But it starts with a caveat... you ought to really reread four earlier posts on today's subject. You can do that now, or come back to them after reading today's post. It will be a brief recap and then the news. But for the fuller story, go back to the earlier ones as well.
They are at...
The story is about Charles Robinson and three other sailors from Civil War days. Charles was born in Scotland and came to the US and served throughout the war in the navy. He then moved to Nova Scotia, got married, raised a family and spent the rest of his life there and is even buried there. The three other sailors were Peter Cotton, Pierre Leon and John MacDonald. There is no known connection between Canada and these later three. But all were awarded a Medal of Honor. Or was it two?
All four were on a ship called the USS St Louis in early February of 1862 when it and other ships and the army did battle with two Confederate forts known as Henry and Donelson The South lost on both accounts. The union vessels then became involved in numerous skirmishes including at what became known as Island 10. Soon after this the navy discovered that the USS St Louis had to undergo a name change. It was recently purchased from private interests and made shipshape for war service. But the navy did not do its homework. They already had a ship of the same name and so now they had to change the name to something else. Thus, from then on it was known as the Baron De Kalb.
Under the new name it and several other vessels took part in what became know as the Yazoo Expedition.
During this time the USS St Louis/Baron de Kalb not only had two different names, it was involved in major battles at the forts and in the Yazoo. But these were in two different states and several hundred miles apart. The later also occurred 10 months after the battle at the forts.
Not too complicated I guess!
But then there was another factor. There was another Charles Robinson... who also was awarded a Medal of Honor for actions on yet another ship... the USS Galena. His medal was forfeited because he later apparently deserted. I say apparently because there are plenty of cases of a soldier or sailor going missing because he was in a hospital or POW and mislabelled as a deserter. From the discoveries I have made over the years, what one says sometimes is completely wrong.
A critical reading of the various sites that provide information on who earned a MOH, when and for what clearly shows that in the case with these four, the description of the events leading up to the medal slightly change over the years. They ought not to have done so. But the gist of all suggest that the awards were for actions during the Yazoo incident.
I have yet to find the actual document written by any commanding officer connected with the Yazoo incident that says what these four men did and when to be so awarded. There is a general description of what the vessel did though. Further complicating matters, the ship, regardless of name, went through several officers commanding during the periods concerned, none served at both the first and last mentioned incidents so they could not possibly recommend on other actions other than the one they had first hand knowledge of.
Yet the citations say the commanding officer recommended the men, giving no details of exactly what they did, other than general mission information, with an added caveat.. "and for other actions" How could they recommend for other actions when they were not even there? Dahhh!
The citation does not even have the name of the commanding officer who made the recommendations.
The records are messed up. They have the deserting Robinson on the non deserting Robinson's ship. They have both being born in same month and year and place which is wrong.
If the men were involved in several actions and the award was for a lot of activity at each, one would think the most prevalent action would be listed with the generic comment added at the end of the citation re... "other actions," And a very close read of the wording says most distinctly that the other actions were during the Yazoo activity.
So, it would be most fair to conclude that the medal was earned for actions at the Yazoo...including minor actions at the same place... and not elsewhere.
So far so good.
But then reality steps in. I can not find any medal for Pierre Leon. But his file tells that it can not be found cause it sank with all his possessions when the Baron De Kalb was sunk by a torpedo. In fact, the Leon file has documents from family seeking a duplicate medal and being told by the navy that IT HAS NO RECORD OF WHAT THE INSCRIPTION ON THE MEADAL WAS and then the head of the bureau an ADMIRAL no less... sent a BLANK medal to the family and allowed it to inscribe whatever they wanted DAAAAA! I can find no record of what they wrote. Perhaps that he flew to the moon!
What I also cannot find are any files so far on MacDonald or his medal, or what is written on it despite what all the normal references say it is for.
To really complicate matters, the Peter Cotton medal has been located And so has the Robinson medal. They have identical inscriptions, and they say nothing about the Yazoo. They are clearly inscribed for bravery at the battles of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson. I have images of both to prove this.
I have written to the naval department and the Congressional Medal of Honor Society about this matter on more than one occasion and neither can offer any suggestions on why the two medals found or so inscribed.
My argument of course, based on the above, and much better detailed in the referenced earlier blogs, is that Cotton and Robinson and probably the other two did not get a Medal of Honor. They got two, and the 2nd in all cases has yet to surface.
But then came the trip to the archives. Darn it!
Like the handful of files I was able to locate, the Robinson pension file has a lot of information previously unknown to me. Gems including dates of service and ships on before and after the well noted Yazoo incident on the internet were located. Information about his home and business in Halifax and the fact that he owned other properties was of interest as well as the fact that he was a landlord of sorts in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Also noted in the file was a little about his naval service plus tidbits about a battle at Island 10. It was here that one of the big, one of the big guns near his gun position was blown up. As a result of this several men were killed and a dozen including him were wounded. One of the dead was thrown across the deck and landed on him. This caused internal problems in one leg, and a screwed up ankle and eventually rheumatism developed in both legs which would later form part of the justification for a pension.
Here is one of the documents found in his file. It as from back in 1880.
This is the first part of a 2 page document that was sent along to the office of the Treasury Department. The lawyer writing asked what was happening with the Robinson application for a pension.
Attached to the first page was a sketch that a child would make of the medal. Something akin to a child's rubbing of a coin.
The sketch was almost a rubbing of the inscription as noted at the left.
It was this description, and the entirely different story about why a medal was awarded, plus numerous discrepancies as noted in earlier blogs that set me off on a search for over 5 years to see if this man and the other three did not have just one, but two Medals of Honor.
Another document found in the file was a letter from Charles' wife after he died. His pension was approved and collected on for years but cancelled when he died. It was then up to the wife to apply and go through another process to qualify for it to continue, and at a lower rate of course.
Regardless, there are two things that have jumped out at me in seeing this letter. First off, it says the medal was awarded according to what Charles said over the years of the marriage, for actions in spiking the guns at both Forts. But as you have seen from above, that's not what the reference materials all say. They argue it was for actions on the Yazoo.
As interesting, she mentions spiking guns. So does the pension file for Pierre Leon. But his files say that the spiking took place at Island 10. So now we have 3 locations were the heroism is rewarded for. The Yazoo, the Forts and Island 10.
Leaving the geography aside, something else jumped out at me. Here is a woman who was married to Charles for about 3 decades. She talks about his medal and uses the term...THE medal. If there were two, would she not make reference to two medals, Surely if two, she would have known about it.
Later in the same file I found the closest thing I may ever get to the smoking gun... if you will. A hand written account of his service of several pages in length that HE WROTE. And here is an entry from that report...
Note his comment that they spiked the guns off island ten. He was part of the same crew spiking the guns and one of them... Leon claims to have the medal for spiking guns... and Charles wife says he claimed spiking guns (though at wrong place, maybe) and now Charles says he was spiking guns. Could the inscription on his medal just be plain wrong. YES.
But as they say on all those TV commercials... Wait... there's more...
Here in his own handwriting Charles Robinson says that he received a bronze medal (the Medal of Honor) and noted how it was described as being for actions at the Forts' But the point I want to make here is that he says he got A MEDAL... if he got two would he not have noted a 2nd one as well!
I think so!
So folks, while I believe that all the evidence seemed to suggest that he and at least one if not all three others noted here got two medals, the constant reference to one medal seems to suggest that I may have gotten this wrong.
Until further information comes forth I therefore will concede begrudgingly, that it appears Charles Robinson only got one Medal of Honor.
As if that is not enough on its own.
Cheers, and please note that I am taking a break on Friday to prepare for three November 11 events and presentations I will be making on the Canadian recipients of the medal. Monday of course is the holiday, so I will be back next Wednesday.
In the mean those north of the border can celebrate Nov 11 even going back to the War of 1812. It was on 11 November 1813 that we taught the Americans a lesson at Crysler's Farm but we are buddies now. And on Nov 11 1865 Mary Walker's Medal of Honor was approved by President Johnson. It had earlier been approved by President Lincoln but with his death it was revisited by Johnson and implemented.
So lots to consider on the 11th folks.