The above are not James' medals, they are just used for imaging. By the way all are Civil War medals. The first and third being army versions and the centre one being a naval medal. Note the rare fouling on the anchor. The centre has the original army and navy CW ribbon, whilst the one of the left has a later (1896) army ribbon. The one of the right is probably someone's imitation of a real ribbon but looks like a fake, though the medal apparently is the real thing.
James Madison Cutts was born at Washington DC in the mid 1830's. He would get his formal schooling there at the Emerson Preparatory School. This was a private high school that ensured its grads where ready to take on further challenges and more serious education at higher levels. According to the net, it could brag that of its grads...all went on to further education, James being no exception. He would attend AM Brown where he would earn his Bachelor of Law Degree in 1856 and then further legal training would be his from Harvard.
It's not too difficult to see where he got his given names. He was a great nephew of a man with the same name... who also lived in DC. He was the fifth President of the United States. During the famous debates between Abe Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, both men wanting to be President, James was further connected. His younger sister was married to James. Though she was his 2nd choice. His first was someone named Mary Todd who dated him a few times then saw better prospects with the man he was debating... and chose to marry Abe Lincoln.
Two powerful DC connections that may have helped him when he needed them at the capitol.
One of their officers was Colonel (later General) Burnside who liked to wear lots of facial hair...and thus the term sideburns that we are familiar with today. Burnside was called up for duty yet again. He had served earlier in several campaigns including the Mexican War, and thus possibly the..."Welcome Home" sign above. These men are some of the men of the First Rhode Island. It is unknown if Cutts is among them.
Cutts would be serving in Virginia when a new unit called the 11th US Infantry was formed. He was appointed as Captain and transferred from the First to this unit in mid May 1861. Over the next two years he would perform quite well at the unit level and would soon be bouncing back and forth between Rhode Island and Massachusetts at the HQ level. He'd serve as the Assistant Quarter Master for the State of Rhode Island, an Aide de Camp for Burnside, who was by then a Major General and even as a Judge Advocate for the Army Department of the Ohio. But soon his bright shinning star would get tarnished.
In June of 1863 Cutts found himself at the wrong end of a court martial. Probably not a career enhancing situation for a legal mind and officer to be so disposed. It seems that a fellow officer of equal rank and he were having a tiff about who could use Cutts' desk at the office. Words were exchanged and they got nasty. His first charge was thus that he was using unbecoming language towards his counterpart. A second charge was that in his wring to a superior about that same officer above noted, his choice of words were quite uncomplimentary and in fact insubordinate. So the 2nd charge held his feet to the fire over his insolent attitude towards his boss. But the third was the killer. That charge had him climbing up and peering over a door way through some sort of a window in a hotel hallway and watching a woman getting undressed. Naughty Naughty!
At trial he pleaded not guilty to the first two but admitted his wandering eyes on the third count. He was found guilty of all three charges and ordered to be released from further military service.
The matter went to the President, the guy married to the lady who once dated the guy who married Cutts' sister... remember!
Lincoln confirmed the court findings, but chose to set the punishment aside by making it a stern reprimand to be placed on his file. He in fact actually wrote the young officer a rather fatherly note of advice about disagreements with fellow officers and other matters that seemed a little inappropriate for those holding the rank of a commissioned officer. In short, his career was saved.
Cutts was quite set back by the events of the court martial and vowed to all concerned that he's get back on the right track and soldier on. He in fact did that and more particularly found three separate opportunities to show the world that he was not only a good officer who had simply stumbled a little, but that he was also a brave man to boot.
His first test of those traits would be at the Battle of the Wilderness in early 1864. As the Captain of an infantry company, he found his men separated from the rest of his regiment during very heavy and confused fighting. He held his men together when those of the left and right had to retreat in chaos. Holding his ground and rallying his troops, Cutts was able to finally move the men back in an organized fashion and then back even further to friendly lines. In August of 1864 Cutts would receive a brevet promotion to Major for theses actions at the Wilderness.
Just a week later his did the same and showed his leadership at or near Spotsylvania were in a large part, the cause of his entire regiment getting the most highly cherished praise of General Meade, then the Commanding officer of the Army of the Potomac. This action also resulted in a brevet promotion for Cutts to that of a Lieutenant Colonel.
About three weeks later Cutts led his unit from the front... as they charged on the defences at Petersburg. While in a position leading his troops on he was shot in the chest and thought to be dead. Under darkness his body was retrieved and the soldiers were stunned to find him still alive. He was immediately evacuated to a hospital where he would remain till recovered.
In 1866 cuts would be back in uniform, but this time in a regular army unit and back at the rank of a Captain, with yet another new regiment...the 20th US infantry. As such he commanded the post at Shreveport under General Sheridan till again getting himself in trouble.
Again at the wrong side of the table at a court martial, he was now accused of being drunk on duty, abusive, inappropriately dressed and declining a duel when he was called out to protect his honor. At trial it was made known to him that he would be dismissed this time if he lost his case. He did. It was not appealed and he took his release in in 1868.
Captain Cutts relocated back to the DC area and went back to work as a lawyer. It was later discovered that General Meade many years earlier had recommended him for A MEDAL for bravery based on his actions at the Battle of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania and Petersburg. Some suggest that with all of the troubling details also in his file, the approval was long in coming... but nevertheless... on 2 May 1891 he was awarded the Medal of Honor...not three medals... but one award for actions at three different places and times. Never before or since repeated in any awards to my knowledge.
He lies at rest with some of his family at the National Cemetery at Arlington among over 365 other Medal of Honor recipients.
Some of these are from Canada as noted in many past blogs.
NOTE: Monday is a holiday in Canada and yours truly will be enjoying it.
The next blog will be next Tuesday.