A more careful reading of our history however, reminds us that 3 months earlier...on 9 January 1861, the same fort was attacked, sort of, by the Southern men on Morris Island. From their fort across the harbour, cannon shots were fired at the Norths' ship... "Star of the West" who had attempted to enter the harbour and approach Sumter to resupply.
Many will recall the decade old movie... GLORY, and the 54th Massachusetts Infantry. (About 3 dozen Canadian men of colour served with this unit.) The movie was about the North's battle to take Morris Island's Fort Wagner... and slaughter of many coloured troops in July 1863.
Shifting focus now, about 300 miles to the north west is Marietta Georgia. And slightly north west another 100 miles is a place called Chattanooga Tennessee. Between these two places there was a major railroad that was critical to both sides of the war. The line was critical for the movement of men, supplies and military intelligence between both centers.
Since several lines converged at the northern end, the taking of the line from the Southerners could result in a massive affect on the entire war. In fact it could have come to a crashing halt... and the saving of some 600,000 lives, and possible years of future battle.
With this, along comes a Northern civilian spy by the name of James Andrews. He sells the idea on the north to give him the authority of sneaking 200 miles into the southern territory with 8 men. They would conduct a daring plan to actually capture a northbound train from the Marietta area, run it north to Chattanooga, cut telegraph lines, burn several bridges, pull up some rail ties and completely cut the connection between the two centers.
Plans fell apart when one of the crew, in what would become known as Andrews Raiders, got caught while hanging around and waiting for the other raiders to gather and start the plan. This northern man was pressed into service with the south. Little did they know what the fellow was waiting to do. Regardless, the plan was to fall apart because he was the only one of the 8 that could drive the train.
So plans were set about to do it a 2nd time. On 12 April 1862 plans had evolved to the point that the train engine, known as "the General," several box cars and passenger cars were seized just north of Marietta. Note the date, one year to the day after the accepted date, but wrong, for the start of the war at Fort Sumter.
Past blogs have told of how the Raiders eventually ran out of firewood, and had to abandon the venture just a few miles from their destination. Earlier stories here also tell how the original group of about 2 dozen were reduced by one falling asleep and not making the breakaway, and I believe a few others not showing up to begin with.
When the train was abandoned the men ran for their lives in the woods. Many were caught, tortured repeatedly and some hung as spies after an incompetent trial. Some later escaped. Finally the remaining six were released, and these brave soldiers made their way to Washington DC to meet with officials to give their reports of the very dangerous venture.
Regular readers of this blog have often read about the constant flow of misinformation about the medal going back to day one, as I shall now show. There are as many reasons as there are years it was awarded.
Here is an important reference tool... a book written about the Medal of Honor, and by the US Adjutant General back in the 1886... possibly the first after the civil war ended, and thus a great resource for researchers.
While the above six medals were presented on March 25th, we see from this book that they were not issued...ie... approved with Presidential signature one assumes, until the dates above listed. These being many months AFTER March. Worse yet, the first, Jacob Parrott's approval seems to have not arrived till 30 December. This was nine months later. And in that time there were at least 67 sailors that got the medal, by date of approval, or general order, and who knows how many other army medals to boot.
So, as noted often in the past in this space, whomever got the first depends on how the question is asked. Is it by date of action, date of approval or date of presentation?
This reminds me of something someone once said. The comment was that..."When a man forgets his past, he has no future."
So, not forgetting our past, lets jump ahead to the year 1990.
On 15 November it was signed by then serving President George Bush, and was to become effective the following year on 25 March, representing that date back in 1863 when the above 6 received their medals. It however seems to have been limited to that year alone. Though unofficially there has been some recognition for the day of remembrance over recent years as well.
During the visit the president was given a most recent book about some 200 of the recipients. Most came with autographs. With other meetings scheduled, this meeting was cut short, and on the 25th, for unknown reasons the President chose to go to his Virginia Golf course and held many more meetings there. But while in the Oval Office he did make a note of a holiday being created for MOH Day, though I have no further details on that yet.
Some presidents have visited Arlington to lay a wreath of the 25th. This year the honour fell to the 25 with two laying the wreath in the president's absence.
Sacred Arlington National Cemetery is the resting place for over 365 Medal of Honor recipients, about a dozen being from Canada, and at least another dozen Canadian non recipients.
Enough for today!
Next Sunday I will be away of a research trip... but the blog returns the following Sunday... April 9th