There were 98 medals awarded for action at Mobile Bay, 63 at Gettysburg, 56 at Sailor's Creek, 52 at Petersburg, another 52 at the Cable Cutting incident during the Spanish American War, and 24 at Little Big Horn which in later years caused considerable controversy. Add to these the 34 captioned above. In every one of these battles except one, a Canadian or a hero with Canadian connection in one case, would be awarded a medal of Honor.
One of the 2 Canadians involved in the captioned headline must have found that it was a very long treck from Moncton New Brunswick to the wild plains of Arizona and New Mexico in the late 1860's. And even farther away from Prince Edward Island for the 2nd fellow. But nevertheless that did not stop George Wortman of NB and Thomas Gay of PEI to join up in the famous US 8th Cavalry. And that only came after their active service in seperate regiments during the Civil War that had just ended about a year earlier.
Both, and many other Canadians served during this period and since, with the 8th. Both would earn medals of Honor in the events about to be discussed. Three other Canadians would also serve with the 8th and be awarded MOH's for other actions but I will leave these for other blogs.
Sgt Wortman and Pte Gay would both serve in the 8th's F Troop. Private Thomas Gay signed up on 7 November 1866, possible at Taunton Ma. Exactly a week later Sergeant George Wortman signed up for service with the 8th Cavalry at Carlisle Pa. and would soon be riding a train across the entire country to California to join his unit.
During the mid 1860's the white man was at the early stages of a war with the native population that would span several territories, states and undeveloped lands. There would be numerous periods of fighting, then a little peace and then more fighting that would span some 30 or more years in the US development of the country. The whites would discover gold or start farming, or push through mail service across the lands and pony express that all called for the growing of crops and the raising of animals and housing for the workers and developement for the families that all encoached on what was clearly native lands before they came along. This of course resulted in pushing the natives farther and farther away from their grazing and farming lands passed down by forefathers, their hunting and fishing being curtailed, and their culture and way of life being reduced in attempts to force them to assimilate into the "white way of life." Most of course objected to this and thus arguments would turn into skirmishes that would turn into battles. Each side would take their turn at committing atrocities, and then of course the other side would respond in kind. When the politicians of the day could not accomplish their goals they sent in the military to do their bidding for them. The 8th would be in the midst of all this.
Wortman and Gay and 32 other members of the 8th US Cavalry would earn Medals of Honor between August and October of 1868. Consulting the known reference "bibles" to read their citations will produce the often repeated problem in MOH history. That being a real lack of detail about what was done and when. A search for any of the 34 will tell you that each member was simply awarded his medal for..."Bravery in scouts and action against Indians. " They would all be awarded in July of 1869 and probably presented shortly after.
On one mission the 8th had headed off to the area of Lynx Creek were a band of Apache were thought to be hiding out. (B on map, and A being the fort.) The troops on this occassion numbered between 50 or 60 and constantly in the saddle for almost 90 days and regularly being under fire from natives hiding in bushes or crevices of the rock and other natural shelter. The men would be in danger from them 24 hours a day on this mission.
Pte Gay, who would later be interviwed and would state that on the day in question, if any were worse than the others, there were only about 15 troopers in the march. Their mission as per usual, was to clear the area of any known native camps. Keeping the area open and safe for the miners and settlers was of prime importance. It would be near Lynx Creek or Copper Cafton that a fight broke out between 100 and 150 natives. They would be chased off into the wilderness were they were more adept than the Cavalry and soon disappeared to fight another day. Gay would state that he felt that while all the patrolling was important and very dangerous, this event was probably the most impotant and for that, as well as the others, the 32 were ultimatly awarded their medals.
Gay would also declare that he was personally wounded three times while in the 8th and was involved in no less than 32 different battels or skirmishes with the natives.
Wortman is buried in Denver Co. and Gay is buried Attleboro Ma.
As noted elsewhere on this site, the creation of both models of the newer Medal of Honor markers are shown here. Both were designed in part by yet a third Canadian, WW11 MOH recipient Charles McGillivary also from PEI. He was the President of the MOH Society at the time, and is the only President ever of that most prestigious society to be a non American born President.
By the way, Pte Thomas H Gay of PEI died 118 years ago today, on 28 Feb 1895.