Well earlier this week many interesting things happened while I was manning my booth at the BC Museum for Remembrance celebrations. It was the fifth time I had a booth about the Canadian Medal of Honor recipients displayed at the event.
A fellow appearing to be a vet came up to the booth and starting talking about the MOH and then pointed to three medals he was wearing. They appeared to be American and perhaps Vietnam era medals. He said that one was the CONGRESSIONAL GOLD MEDAL OF HONOR. I of course told him that there was no such thing. There was however a CONGRESSIONAL GOLD MEDAL. Having seen and held one of them a few years back I knew that he was mistaken and that none of those worn was such a prestigious medal. He wandered off and reappeared later and called it something else. He allowed me to take a photo and I will later try to identify each of the three medals on a later date.
Then another fellow and his wife approached the booth and while talking the couple mentioned that a grandfather fought in the Civil War and when he passed away he left a trunk with some military papers and several medals in it. When he described one of the medals, it sounded like a Medal of Honor. When I showed them images of the MOH they said that it looked a lot like what they had. When they mentioned that it was in a box.. I showed them a picture of a CW army MOH in a presentation box and they think that was what they had. They even added that the ribbon looked familiar.
I was like a kid in a candy store because having another MOH found in Canada would be great. There are only a handful, less than a dozen that I know of... and only two currently on public display. Two more will hopefully also be put on public display but I await news on that front.
Meanwhile, since we first met the couple have now emailed me several images, great shots of two different medals thought to be the MOH and several other images.
These four images are not the Medal of Honor. All are images of the GAR badge of membership. The first two are off the internet and shown the authorized front and back of the badge. The third is another image off the net and the fourth is the image sent to me by the couple. The first and second are the legitimate first approved ribbon and its positioning. The ribbon on the third is misaligned. It comes in a long strip and the field of stars are supposed to be at the top... not bottom. The fourth is the first I have ever seen of this ribbon, though that is not to say it is not a valid ribbon.
This is an enlarged image of the reverse of the GAR badge. Note its major differences with the reverse of an actual Medal of Honor on the right that gives the name of the recipient, the date and place of the event usually.
On the right of course is the real Medal of Honor, a Civil War army model.
Note the position of the ribbon on all medals. The real one never touches the actual medal until years later when the device was made to be word around your neck. But the GAR ones always seem to touch it. Note also the image of the eagle is slightly different and in the MOH it rests above 8 cannon balls, but the GAR has ten.
Also emailed to me were these images of an army Colonel's rank and may be indicative of a GAR status as the commander of one of its posts across the US.
In 1866 Doctor Benjamin Stephenson started an organization that would, in the years to come grow to almost 1/2 million members. It would be the equivalent to today's legion and was called the Grand Army of the Republic. Its goals were those that aided the returning veterans and programs were conducted nationally with representation for every state in the country. These "departments" would be further broken down in community branches... or posts. The group was most influential on the political and military fronts and its membership boasted many of the highest naval and army ranks and included 5 men who would go on to become President of the United Sates.
One of it goals was to better the vet's lives by the creation of pensions for them. They pressured the government to create such benefits. While a men's organization, they did allow one women in. She even got a pension and, at her death was given a full military funeral. You have read about her in these blogs in the past. Her name was Sarah Emma Edmundston (aka Edmunds) ...and she was a Canadian from New Brunswick.
One of the earliest programs the GAR created was what would become known as Decoration Day. On such a day you were ordered by the GAR to go to veterans graves and lay flowers and plant a flag and show your respect. Today that day is known as Memorial Day in the US.
The above monument, only a few minutes walk from the congressional buildings at DC... and the Canadian embassy, by the way, was dedicated back in 1909 and is now listed in the US National Registry of Historic Places. I admired it numerous times while in the downtown DC area recently.
From the above images you can well see the trouble folks had for years in identifying the real medal from the badge. This was a part of the underlying issued that moved the government forward on the famous purge of 1916 that costs so many men their LIGITIMATE Medals of Honor, as you have no doubt read in this space several times.
But enough for today.