur Richardson from England
Hampden Cockburn from Toronto Ontario
Edward Holland from Ottawa Ontario
Richard Turner from Quebec City Quebec
And by Date of Gazetting...
Dunn (details for all are above)
Arthur Richardson became the first in a Canadian Unit, as noted above, as those before him served in the British Navy or Army. But by nationality he was far from the first to be earn the medal.
That aside, his bravery is without doubt most deserving, and nothing in this blog is intended to diminish anyone's respect and admiration for this hero.
Hope you will join me again next week,
He was a navy enlisted man who served in the navies of three different countries and on no less then 14 war ships. But most reports fail to make note of one and often a second country of service.
In a late June Globe and Mail story of his latest recognition the article stated that... "at age 15 he joined a merchant marine ship and moved on to the Royal Navy at 22." Thus said, service to two countries was simpy errased. Hmmm!
I of course am referring to the great Nova Scotia born man of colour... Petty Officer William Hall, born at Horton's Bluff, some 80 km NW of Halifax. Hall's story has been oft mentioned in this space. He was the son of escaped slaves, the mother having escaped slavery as the DC capital was burning, and the father enroute to America from Africa as part of a slave cargo, when the Brits seized it during the war of 1812.
Born in 1827, his early teens took William to the sea in mechant ships but by early 20's he left that career at Boston and joined the US Navy. He would serve for two years on three war vessels, the USS Franklin, The USS Savannah (the Admiral's flag ship) and the USS Ohio.
On this later ship William served with Lt John Taylor Wood. During the Civil War of a few years later, Wood served as a lieutenant on the Confederate Merrimack, faimed for its battles with the Monitor and other Union vessels in 1862 that resulted in navies around the world changing the way they built navy war ships.There are many Canadian connections to that battle, including the Medal of Honor. Wood was also a relative of a Confederate President and his decendants made excellents names for themselves in the RCMP. A son was the first Canadian killed in the Boar War, despite an erroneous date on a monument at the NS Legislature. Wood also became a legend in Halifax during the chase of the Confederate Tallahassee. In later years he retired at Halifax and today rests at its well known Camp Hill Cemetery.
After his US service William Hall went back into merchant trading and soon found himself leaving one of these vessels in England and joining up with the Royal Navy. But William was not the only black Canadian who served with the American Navy.
Some say that thousands took the Underground Railway in reverse to fight causes including the end of slavery. The US National Park's Service alone has a list of over 70 blacks serving in the US Navy in that war. And that is just the navy, and just from NS. Many more no doubt also took up the cause, in both the army and navy, and from other provinces also.
The story of Nova Scotia's Ben Jackson has surfaced over the years, and noted elsewhere at this site. As is the story of Nova Scotian Joseph Noil, who went on to earn the Medal of Honor but is very little known in his own province, let alone the rest of Canada, or even with Black History historians. He rests in a grave at Washington DC on the very land that now houses the US Coast Guard Headquarters. A base named after Vancouver BC born Douglas Munro KIA at Guadalcanal, and a posthumous MOH recipient. His was the ONLY Medal of Honor awarded to a coast guard serving member. Though this blog has recently discovered a former coast guard member that went on to earn the MOH in the army.
This airshot of a portion of northern Washington DC shows, within the triangle, the cemetery where Joseph Noil is buried. Past blogs have told of my continued montoring of the move to have a very old marker for Noil updated at this site. To the left is the US Coast Guard headquarters building complex, also noted in past blogs. Most interesting that real-estate within just a few miles of the actual US Capitol has a connection to the both the east and the west coasts of Canada within its boundaries.
Willam Hall's heroism in the Crimean War and during the India Mutiny are well covered in the press and on this site in the past. The image of the left is his actual Victoria Cross awarded during the Siege of Lucknow in 1857. An image, from an old photo of about 1900 appears at the right and a much older William is seen at the center.
I was most priviledged to have seen and actally hold this Victoria Cross many years ago when living in Halifax and visiting the Nova Scotia Museum where the medal is held.
Hall left the Royal Navy for two years with other RN men to man a gunboat of the Imperial Emperor of China. Their durties were to help curtail the pirates and smugglers along the nations river system.
He would then return to the RN for continued service and retired in 1876 to return to Nova Scotia and a farm life after sailing with the British alone for over 20 years.
In Febrary 2010 Canada Post marked the 100th anniversary Cdn. Navy with issue of the Willam Hall commemorative stamp.
The RN's HMS Shannon is in the background. This was one of 11 Royal Navy vessels he served on, and in which he served in the Shannon Brigade to free the men, women and children under siege at Lucknow, and where he earned his VC.
Notice his Victoria Cross is without the blue ribbon he, and
about half a dozen others from Canada were entitled to wear up until the Royal Air Force was created. The ribbon was then taken out of service and all then went to the standard crimson colour of today.
The ribbon, in his words, was "borrowed by a relic hunter." He also is wearing the Indian Mutiny Medal, the Turkish Crimea Medal and the Crimea Medal.
Willam Hall's latest recognition for bravery, as noted in the title of this blog, is in the form of an Arctic Offshore Patrol Ship, which will be named in his honour. The announcement came from the Associate Minister of National Defence in late June.
This image is an artist's concept of what the Halifax Shipyards will build. There will be between 6 and 8 constructed and will be known as the Harry DeWolf class, named after Bedford (just north of Halifax) born Harry DeWolf who served for over 42 years in the Cdn Navy and retired with the rank of Rear Admiral.
He would no doubt be thrilled to learn that his name was affixed to this class of vessel and that his name would also appear on the first one to be built, as will Hall's from Nova Scotia on another from the same class of ships.
More news next week