That being said, when a recipient DOES NOT EVEN KNOW THAT THEY HAVE BEEN AWARDED A MEDAL for years or in some cases decades, they are robbed of some of these benefits and life is much more of a struggle than it might have otherwise been.
Yarmouth Nova Scotia born George L Houghton did not find out till he went to a party that he was a hero... and had been one for 38 years. It would be at a reunion of his old regiment that he would see others that were in the very battle he was, wearing their Medals of Honor. Yet he, as qualified, had none to wear. But this would change.
But let's step back a little. George Houghton moved to the US with his family when he was only about 4 years of age. They had left a 100 acre farm in what was erroneously called Canada West by most sources (It was Canada East) and relocated and again took up farming in Illinois. George would be schooled and at the start of the war when the 104th Illinois Infantry was started in 1862, he would sign up. He would participate in every battle the unit fought it from the very beginning until mustered out at the end of the Civil War.
(At the very time of this event, massive forces were doing battle at Gettysburg. And just over 1 year earlier the Andrews Raiders travelled through this very territory and would go on to earn what would be the first Medals of Honor every presented in the history of the medal.)
When the 11th came under fire orders were passed down from up the line to take out the stockade that protected about a dozen Confederate sharpshooters within. The Colonel received his instructions and passed them on to the Captain of Houghton's company. The officer called for some men to take on the job.... and as Houghton woult later testify,... "we want no unwilling men for this duty." In very short order about a dozen men, including Houghton volunteered for the job.
The attack against the stockade required the volunteers to charge across almost a mile of open territory that was well within the gunshots of the stockade. Worse yet, it was also a killing feld for the Confederate sharpshooters dug in trenches and hiding behind bushes and rocks on the other side of the river. It was also under the heavy fire of artllery throughout the charge. The Union's own artillery fired over the heads of the volunteers but that only kept sone of the enemy from firing. Houghton would sate that... "While we were rushing across the valley the whole hillside in front of us was speckled with puffs of smoke made by the enemy's sharpshooters. The enemy fire was sharp, their bullets constantly hissing about us and the escape of the entire party seems akin to miraculous."
The men charged the stockade without firing a round, they just kept charging. When they got to the stockade the dozen Confederate inside panicked, climbed a back wall and ran for the river and swam across to make their escape. The Union volunteers were instant heroes and even the compliments of their General watching the action were passed on to the men.
In 1897 several were issued but four men were no loger around the Illinois area and were thought to be dead, so recomendations did not include them.
One of the recipients was a fellow named Oscar Slaggle, who's descendants have provided me with an image of the medal he received. It is pictured here, with the medal in its actual presentation box on the right, (with someone adding a US Flag to boot) and the reverse is shown to the left.
In 1869 Houghton moved out west and had no further contact with the military until he decided to go to a reunion of the 11th in 1900. Upon arrival he met up with old comrades and many had the medal they were issued in 1897. He then got afadavits from his commanding officer, two captains, a Lieutenant, a Sgt and a few privates all giving statements to the effect that he too participated in the battle and was as entitled to a medal as were the others.
In later life George Houghton took up teaching and then worked as a lawyer. In 1898 he got married, but they had no children.
Houghton died on 25 Febraury 1917, 96 years ago yesterday, and is buried buried in Washington State.