Well, I think Frank might have been one of these kids. He came from a place called St Jean, about 20 miles south east of the St Lawrence River and the city of Montreal. He would claim a birth in 1841, yet his death certificate would claim 1838. Many years later he'd state that he never knew his father, didn't know his mother's maiden name and in fact did not even know his real name. Losing his mother at age 5, the next half of his life would be spent with an Aunt. By age ten he ran away from home and ended up in the United States.
Where he went, and what he did for years are unknown but by the age of 18 or twenty he was apparently in the paper making business or in mining and claimed residence in Northampton Massachusetts. From here he would enlist under the name of Frank E Boise, on 21 June 1861 in C Company of the Massachusetts Infantry. But it is not thought that he went into any battles with them. By mid Feb. of 1862 he probably got bored with little action in his life of a soldier and so he became an Able Seaman with the US Navy's Mississippi Flotilla. Within days he was transferred to the USS Cincinnati and would get more action than he would ever have expected. But with this transfer his name suddenly became Frank Bois.
Much later in life Frank would claim that as a youth he could not speak English, and his French was not all that good either. His friends just kept calling him Frenchie and that soon morfed into Frank and so he just kept using this name in everything he did. Much like the story of Louis Chaput who for years served under the name Copart because officials could not understand what he was trying to say, again in broken English. (You hopefully already read about him in an earlier blog in this space) Since Frank never returned to Canada, nor had contacts with any distant relatives, he would never get any confirmation on his real name.
But the Admiral turned to Naval Lt Bache, a direct descendent to none other than Ben Franklin, and asked him to take the USS Cincinnati and take out the two big 7 " Brooke Rifled pieces towards the North of town. But to get to them the ship would have to pass many of the 37 other guns,
And the Confederates were smart boys. They had managed to capture some of the signal codes, and learned of a planned early morning attack. So the Southerners simply lowered their guns to make them disappear from view on the waterside. They also placed lots of brush in front to further conceal their points. And the Cincinnati sailed right into the trap. It came in the form of murderous shelling and even though the vessel had earlier placed bails of cotton along the edge of the warship and even some logs to protect the men, the shells just drove right through them. Even the guns on the ship from the other side were moved over to the land side for extra firepower, but when the vessel was well within range, up popped the guns from the bluffs. The Union vessel then were helpless as they could not raise their own guns to the right elevation to deal with the new enemy facing them. Within minutes a 128 pound shell came ripping through all the extra protection and dropped down into the magazine area and then went out through the bottom of the vessel. Then came another and another and another and bodies were soon strewn all across the decks.
The captain had no option but to plow through the horrendous fire and make it past the bluffs and then ground the vessel to allow the men to escape before she sank. They found a spot and tied up but it gave way and since the steering was by then badly damaged, she just drifted into about 18ft of water as a sitting duck and eventually sunk. Several men on board could not swim, and about 4 or five that could helped them ashore and came back several times to help others escape death. Finally they made makeshift repairs on one of the damaged rescue boats onboard and allowed the remaining wounded and their captain... who could not swim either... to escape.
Meanwhile our man Frank was doing his best to keep up sending off signals as he was a trained signaller, and also the ship's Quartermaster. He would be one of the last to vacate the ship and before he left he grabbed the unit colours and nailed them to what was left of a stump, all of the masts long since being blown away, In doing so he allowed the colours to fly until, the very last minute before his vessel went under. Many men were killed wounded and went missing in that horrible day.
On 10 July 1863 Naval General Order # 17 was issued that announced that 26 Medals of Honor had been awarded for various battles. Six went sailors of the USS Cincinnati for this event, including the man with no name... Frank Bois.
Frank would later serve briefly on the USS Lexington and then his term would be up and he left the navy at Cairo Illinois in September 1863.
On 29 August 2009 one of these medals was donated to the Medal of Honor Museum onboard USS Yorktown. The donors of record were the FBI. But the real donor I guess was the scoundrel that either attempted to sell or buy the medal, which of course is illegal in the USA. Next time you are there ask to see the Thomas Jenkins Medal.
Another one of the recipients from this event was a sailor named Martin McHugh who was buried in an unmarked grave in Illinois for 117 years till a fellow researcher and member of the Medal of Honor Historical Society of the US, of which I am the only Canadian member, discovered the hero's whereabouts. He then took the necessary steps to have a proper marker placed indicating that the fellow as an American sailor and MOH recipient.
Frank never married and it is unknown what he did but he was living in Washington State since about 1870 until his death in 1920, with a brief interlude when he was reporting in mining ventures in Alaska possibly in 1897. By 1907 he was applying to enter the States Old Soldiers Home in Seattle or Orting and was drawing a pension of $10 at the time as a reward for his receiving the Medal of Honor. In November of 1916 he was issued a certificate by the Navy Department that, as a result of the 1916 purge, ruled that his medal was indeed a valid one, and that his name had been confirmed as entered on the Army and Navy MOH Roll and the following year showed that he was still receiving his $10 pension, but was then also getting another $37 each month for his Civil War service and invalid status as a result of that service.
Frank was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, mentioned in yesterday's blog, and upon his death in 1920 he was given a military service at the GAR cemetery in Seattle. In May of 2001 a Seattle area researcher by the name of Lee and others made the necessary arrangements for a new MOH marker to be placed at his final resting place and no doubt conducted an honourable service for the 50 or so that gathered to pay their respects.
AFTER his death it was discovered that upon his christening many a year ago he was given the name of Louis Jerome Bois. He was known to use the surnames Boyce, Boise and Bois, and never the given names of Louis or Jerome.
Louis Jerome Bois is the only Medal of Honor recipient buried at the GAR cemetery, be he under the wrong name, and surrounding him are dozens of other Canadians, many who also served in the Civil War.
His Medal of Honor deed took place exactly 150 years ago yesterday.