Well... lots more!
This little mini series, as it is turning out to be, is about the incredible resources men and women of colour have brought to the front lines when called upon to stand up against enemies of their homeland. And in so standing, these same warriors faced as much discrimination more often than not from the very comrades who stood shoulder to shoulder with them on the front lines. Or perhaps at desks far, far away from the dangers of the front lines.
Part of the story of discrimination involves the failure to recognize heroism, simple because of skin colour. Coupled with this are the oft heard excuses such as... it is too late now to fix it.. it had to be done within a few years of the event, or we needed written statements from officers of the day attesting to the heroism sought to be honoured with medals.
These are gut reactions and signs of simply protecting the status quo long since that status lost it's quo. It is always easier to find an excuse when...with a little hard work, positive results are also within reach.
Hersford's case is one such example!
He'd be one of over 7,000 deaths in the 3 day battle of July 1863. Total casualties, MIA, POW etc numbered over 51,000...in a borough of some 2,500 citizens.
You have probably read about Hersford in my earlier blogs. But that was his 2nd given name. His first was Alonzo and his last was Cushing, a family that saw 5 brothers serve in that war.
Cushing was severely wounded several times but still manned his cannon and died doing so. It appears that he was not recommended for a Medal of Honor during the war or until decades later. Clearly he should have been.
So much for the requirement for an earlier recommendation. Neither does it seem, that an officer had to be an eyes on witness to the heroism before making the nomination.
Truth be told... it was not an officer, nor a witness but a TENANT of a building Cushing's parents used to live in that started making recommendations for the awarding of the Medal Of Honor.
Never mind recommending within a few years, Alonzo's nomination came in 1987. Then 124 years later. Several runs at it finally succeeded when a 1st cousin twice removed stood with others at the White House to posthumously receive the Medal of Honor on behalf of Alonzo Cushing. It was then November 2014. Stories are easily found on the net about the ceremony.
I tell you this today to show that regardless of the rules of the day, when an injustice takes place it can be fought. Though undoubtedly the odds are often against you. But a fight can be won by continuing to gather information and supporters and money and holding peoples feet to the fire.
In this case it would be the US Congress that would finally approve the medal and the request that the president of the day make it happen. He did.
The awarding of the medal gives the man or woman incredible pride and no doubt a desire to keep striving for higher goals in life. He or she is a pillar for his family, his friends and relatives and co-workers who will also want to emulate his or her actions. These awards are also door openers for many things in life that would simply not come the way of the hero had the award not been made. And for most with the medal, they would say almost to a man... or woman, that the medal is not their's. It is a burden, and a duty to carry for life in remembrance of those left behind.
And as such, the withholding of issue... for wrong reasons is an injustice to all who put their uniform on in the past and for those that will come along tomorrow and stand between us and our enemies.
Alonzo's immediate family never learned during their lifetimes of the hero status the nation assigned to one of their family members. That injustice can never be repaid... ever. A medal awarded years or decades later is but a start but with some efforts could have been better handled.
Same for John.
This Newfoundlander was one of the many heroes on the USS Kearsarge and involved in one of the most exciting and famous Civil War naval battles.
John Hayes has been mentioned several times in this space. As has his Medal of Honor. In June of 1864 his actions off the coast of Cherbourge France resulted in his being awarded the Medal of Honor in December of that year.
Trouble is nobody thought to track him down and tell him this. Nearly blind and in financial difficulties and living in a military old folks home he would be stunned one day in seeing his name in print. It told of his award. An award made 40 years earlier. Forty years and none could find him and deliver his medal to him. Hmmm.
When he wrote the government and learned where it was being held, he demanded its immediate release. They were so impressed they took the corroded medal and a rotting ribbon and MAILED them out to him. Some thanks!. AFTER a 40 year wait he would get to wear it a few times before he passed away 7 years later.
How many stories did he never get to tell because they couldn't find him. So they say.
How many other medals are being held to this very day, and what steps are being taken to locate descendants in each of these cases? Who knows? Or cares?
Ontario born Benjamin F Youngs earned his MOH also during the CW when he captured an enemy flag and was presented a medal in 1864. But records would later show he was listed as a deserter. Such listing usually resulted in medals being rescinded, and probably illegally. (For the same reasons noted often here regarding the 1917 purge.)
But Benjamin's medal was not taken away. Instead, when he applied for a MOH pension, that application was denied. So he caused an investigation to be held, the erroneous classification removed and the pension awarded going forward, but without any back pay. Nevertheless it was a partial victory when Congress created a special Act, voted and carried it to remove the negative listing back in 1925.
Again yet another example of fighting all odds to right a wrong.
During the Civil War about 1.6 medals of Honor out of 100 went to coloured men. In the period between the end of the war and the start of the Span. Am. War about 4.2 per 100 awarded went to men of colour. In the Span. Am. War the number increased to about 5.5 in every 100 awarded.
While more and more men of colour were allowed to join, and actually be used on the front lines increased as time went on opportunities for heroism obviously increased. But having said that, the numbers still suggest that prejudice actions still played a very large role in the award of these medals pre the era of the two great wars and beyond. And this is what I will be covering next Sunday in the last on this series.
Hope to see you then.
In the mean time it has come to my attention that the search engine on this site is yet again not functioning and steps are presumably being taken to yet again fix this. If you ever try to use the tool and it is not working, please let me know so that actions can be taken to again fix it.