Well folks, that's pretty well the way many of our heroes were treated back in 1917!
First, I should explain the 50 yr delay. Many men were nominated for the Medal of Honor by their superiors without their knowledge. As many disappeared after their military service was over. They relocated across the country or maybe even beyond. The system often did not know where they were for many years and one could ask in some cases, how hard they tried to find them.
That being said, when the letters went out many learned for the first time that they had been awarded the MOH and in the same letter, that it was being rescinded. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Yesterday's blog introduced the story of the 27th Maine and how they were asked to stay on and continue serving in the army after their legal contracts had expired. They were only a 90 day unit. When the call came to move to the Capitol the unit had no legal requirement to do so. The government knew this full well. They had already had to deal with about 300 from the 2nd Maine whom they called deserters after those men left the field of battle AFTER their terms elapsed. There were other examples of the same sort of thing. The troops of the 27th were no different in that they needed to get back to their famiies and farms and other legal obligations, had done their bit and wanted to go home.
A letter I have discovered from one of the men in the 27th noted that the unit was ordered to join the march towards Gettysburg and were on route when the authorities heard enough of the grumbling, that they changed the order to a request. The Colonel then received a request forwarded by both the President and Secretary of War to please stay on for a few more days until the result of Gettysburg were known. If they would march to the Capitol and protect it, each man doing so would be awarded the Medal of Honor for their service.
The men voted and just over 300 decided that they would stay, and as the soldier's letter tell us... "The Young blood of patriotism and inexperience in our regiment was hot and rebellious at the idea of running away while a real fight... it might be a decisive one... was pending. But a large portion of the regiment were men of family and business responsibilities. They had served their time and they wanted their quittance, glory or no glory. I do not know if I now blame them very much."
The letter continued with the note that... " I do not suppose men ever wanted to go into action more than we did, and it was for the offer to do so after our term expired that we were awarded the Medal of Honor. Not a great thing to do, Perhaps not, yet putting your head into the lion's mouth is all the same when making up your mind to try it, whether the lion chews it off or not. You do take an ugly chance."
Above you can see that the offer of medals for extended service was not limited to the 27th, whom for years have carried the brunt of criticism re a massive issue of Medals of Honor. This General Order clearly shows that several regiments were entitled to the same offer, but it appears none of these were acted upon.
The MOH in Civil War days was the only medal that government had to award a soldier or sailor who clearly distuinguished himself in some manner or other. Bravery being only one of these posible situations. The medal was not thought of nearly as highly as it is today, and thus when some hear what bloggins did to get one they shudder when compairing the action to those needed today for an award to be made. Today, as a result of a Purge that you will read of later, a soldier or sailor or marine or coast guard or airman or woman can earn up to 32 different awards for various levels of heroism. Back in the 1860's there was one medal! Then and today do not compare, and thus comparing of deeds performed then and now ought not to be made.
Back to the 27th. In 1865 the government finally came to realize that 1 1/2 years earlier it promised medals to the 300 or more in the 27th who remained on duty after their enlistment terms expired. Letters were written to the unit for nominal rolls and records at HQ were examined and bureaucrats got confused and ultimately medals were engraved for every man in the regiment.
At the right is one of the medals issued. Please note that unlike most, it does not have a date enscribed on it. James Brown is not one of those who stayed behind after his term was up.
A few years ago the late John H Pullen wrote the excellent book called A Shower of Stars: the Medal of Honor and the 27tth Maine. This book is a very good read and is no doubt available at many libraries and is still available for purchase on the net. It goes into incredible detail about the 27th, the purge you are about to read more on and the ultimate demand that over 900 medals be cancelled and returned to the government of the day. I would highly encourage anyone the least bit interested in the medal to beg borrow or steal this book and read it cover to cover. It is highly informative, and great read to boot.
As noted within, the title is derived from the events that happened after the colonel hid the extra medals in his barn. Later someone broke into the barn and stole some of these medals and started handing them out to some of those who served but did not warant them. Some even had the guts to show up at reunions wearing the medal, to their own shigrin when they stood in front of their former Colonel who ordered they be removed. Not long after The Colonel died in 1897 the rest of the medals disappeared. The book goes on to tell that the kids in the neighborhood soon found handfulls of then and plays cops and robbers wearing the badges as if they were the town sherriff... and thus... so many floating about... like a shower of stars.
This blog is getting too long. I will leave the rest of this story till tomorrow, and promise to move on to other matters the following day,