I have several things that have to get done over the next several days and have to put the blog on hold till back at my desk early next week, sorry folks, bur I will be bringing you lots of news so please stay tuned in. In the mean time scroll back a few months and take your pick of blogs to reread. There are over 180 to choose from.
Hundreds had a once in a lifetime chance last week to meet, greet and get autographs and photos from 45 National Heroes a few days ago.
I was one of them. It took me 13 years of research to bring me into that room, and every one of them was worth it. It was one of the most proud moments I can remember in a very long time.
Those following the blogs in this space of late know that I spent last week at Gettysburg Pa gathering research materials and photos and attended an memorial unveiling in honour of the last living Medal of Honor recipients. It was a very long week and full of events to attend and work to do and considerable loss of sleep with work days double what I am used to. But again, it was all worth it.
Pardon the poor lighting.
About 500 veterans and members of the public came out to a local hotel and lined up in an outer area waiting for their turn to get in to meet these heroes. The area was well guarded and without a pass you did not make it past the several levels of security. Each person was given a pass over the internet that had to be brought to the hotel, or scanned into a phone or other wizardry that could be brought and produced to those controlling entry. Each guest was given a time slot that only lasted 30 minutes. Once the time was up you were ushered out and the next group allowed in. Six foot tables lined the outer edge of the large room, as seen above at behind each sat a couple of the Medal recipients with their aid at their side.
Each had a stack of autographed cards that they handed out to any requesting one. They allowed you to take pictures and even try to get in one with the recipient in many cases. Each also signed any two documents you brought along The instructions to all were clear. Some of the men have been shaking a lot of hands are were getting somewhat frail and that we ought to respect this and not try to get into an arm wrestle with them.
Before entry we were also told that there was little time and about 45 men in the room, so it was best to look for the fellow you really wanted to meet and get there quickly. The floor was yours to go in any direction you wished. If you saw no one on a line in front of a recipient then it was best that you rush over their right away etc... I managed to get to about 35 and even had a very quick conversation with each. Three in particular.
When I spoke with Captain Jay Vargas, a Marine Corps MOH recipient, I caught him off guard when I said that I had watched his video several times. He was stunned and did not know what I was taking about. I then reminded him of the unveiling of the Douglas Munro bust on the Coast Guard ship of the same name in Alaska about a year ago. Google it on You Tube.
Then he had the biggest smile when I was telling of how proud I was to see that three MOH men went to Alaska to do that unveiling and that Douglas was of course a Canadian, born at Vancouver BC. He was most happy to chat and I believe we may be in contact again.
When I stood in front of Corporal Rodolfo P Hernandez, a Korean war MOH recipient, I reminded him that we met and chatted while I was in California attending the funeral of Colonel Lewis Millet a few years back. He remembered the funeral and his aid, his daughter, also had some very kind words of the late Colonel.
And believe it or not, I actually got through the crowds waiting to chat with probably the youngest, and one of the most recent recipients, the very friendly and open minded and dedicated hero by the name of Sal Giunta. We spoke of the incredible responsibilities he now has to carry for the rest of his life and he reminded me that he has some very experienced fellow recipients that will help him to keep his feet out of the fires that will no doubt come his way in the years to come. We exchanged emails and will also hopefully keep in touch.
Here are four of the cards handed out by the recipients. They each probably went through about 500 that day. And that is a lot of handshakes folks.
The next day again another crowd of veterans and members of the pubic came out to a town hall meeting where three of the recipients would take questions from Fox News' Chris Wallace and then even take questions or comments from the public.
This was a great opportunity for each to talk about the events leading up to their being awarded the Medal of Honor and also to take questions from the public. Some where humorous but some were pretty darn serious. And the heroes also knew home to make us laugh, and then cry at hearing of the horrors each went through and how their buddies gave their all for their country and the fellow soldier on his left or right.
The image on the left has the crowd standing as they are about to march on the Colours. The centre has the four men sitting on the stage with First lt. Harvey Barnum at the left, then Staff Sergeant Sal Giunta, then Staff Sergeant Clinton Romesha and finally anchor Chris Wallace. The last picture has Sal on the left, then Harvey and Clinton and yours truly.
These two events had the public meeting and talking face to face with these three heroes and will no doubt form lasting memories for years to come.
And speaking of memories... on another subject... regular followers of this blog will recall several stories about the Devil's brigade. Watch the news over the next few days as these veterans have been gathering for the past few days at Windsor Ontario for their annual convention.
I have several places to get to on the week end and expect that the next blog will not be till Monday.
Gettysburg was one of the turning points in the US Civil War and Canadians from across the country fought and died there.
Had the battle at Little Round Top or Pickett's charge had another outcome, the United States of today would perhaps be a little more than half its size. The historic result, as so many say, saved the country and from the turmoil of war Canada saw its birth two years later.
But before all that happened, those charges happened and we were there.
Several of the Canadian Medal of Honor recipients would fight at Gettysburg. Each of these earned their medals from actions either before or after that conflict. One recipient who fought at Gettysburg and captured several sets of enemy artillery guns and a handful of POW's would later move to Montreal as a US Consul, and remain there for about 30 yrs if memory serves right. His family would grow and a son would become a major newspaper editor. Many Confederate officers including Lee sought refuge after the war in Canada.
A few days ago I visited the very spot where George Pickett's Confederates, some15,000 strong waited for the Union cannons to stop their deadly fire. They were in a line almost a mile long. When the heaviest shelling let off a little Pickett gave the orders and his men rode into history. They advances almost 3/4's of a mile across very open fields into the slaughter. Over 6500 would soon be casualties of an attack many of the officers knew was lost before it started. The Union would have about 1,500 of its own casualties.
Standing in the foreground, you are looking at the ground a mile in front of you where Pickett had his regiments spread out about a mile wide and advancing against the union's powerful cannons and 6,000 men. Look at the interpretation sign on the left. Above this and off several hundred feet is a white marker. This monument marks the very spot that the Confederates almost broke the union lines. It is called the High Water Mark, a naval reference to the high tide, but in army terms... a reference to the highest position... or farthest in this case, that the troops occupied. Be it only minutes long. But the Southern soldiers were so few in number that success was denied them. Just off to the left and less than a few hundred feet is a large red home that has survived since CW days. It was here that many say Pickett actually stood during the later part of his charge.
As past blogs have noted, perhaps as many as 700 Canadians may have participated in the three days of battle at the small town of Gettysburg. Checking those blogs will show an indication of Canadians from many provinces being wounded or killed that early July of 1863.
In this photo you are looking into the union lines and a very small portion of the cannons placed here and throughout Gettysburg. Those above are at the very spot called Cemetery Ridge and marks the Union line that was the target the Confederates wanted to capture. You can get a bit of an idea of the size of these cannons, with me standing beside one on the right.
Had the battle at Little Round Top gone the other way the day before, there would have been no Pickett's Charge as the South would have taken the battle and moved forward. But history shows that they did not take Little Round Top, had to make the charge of the following day and then got routed and repelled from Northern soil.
If you look into the back of each of these pictures you can see a portion of the hill in which the Confederates tried to climb but faced the Union lines that were ordered to hold it... at all costs. Past blogs explained the importance of holding this hill to prevent the Southern troops from attacking the Union line from the rear. It would be here that Colonel Chamberlain led his bayonet charge that saved the day. The right photo shows a marker that indicates the very spot that was the end of the line of Northern troops under Chamberlain and his famous regiment... the 20th Maine. The centre is a close-up and on the left some on the hill being held.
There are over 1,000 markers and monuments on the battlefield at Gettysburg. Veterans of most of the units that fought would later erect these in memory of their lost comrades and the heroism of 1863. The 20th Maine was no exception and here on the left and right is their marker that was put up on the battle field at Little Round Top. In the centre, an enlarged picture shows the Canadian flag, and just below this is engraved the name of NB born Alex Lexter. He fought here and died a few days later in a POW camp.
A past blog brought you the story of the actual Medal of Honor surfacing most recently that was awarded back in the 1890's to Colonel Chamberlain for his heroism in this battle. Google his name to day to find the story. Just yesterday he again made news when the new owners of that medal, a museum in Maine, had announced that they will indeed be putting it on public display in the months to come. The Colonel's name sake... who happens to have the same name...and lives in Gettysburg to boot, re-enacts the Chamberlain story and is pictured above giving his CW era salute. He told me a most interesting story that I will bring to you at a later date.
This series of photos was taken from on top of Little Round Top. It is obvious that the hill gave whoever occupied it an excellent view of what was going on with the enemy for miles.
The next blog will cover a couple of aspects of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society's convention that took place in Gettysburg a few days back.
Please stay tuned, and a note of apology for the latest of this blog. Computer issues and being exhausted from a few days of various activities prevented its getting posted on time.
cheers from Bethesda Maryland.
I thought I would start of today's blog by showing you how far I have travelled to continue my research about the Canadian Medal of Honor recipients. According to Google maps I travelled some 2,881 miles one way, to get here at Gettysburg PA.
I have received several comments of late about this work, but in most cases have not gotten back to the writers. I am incredibly busy and ask for some indulgence for the next few weeks as I am on the go all day, and still have problems with both the computer and my handheld tablet. They have been, at the least, very challenging, so please expect delays in postings and response to comments.
For those who missed yesterday's blog, it noted that Wednesday began with the unveiling of an 80 brick memorial to the 80 living Medal of Honor recipients at the time the idea was created to make this memorial. My interest in this of course is that Sgt. Peter Lemon, born at Toronto, is the last living Canadian MOH recipient and above you can see his name inscribed at lower left. To the right we see the town Mayor at the podium and standing at the far left front row, are Bruce Crandall and his companion "Huey," and Pat Brady. Sitting are Don Ballard, Joe Jackson and Harold Fritz. Standing at rear are Allen Lynch, Brian Thaker, Bob Ingram and Leo Thorsness. Google any of these names and read of their incredible heroism resulted in their being awarded the Medal of Honor. Note each wearing the medal suspended by a blue ribbon around their necks.
I was very honoured to talk most briefly to each recipient and many eyes rolled when I mentioned my long task at researching the Canadian men. And more to the point, the very long history between Canada and the US forces... including MOH history.
The son of one of these men told me an incredible story. It began with the words... "Here. shake my hand." I did as directed, Then came the story. I had already shaken his father's hand. That man once many many years ago shook the hand of a very very very old MOH recipient... who at the age of seven, shook the hand of President Lincoln. So those who know me will now understand why I have not washed my right hand for awhile.
One of the goals of coming to Gettysburg was to visit the cemetery where it is said that there are no less than 27 Canadians buried. These are KNOWN Canadians. There are many unknowns buried here and it is fair to say that some of them may also be Canadians. A past column suggested that there may have been upwards of 700 fighting here and if so, the casualty rate may also be well above 27.
Mr Wills, the prominent Civil War Gettysburg lawyer was instrumental in the creation of the military cemetery that stands today and it is believed to still conduct burials. it is the current resting place for over 7,000, and some 3,512 are Civil War soldiers. Of these almost 1,700 are the remains of unknown heroes who fought and died for the North. It is said that there are no Confederate soldiers buried here. The original plans called for all men being equal, none shall be segregated by colour, unit, state or rank. But very soon one state said no no... we must have are own section, then came along another with similar demands and another and another and so today the cemetery... is in a large semi circle broken down by state, with no regard to rank however. The men were buried as they were brought in and so a researcher with lots of time can have a look to see who may well have died before his neighbour.
The cemetery entrance gate is suitably marked and as you enter there is a very large flag pole. When I asked why the flag was flying at half mast I was told it was because of the horrific shootings at the Washington Naval Yard that left over a dozen killed and another 6 or more wounded. Original reports of using an automatic rifle were reduced to the use of a shotgun and a handgun seized from one of the law enforcement victims. The case screems for serious demands for better treatment of those suffering from mental issues and for better gun control, the first issue being well on the hot seat in Toronto and Vancouver recently. The third image is a row of graves and shows the curve in this portion of the line of markers.
I was told that when the term is unknown, this could mean one of two things. The soldier's name may be lost but at least his regiment is known. Thus, the image to the left listing his unit. But many others could not even be traced to a unit... and thus simply a number was assigned... as shown on the right.
Like so many of the MOH soldiers I am researching, the records are most vague about where the men came from. Archibald McPhee was a 28 yr old soldier in the 111th NY Infantry and died in 3 July 1863... the day of General Pickets famous charge . He was from Canada, but where, the records fail to show... so far. In the middle is the marker for 18 year old John Stottard of the 110 Pa. infantry. He was from Newfoundland. and died on 2 July 1863. Henry Curry was only 18 when he was shot dead on July 1. His name was misspelled and his unit info inscribed is wrong, but dead he still was. His home was in from Nova Scotia.
B. (possibly Bernard) Hogan was from either Nova Scotia or New Brunswick and was 37 years old, an old man in terms of average service age in the CW and died in late July from Gettysburg wounds. Mr Ashley, unknown first name or unit, was from Quebec and died on 3 July. William Almas was 18 and serving with the 7th Michigan when he was shot down on 3 July.
I have about 1/2 of the pictures of the known Cdns here and must return later in my trip to get the rest. Most of the names were originally provided to me by one of the re-enactment groups from Ontario but unfortunately I did not think to bring their name along. I will credit them at a later date. While descriptions of where they were supposed to be buried were given... you still need to do lots of stumbling about to find them.
Thank goodness I had the excellent service of Mrs. Joanne Lewis, a wonderful trained town and battlefield guide. In fact she is one of those not only licensed to act as a guide in a very stringent market or experts, but is responsible for the licensing, after training , of others in that business. She also has an association with the great folks at the Main Street Gettysburg Society of you read much praise in my last blog. They and Joanne deserve much more.
I shall return with lots more on Monday but keep in mind, like today's and Wednesday's the others on this trip may get posted rather late in the day.
cheers from Gettysburg.
I'll be in Washington DC when we next meet.
Three thousand miles later and I am thrilled to be in Gettysburg Pa, perhaps one of the smallest towns with the most visitors of anywhere else in the United States.
What a challenge its been getting here. Only took about 13 years in my research so far.
To get here I travelled by car, then by ferry, then by taxi, then by light rail, then by not one but two flights and then a rental car to get me just five from the airport. Turns out the five mile trip remaining was more like 40..but no one kept tabs anyway. And folks, if the next three weeks is anything like the first three days, then I have to say that every inch of the 6,000 mile journey is going to be worth it. In fact a thousand times over.
But where to start?
How about the computer, the tablet, the camera all going crazy on me, and of course at exactly the wrong times. Surmounting them, I've had to learn how to send and receive E Mails on the laptop, get used to wifi, deal with a motel light bulbs not working, nor a room phone functioning, find my way in the dark etc. Boy, folks sure wanted me to feel at home.
But that's not why you have come to my blog I expect... so on with the job.
My primary function today was to shake out the sleep from my eyes after about a 27 hours of being awake and finally getting into a king sized bed at about 3 pm yesterday and having a great sleep. I woke up this morning thinking part of the bed was in another state...it was SO big.
Today was the brick unveiling, a brief meet and greet with 9 Medal of Honor recipients, the town mayor and other dignitaries including the GREAT FOLKS at the Main Street Gettysburg Society and the 2013 Congressional Medal of Honor Convention Society.
These folks and others have brought together the Congressional Medal of Honor members to Gettysburg for their annual conference and to do so at such a historic town on the very 150 anniversary year of the UNCIViL War. At the same time the Main Street Gettysburg society thought it would be a most opportune time to honour the very large family of Medal of Honor recipients by dedicating a memorial to those recipients still alive. When the planning was started there were 80 members of this most exclusive club of heroes. Sadly a few have recently passed, but none the less, I believe all 80 now have their names engraved and memorialized in brick and mounted in a wonderful display, that I am told sent chills up the spines of many of the workers and officials that had a hand in building the memorial.
The image on the left is the famous Wills house and was owned by a prominent lawyer of that name who was quite instrumental in the creation of the very cemetery known today as the Gettysburg Cemetery. You are looking at the front of the building. The second image is a statue of President Abe Lincoln greeting another fellow whilst presumably during his trip there in November of 1863. The third image is the results of an earlier Main Street Gettysburg program to raise the awareness of former military and other folks and raise funds for their worth while ventures in the town. The forth is a plauque mounted on the side wall of the building overlooking the town square. It tells the story of how the President slept the night here and then went off to the cemetery to deliver his famous Gettysburg Address the next day. Readers of past blogs will remember that a future Father of Confederation from Canada spent the same night in the hotel as a guest of the President and accompanied him to the address as well. In touring the building I saw the very room that the president slept in. Someone has made the bed since.
This first image is again the front of the Wills house. The second image is of Deb. Adamik, President and Pat Rucker, Operations Manager of Main Street Gettysburg and both have just unveiled for the first time... a sneak peek of the beautiful marker that identifies those names below it as being the last living MOH recipients. I was the first apparently, other than workers and officials involved in the project to actually see it I was told. A closeup of the plague is at far right. The third image shows the plaque and in the grey outlined square below are the names of the 80 recipients.
This image shows the brick honouring Sgt. Peter Lemon, Toronto born, Medal of Honor recipient. It is on the second bottom line and 2 from left corner. Peter is the last living MOH recipient from Canada. I donated the funds for this brick and am assured am the only Canadian who purchased any of the bricks in this memorial.
The centre picture is of nine MOH recipients. There is slight confusion about a few of the names so for now, I with hold off on identifying each of these world class heroes. On the right I am pointing to Mr. Lemon,s brick and on the left I am taking a sit-down. It has been an exhausting day and my blog, that is supposed to be posted by 4 pm is now hitting the net and it is 11.20 pm.
sorry folks and good night.
(He)... "is an excellent example of the commitment to service and bravery that our men and women" ... " still provide today, much of it here at home. It is an honor to be the lead sponsor of this bill to name this building in honor of a true American
Those words were heard by members of the United States Congress on 16 July 2013. They were spoken by the US Democratic Party's Wisconsin Representative... Thomas Petri. With decades of political credentials at the federal and state level, Petri rose to address the House of Representatives with a proposal that an American hero be remembered for his bravery in a very special way. And in so doing, his contemporaries and former shipmates would also be so honoured for their continuing service to the nation. That, and the world, and usually with little fan fare when clearly much is due.
You are looking at a picture of a massive million sq ft project that is bigger than the Pentagon. It will ultimately house many branches of US government Home Security related agencies. And one of these is the United States Coast Guard, of which Mr. Petri was speaking.
This will be the first building that agency apparently will actually own.
Next week I hope to be standing in front to of it.
One of these buildings, at Washington DC is now named the Douglas A Munro Coast Guard Headquarters Building. And this is in part, due to the tremendous work the US Coast Guard does to perpetuate the true heroism of First Class Signalman Douglas Munro who was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Douglas's father worked in the railroad and power station business and worked for years in the Vancouver area of BC. Soon after the birth of Douglas (pictured to right) and his sister, the family moved across the border to the Seattle area, from which Douglas would get early schooling before joining the US Coast Guard in WW11. Past blogs have brought you several mentions of his heroism, that cost him his life on September 27 1944 at Guadalcanal. President FD Roosevelt awarded Douglas with a posthumous Medal of Honor, and actually presented it to Douglas's mother at a White House service later that year.
The US Government and the Coast Guard itself have done much to help keep Douglas' story alive. There are streets, and buildings, and monuments and statues and markers and his very grave site, which is a state historic site, to remind us of the bravery of the Coast Guard men and women, and in particular, Doug who was, and remains, the only member of the Coast Guards to ever be awarded the Medal of Honor.
There is also a move afoot to create a new commemorative coin for the USCG and some thoughts have the coin possibly displaying an image of Douglas. I will keep my eyes open for news on that and bring it forth as it becomes available.
This is the WW11, Korea and Vietnam era Coast Guard Cutter Munro, and to the right is the Alaska based cutter of the same name, both obviously named in honor of Douglas. Next Friday the 27th, will mark the 71st anniversary since Douglas took his crew of boats in to rescue 500 US Marines. Both the Marines and Coast Guard for years have making the Munro story a point of instruction at their basic training camps.
This year on the 27th, like so many in the past, the local Seattle area CG family hold a service for Douglas at his grave marker. This year they will be unveiling the refurbished guns that were decaying over the years. The marker on the right actually stands in front of the left gun in the left picture above.
HIs late sister in an interview with me years ago noted that , in his youth, Douglas used to go to this very graveyard and practice with his trumpet. He would play taps over and over again to improve his skills. Perhaps he can still here them today in the same cemetery! She also added that the few times he got convinced to go hunting, he could not shoot... cause he did not want to kill anything.
Well folks, I'm off by car, by ferry, by bus, by plane and by car again to get to Gettysburg. Stay tuned for updates.
It all starts with me being very tired and in Seattle later today.
Maybe someday they will make a movie of me... Perhaps we could call it Sleepless in Seattle... Oh, they already did that you say!
I started to tell you the story about the wonderful find of the Colonel Joshua Chamberlain medal from the Battle of Gettysburg on Friday. If you missed the blog please scroll down to read it.
Chamberlain's Regiment was the 20th Maine and he gained acclaim through the media many years after the war... and in recent decades with books and movies and articles that have made him famous... possibly one of the most famous of Civil War days.
In time of war, the soldiers biggest dread is often not what comes at you from the front... but that which surprises you from your left or right. So was the fear, at the hill known as Little Round Top at Gettysburg. The south wanted the hill for observation and control purposes. The Northern Union army obviously did not want the South's Confederates to capture it. Several Union Regiments were placed about the area but Chamberlain was given the direction that at all costs he must protect one of the flanks, the one most obviously a possible line of attack from the Confederates.
This piece of land was a sloping grade. It was almost treeless. The soil was poor and there were far too many very large rocks to make the area worth anything. In fact so worthless that just a few days and thousands of lives later the area was abandoned.
But before that would happen, Chamberlain was told by his bosses that if he did not hold the line, the union would end up being assaulted from their rear. And if that happened there would have been no need for the bigger battle of the next day... you will remember it by its name...Pickets Charge. (You might remember Picket's name from an earlier blog about the famous Pig War that almost saw Britain and The US go to war in the later 1850's near Vancouver Island BC. At that time the Americans sent Picket up to the area to check things out. He was then only a Captain at the time. And he bought along some troops and an officer by the name of Roberts ... who was a stickler for all to follow the rules of the game. In fact such a stickler that he later wrote a book you might have also heard of also... it was called... ROBERTS RULES AND ORDERS.)
The South indeed did attack from the very side that Chamberlain feared the most... but the union had the advantage... they were on the high ground. Soon Chamberlain's men started to complain that they were running out of ammunition. After some thought the Colonel then decided he would conduct a DOWNHILL BAYONET CHARGE, did so, won the battle and many POW's to boot.
It would take years for the true story to get out about the roll of the 20th Maine. Earlier stories were very skimpy on this part of history, but then in more recent years the rolls have been somewhat overblown. Never the less his Regiment saved the day and no doubt played a very important role in the overall battle and in fact that duration of the war being reduced.
These soldiers were part of G Company of the 20th Maine according to the book on the regiment by the late John J Pullen. (Who also wrote about the 27th Maine of which you have read much on this site.) There were several Canadians in this company.
Union Regiments were placed facing to the top of the first diagram and the smartest attack on them was from the Southerners to swing around from on top of the first diagram and hit the Union from the bottom of the first image... and thus... at their backs. So Chamberlain's men were spread out across the area shown in first diagram.
But then the issue arose about the most likely attack from the 20th's new front... shown in middle image. But ground to cross was best in the South's favour if they chose to do a flanking... that which was most feared by the Union. And so they took to charging up hill in the third image... and facing the 20th charging down hill with fixed bayonets.
There are a lot of great U Tube videos showing re-enactors depicting the battle, Please Google them and enjoy.
So why am I so interested in this battle. I'll tell you what the media did not!
There are many many many stories on the net about the Chamberlain medal reappearing and being donated to the very museum dedicated to Chamberlain. It is in the very building he lived in for over half a century. I cannot find a single reference in these stories... that any Canadians played a roll.
Folks there were OVER 160 Canadians in Chamberlain's Regiment. While I have the names of every one of them, I do not yet have the names of those who participated in that battle. Friday's column also noted an earlier blog I posted suggesting that in the entire 3 day battle there could have been well over 700 Canadians in the fight.
There are over 2 dozen known graves at Gettysburg for Canadian soldiers who fell in the three day battle. At least three were in the 20th. Probably a lot more but many of the graves there are marked as "Unknown" From Day one till the end of the 20th's service over the entire Civil War 1600 men served in the unit. One of ten was a Canadian. But go find that tidbit in any news article folks. I couldn't.
The above marker marks the spot where the 20th line was held. The rock wall was only 18 inches high but now is a few feet high as it has been rebuilt for "preservation's sake"??? and the entire area has been much leveled over the years and one article says it has dropped by over 8 feet in height. A few pathways were constructed to take tourists closer to the marker... said to be one of the most visited of all from the entire battle. But in putting in these walkways, instead of hauling in rock, they apparently chopped up some of the very historic boulders that were part of the very battle field of the day... and used them as the base for the walkways. So the visiting are truly walking on history.
It is either that this marker.... or Gettysburg itself.... is the most visited CW site in the entire country. And Canadians paid for a piece of that ground with their lives. As did thousands of Americans and men AND woman from countries all around the world.
I am very excited about announcing that next week I will be in Gettysburg doing research and will bring you updates over the next three weeks on my journey to continue to gather the story of not only the Medal of Honor but the brave men and one woman who went on to earn them. During my trip I will be meeting several Medal of Honor recipients hopefully, will attend an unveiling ceremony built with bricks dedicated to the honor of those recipients still alive... including Canada's last living Recipient, Toronto born Peter Lemon. and then moving on to Washington to do some more research so that I can continue to bring you the news and stories that I hope you want to see. During this trip it is hoped that I will visit the Canadian Embassy at Washington, the Pentagon, the National Naval Museum at DC, Arlington cemetery and of course do a couple of weeks research at the National Archives there as well. I expect to bring back pictures of over 50 Canadians who fought wearing the American uniforms of the day. Many of them being MOH recipients. I ought also to be attending re-enactments of Gettysburg battles and a special re-enactment of the famous Paratroop drop on Verdun during WW11 just a few miles away from Gettysburg at a place called new Oxford.
Should be a trip of a lifetime...
So please come along for the ride...by keeping an eye on my blogs.
"No battle in the world's history (to that date) ever had another conse- quence dependant upon it, nor so many mishaps, or lost opportunities, especially to the side of the Confederates, as that of Gettysburg."
So began the words of reflection of a senior General for the South when discussing one of the most famous, and most horrific of all battles in the US war that was not very Civil. Canadians were in that battle and probably most others of the war. I noted at the blog found here... at http://www.canadianmedalofhonor.com/1/post/2013/08/thousands-of-men-and-a-few-women-from-52-different-countries-fought-in-the-us-civil-war-now-you-too-canlend-your-support.html that there could have been as many as 700 at Gettysburg. Two with close connections to Canada would be awarded Medals of Honor for their bravery during battle there in Pennsylvania while several others Canadians would earn them for actions before and after the battle, but would also be there at the battle.
While I have spent some time trying to find a Canadian story about the Medal of Honor pictured here, I have yet to be successful. But If I go on the net I can find many dozen such stories in the American press. On the 10th, the press covered a major story on this very medal.
I can only hope that some day the Canadian press with spend some time learning a little more about our military heritage south of the border.
This medal once belonged to a fellow names Joshua Chamberlain, and he was at one time responsible for the lives of a few Canadians. In fact a lot of Canadians. (The image above shows a later version of the army CW Medal and has a slightly different ribbon approved in 1896.)
Joshua was born in the state of Maine and took his higher education at Bowdoin College in Brunswick Main, just a 200 mile swim west of Yarmouth Nova Scotia, on a nice day with a cool breeze. Some of his school alumni including President Franklin Pierce, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Harriett Beecher Stowe, who wrote her Uncle Ben's Cabin from one its halls.
When the Civil War started Joshua was offered the position of Colonel of the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry by the state governor. But the soon to be officer preferred some learning curve at a lower rank. He was given Lt. Colonel... but it would not be long before he was promoted to Colonel when his superior moved up to the General ranks.
His 20th Maine were at Antietam and Fredericksburg but held back from the front lines as reserve units only called upon if needed. At Chancellorsville they were bucking to get into the action but found themselves quaranteed. They had taken a tainted batch of medicine against smallpox and had to wait it out. But they'd be in the thick of things in about 20 battles including Gettysburg, Spotsylvania Court House, Petersburg, Rappahannock Station, Five Forks, the Mine Run, the Wilderness, North Anna, Totopotomoy, Cold Harbor, and at Appattomox Court House.
It would take 30 years to recognize this man as a true hero from the days of the fight at a place commonly called the Little Round Top. But be that as it may, in 1893 the President finally granted Joshua, by then a Brig. General, (and Major General by brevet) his Medal of Honor.
The above image of the MOH was issued before the ribbon it is shown with was issued. So the earlier version ribbon has been removed, Here is a picture of General Chamberlain probably after 1904 when the army version of the medal was completely changed.
He appears to be a naughty boy in this image as the recipients were not allowed to wear an old and a new version at the same time. Just one...unless of course they were one of the very few who actually were awarded two different medals for two different events. Most sources will tell you there are only 19 such double recipients. But regular readers of this blog know that I feel there were actually 25.
In this image he appears to be wearing the old CW version of the MOH on the left as you look at the picture. Two over is what looks like the 1904 version of the medal, fifth over seems to be the Grand Army of the Republic's membership badge that caused so much grief because it looked too much like an actual Medal of Honor. It clearly was nothing more than a membership badge in a club, be it a most impressive and influential club at that.
After the General passed away his family donated the later version of the medal to his old Brunswick school... Bowdoin College. Here are images of that 1904 version medal...with a slightly different suspension bar.
With the 2000 passing of the last descendant, the original CW version medal (image at top of blog) was willed to a church in Duxbury Massachusetts. That church in the years to follow had some sort of a book sale to raise funds. And one lucky purchaser discovered to his incredible excitement no doubt... that he had just become the proud owner of one of the most important Medals of Honor that came out of Battle at Gettysburg.
The news of yesterday was that this fellow had recently come forth and now, without revealing his identity, donated it to the Pejepscot Historical Society of Brunswick Maine, a society started back in the late 1800's by 16 good folks and today being one of the oldest in the state. It operates the General Joshua Chamberlain Museum and were thrilled at receiving the donation and will soon have it on display for all to come and see.
It has permitted me to use the image at the top of this blog and hopefully within a few days will make available to me an image of the inscription on the reverse.
The image to the left is courtesy of the good folks at the Bowdoin College.
Its been said many a time that the Battle for Little Round Top was the turning point of the Battle at Gettysburg, and thus, the shortening of the war.
While it clearly played a major part in that battle and ultimate outcome of the war, some say it was not quite as important as many would have us believe. That said, Colonel, turned General Joshua Chamberlain was very important to Canada, and whilst you may not have heard it from anywhere else, in the Canadian or American news of late, you are going to get that scoop on Friday's blog.
Please join me then!
He'd only been gone about 2 1/2 years, but what a venture it was. He would even become famous, but that aside, I bet you have never heard of Beaumaurice.
I'll call him Beau for ease of typing. He started his life in Canada, born to English parents, who would take their child and move back to England very early in Beau's life. But by the age of about 11 he was back in Canada. And after some serious education Beau became an engineer and found work as a surveyor with the railway in Canada's northland.
Then came the call men to serve both his countries in WW1. Beau proudly walked into the recruiting office and signed up with the 27th Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Force and soon he was back in England. Not long after he would be at the western Front, but by then he had transferred to the 2nd Battalion CEF to be with a serving brother named Charlie.
Here are images of Beau with his first unit cap badge, that of the 27th and his later regiment, the 2nd Battalion CEF.
By September of 1916 Beau found himself and unit facing the deadly trenches of the Germans in the Battle that came to be known as Flers-Courcelette. He had only been in the unit about 15 months at the time and no doubt proved his worth such that he was already wearing the rank of an acting Corporal.
His unit was ordered to take a trench that was heavily fortified and about 150 yards long, his section of course being much smaller. When the order came down, over the top his men went from their own breastworks and moved towards the obstacle..under very heavy rifle and artillery fire. And his men did not carry any rifles! They called themselves bombers as all they has were handfuls of 'Bombs"... hand grenades. Beau also carried a .45 automatic Colt pistol, that he had purchased himself.
Soon Beau realized that he was the only man standing as all his crew had fallen either dead or wounded. Nevertheless he pushed on with even more furry and then out of the back of the trench 20 Germans appeared but he just kept throwing bombs and even picked up two German rifles along the way and empty their shells into the enemy Soon all but one were dead of the ground. He brought the last man back as a POW, even though badly wounded by a bayonet scrape to the leg.
The battle took place near Courcelette in upper right of map...and some 40 Klms N/E of Amiens France.
A month later Beau's unit was order to capture part of the German occupied trench lines that the Canadians dubbed... the Regina Trench. This line of trenches had passed back and forth several times between both sides and thousands died trying to take or hold it. On 11 October 1916 the Allies were trying to retake it and had called down Artillery fire for hours... as had the Germans when things started going bad.
And bad they were for Beau, who had arrived in a part of the trench and huddled against a wall to escape the potential dangers of all the shells dropping . One landed close by and caved in the back wall and instantly buried Beau. Brother Charlie raced to his aid and when he finally found and dug his brother out, the Cpl. exclaimed that he knew Charlie would find him. But his back and spine were crushed and he had to be med evacuated to friendly lines and an aide station for recovery.
It was around that time that his officers recommended Beau for the Victoria Cross. And about the same time that he would be quoted in the press saying that "I don't care so much for the Victoria Cross, as getting home for a couple of months."
Beau would never see home again and sadly passed away as result of his battle wounds on 19 October 1916.
In 1917 the Governor General of Canada presented the Victoria Cross posthumously to the family at a ceremony said to have over 30,000 in attendance. It was one of the few time in the history of the medal that it was actually presented on Canadian soil. It now rests at the War Museum at Ottawa. But don't ask to see Beaumaurice's medal. It is doubtful anyone will know what you are talking about.
The Victoria Cross was issued to him under his nickname.... and that was Leo. And you may well have heard of Leo...Clarke... one of the three WW1 VC recipients who all lived on Pine Street in Winnipeg in the 700 block. The same street that had its name changed to Valour Road back in 1925 in honour of Beau...oops...Leo, and his comrades... Frederick William Hall and Robert Shankland.
This sign was presented to family, and is an exact duplicate of those in use on the road in Winnipeg today.
Cpl Lionel (Leo) Beaumaurice Clarke performed his deed that resulted in the posthumous awarading of the VC exactly 96 years ago today.
Rejected twice by army, waits over two years, then accepted on 3rd try, goes on to earn a Victoria Cross!
Compared to others of the day, Walter must have felt like an old man when he applied to serve with the Canadian Army back in 1914. He was already 33 years old when the average age was said to be between 20 and 27. And some were younger. Thousands actually. In the British service, possibly including Canadians, 50,000 soldiers who went up against the enemy in the Battle of the Loos in 1915 died. They aged from 14-16 years of age. On the first day of the horrific 1916 Battle of the Somme, 500 "Boy Soldiers" were killed. And that number jumped to over 18,000 by the time the battle was over.
Canadian records show an enlistment of a 9, 11 and 12 year old in WW11 and one "ALMOST 10." So, as noted, Walter must have felt like an old man When he walked into the British Government's recruiting offices in California to sign up and finally got accepted. Then aged 36 or 37. He had already tried twice in Canada a few years earlier but some unknown medical condition resulted in his being rejected at Vancouver. Upon enlisting he was sent right back to Canada... to Victoria were intake papers were signed on 10 July 1917, and Walter then became Private Walter Rayfield, with the 7th Bn of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. (The unit was also known as the First BC Regiment.)
Walter was born at Richmond-on-Thames in 1881, schooled there and at London and then he emigrated to Canada. He was working in the Vancouver area in the real estate field when the Great War broke out. After failed attempts from Vancouver to join up he moved to California and found work as a lumberjack in the Los Angeles area. It would be there that his 3rd attempt to join up was successful.
He was assigned to the 7th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, also then known as the First BC Regiment. His collar dog above has been shown on this site in the recent past regarding other Canadian VC recipients. Note the Collar dog on his collar in the centre as an "Old Man." The right picture is the cap badge he would have been wearing in those days.
Fourteen months after enlisting with the 7th Battalion, Rayfield would find himself with the unit about to start the push against the German defensive line called the Droucurt ("B" on map) Quent Line ("A" on map). The line got it's name as it ran between these two French towns.
The battle would launch the beginning of what would be later become known as the "100 Days Offensive" as those next 100 days would finally draw a close to the war.
But Rayfield's battle of 2/4 September 1918 would see that battle line pushed to the east some 40 miles, a major accomplishment of the war for the Allies.
During the battle Rayfield would be singled out with several others for incredible bravery. Under intensive enemy fire and without orders directing him to do so Rayfield charged way ahead of the rest of his troops and attached a trench that looked like it had quite a few enemy in. After bayonetting 2 Germans, ten immediately threw their rifles down and became his prisoners. Later, he stalked an enemy sniper that was killing many of his mates. He not only managed to shoot him, be jumped into the very pit he had occupied and found the enemy so overwhelmed that a full 30 more threw their weapons down in disgust and panic, and they too became his prisoners. Still later, private Walter Rayfield would crawl out under gauling fire to rescue one of his wounded comrades.
In December of 1918 he was awarded the Victoria Cross for these three acts of incredible bravery. Above are the five medals he would be presented for his WW1 service. Note him wearing the VC in picture above. The medal of the far right was awarded by the Belgian government and is that for a Member, Royal Order of the Crown of Belgium. Here is his London Gazette announcement of his being awarded the VC...
A month after the Buckingham Place presentation of the VC in March 1918, Walter was back in Vancouver and taking his release. Medical conditions required a short hospital stay but upon release he took up farming in the thoughts that it would help him get better.
Later he would move to Toronto where the press would refer to him as "Canada's Sergeant York." ... of US Medal of Honor Fame. (Before receiving his VC he was promoted to Cpl and then Sergeant.) He would continue a military career, on a part-time bases in the militia as a Lieutenant and then captain with the Queens York Rangers.
For full time work he turned to Toronto's famous Don Jail. There he would be first working as a deputy Governor, but before long he would be advanced to Governor. Still later he would be appointed the Sergeant-at Arms at the Ontario Legislature and would remain at that post till death in 1949.
He lies today at rest in a Toronto Cemetery and his medals are now held by the wonderful National War Museum at Ottawa which I have been privileged to visit for several days a few years back, and have praised in past blogs. His deeds that earned the VC were performed 95 years ago the beginning of this week.
NOTE NOTE NOTE
More than 180 blogs and nine months ago I started writing these blogs. The original intent was to do a daily blog, as some that have braved the long trip with me will recall. After a few months of working 7 days a week, I found a calendar that said most folks only worked 5 days a week. So I did what most do, I followed suit and dropped the frequency to five weekly. Since then I have introduced my second favorite topic... those Canadians who earned the Victoria Cross.
But I'm now at a dilemma. I have covered the basic story of most of the MOH recipients and no doubt will be at that point with the VC recipients some day. These, and of course the odd side trip along the way, and updates as required still do not need a blog 5 days a week.
Beginning Monday of next week I will be scaling the blogs back to three days a week...Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with adjustments were needed for new and exciting info, holidays falling on one of these days etc. I also need time to get in some more research and believe it or not, have other interests that are also beckoning my attention.
Within a few weeks I will also be doing some serious research and away rom my usual desk, but will do my best to still meet the 3 blogs a week whist away.
I hope all understand, stay tuned, and for Pete's sake... (who ever he is) drop me a line once in awhile to let me know what you think of the work I am doing,
cheers till Monday.