A few days earlier, but back some 69 years ago, many closer to home had some real concerns about the British Colony of Newfoundland. It's long heated debates concluded with the decision to break away from Britain. And it had chosen April 1st as it's day of entry into our Dominion. Cooler heads of the day prevailed to avoid any possible silliness connected to April Fools and moved it back to March 31st. Regardless they were and are a most precious part of our Dominion today.
Same goes for the North West Territories. It became two separate territories when some 2 million square miles of the Eastern portion broke away and formed what we today know as Nunavut. That happened 19 years ago today.
Happy birthday to both Territories!
Closer to home for this blog, my last entry noted that today's would be dealing with the March 25th US celebration of National Medal of Honor Day. Such being proclaimed by Congress in 1990, and signed by the President. It's first celebration was in 1991, 28 years ago last week.
On March 25th, back in 1863, the first ever Medals of Honor were physically presented, to six of the escaped famous Andrews Raiders. They had been paroled from the Confederates and immediately invited to DC to tell of their incredible daring adventure, torture as prisoners, convicted in sham trials as spies and all ordered to death by hanging. Eight were. Two twice! But that's all in past blogs here.
When the six were finally paroled, they were rushed to Washington to tell of their dangerous advance several hundred miles into the heart of enemy territory. They told of the seized rail engine and several rail cars from the immediate area of a enemy drill camp of some 10,000 Confederates. Details were given about an 8 hour chase, little distance between raiders and pursuers, the race along almost 100 miles of track and destruction they caused along the way. They added that exhaustion and running out of fuel, caused them to eventually have to abandon the engine just about 20 miles from their destination at Chattanooga Tn. Thus being forced to flee for their own safety in unknown woods. Within 24 hours all had been caught.
It was 156 years ago this Friday the 6th, that Union civilian spy JJ Andrews, having previously met and given the go ahead, met with his 2nd in command.. another civilian spy by the name of William Campbell and some 20 soldiers to start their plan in motion.
Having traveled over 130 miles in deep enemy territory over several days, the Raiders met up with a southbound train at Chattanooga Tn. Then they traveled south to Marietta Georgia on rail cars also loaded with Confederate soldiers. Spending the night in a hotel room the next morning they caught the same train northbound. It stopped as depicted in above painting, at the Big Shanty for the crew and passengers to have breakfast.
That was 12 March 1862. The day neither the North nor South would ever forget. The day that the train capture and destruction to Confederate facilities began... and ended. And the very day in which the South later proclaimed, would have been devastating to the Southern war, had it succeeded.
It included two being very heavy, and actually breaking their ropes, falling to then ground and being recovered. Then left to watch the corpses of their comrades for about an hour. They were then rehung. One having his neck snapped immediately, but the other being too tall, and feet reaching the ground strangled over a long period until an onlooker got a shovel and brushed the dirt below his feet away to let him die as quickly as possible and bring to an end his insane torture.
Of the other prisoners, some had escaped after several moves from prison to prison. But by March of 1863, the remaining six were finally paroled and spirited off to Washington for briefings.
Here are pictures of the day for first recipients of the medal...
They stripped him and used four Confederates to drape him across a large bolder and started to whip him and demand details. They whipped and whipped and whipped, until after 100 or more lashes and him near death, they panicked about what might happen to them if he died. So they let him off the rock. And then threw him bleeding and near death into the 9 foot rat infested pit where some 20 other prisoners, some being Raiders, were being held. This after getting no info whatsoever from the youth.
Jacob's five comrades at Washington requested he be the first to receive the medal of Honor, and what he was given is shown above. The Secretary of War complied. Note that when created it had no date, nor details of deeds performed.
Often in this space I have talked about the first medals, ie the first earned, the first presented, and the first by General Order.
While clearly Parrott was the first ever to be presented with the medal. check out this 1886 book's details on the six raiders.
The column regarding date of action is not shown above. But in its place were the words... "1862 special service under General Mitchell." (He being the officer approving the raid in the first place.)
It should be further noted that with the 30 December Parrott date given above, this was 9 months after the presentation. And during that time no less than 67 sailors were awarded their medals. I have not researched army medals in that time frame.
Details aside, no intent whatsoever is being made to downgrade the rightful status Jacob Parrott and his Raiders deserve in the history of the medal and the United States itself.
The six Raiders were all offered commissions. Some declined. Parrott became a 2nd Lt in May of 1863 and a year later was promoted to Ist Lt and served throughout the rest of the war.
He later married and had children. One of these actually married one of the other Raider children and thus had two Medal of Honor sets of parents, if you will.
These and a upright version of marker were designed and created by a committee tasked with the President of the day, to reflect the importance that these heroes mean to the US... and the world. and one that could be unveiled during the Bicentennial year.
Of note to readers, the president of the Congressional MOH Society at the time, one playing an important part in the committee, was Prince Edward Island born Canadian Charles McGillivary, the then president of the CMOH Society, and a MOH recipient for bravery in action during the WW11 Battle of the Bulge.
So there you have it folks.. the first recipient, the date of same, and thus the date we now celebrate as MOH day across the US. Hopefully some day a similar event can occur in Canada for all of our 100 plus recipients.
See you next week with another story of a fellow I bet you never heard of before.
cheers and again, a Happy Easter to all.