It was 121 years ago yesterday that Canada lost it's 4th Prime Minister, the Right Honorable Sir John S.D. Thompson. He was Canada's first Roman Catholic PM and had only served a short time when summonsed to Windsor Castle to have an audience with Queen Victoria. He would be made a member of the Queen's Privy Council but ill health took its toll and he died on 12 December 1894 while still in England.
The Cemetery was... and is called the Holy Cross Cemetery and within it is the historic Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrow. Back in August of 1843 between 1 and 2,000 volunteers shown up one bright morning to build the chapel and by day's end it was done. The cemetery would be the first for the Catholic faith in the city.
But above at left is the well marked grave of the former Prime Minister. At the front of this grave is a graveled pathway that travels left to right. The right leads off to the city street... a few dozen feet away. To the left the pathway takes you deep into the cemetery. There are grave markers on both sides of the pathway. And within probably less than a dozen feet directly to the front of the PM's grave is a small marker for Charles Robinson who lived in Halifax for about 30 years, raised a family and he died there. He was a Medal of Honor recipient for bravery in the US Civil War. His story had been oft referred to in this space and the above was taken a few years back when I visited the cemetery.
Charles is not buried there, but at some unknown location in the cemetery. The marker was laid by several folks, including PEI born Charles MacGillivary, another Medal of Honor recipient, whom I hope you have read much about at this site. The above Robinson marker, and five others were the first ever of this type, designed in part by MacGillivary whilst President of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, and being installed outside of the United States.
This cemetery made news this week, but for all the wrong reasons. It was the victim of vandalism, and not for the first time. About 70 stones and markers have been damaged and /or pushed over. Some falling on others causing yet more damage. One stone, over 100 years old is probably unreplaceable. Same and even more so probably for one said to be about 200 years old.
Those now tasked to repair all of this stupidity will take upwards of two years and tens of thousands of dollars if not more to do what they can to repair the markers.
Surprisingly they want to educate the violators rather than tack them to the closest tree from ahigh!
These hooligans need to be taught that vandalism aside, they are destroying history that sometimes can never be fixed.
When caught, they should be made to go into every pubic and high-school in the city and give talks about the damage they did and why these sorts of antics must come to an end. And when not so talking, they should be at this site and others in their grunt clothes and helping the tremendous volunteers that will have to come forward to right these wrongs.
The press should pursue this on a regular basis.
And while on the topic of press I would like to note that every story I can find on this act of violence tells of the historic site and mentions the grave of our great PM. But none of the press, and for that matter, others that have come forth and been quoted, have bothered to mention the incredible history that Charles Robinson had.
I guess it is because his marker is about a whopping handful of feet way from the PM's marker, and, as they say, out of site, out of mind!
And my good friend Tony in Halifax has contacted me to tell me that the Robinson marker remains undamaged.
That is good news, and I have more, also involving wonderful Nova Scotia, my home of many years.
Here's a math question for you. What is 40,000,000 divided by 3,492. (it's 11, 454.)
About 40 million have served in the US forces back to day one. 3,491 men and one woman have been awarded a Medal of Honor. 19 got two. Even when you don't add about a thousand that were rescinded illegally, and duly noted repeatedly on this site, that leaves the 11,454 soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coast guard members that had to serve for every one Medal of Honor awarded. One in about 11.5 THOUSAND.
See how rare the medal is!
A recently acquired resource tells me that between the end of the Civil War and 1905 there were about 88 MOH's awarded for navy men who saved others from drowning. Several of these came to Canadians.
Yet another source tells me that 74 black men from Nova Scotia served in the US Navy in the Civil War. I believe the number is very low and was more likely in the hundreds. Many hundred even. And from the low list, I am told these men served on no less than 58 different war ships.
The records suggest they mostly came from the Halifax and Guysborough areas, but this is very questionable. They would be an average of about 25 years old, and enlist for terms from 1 to 4 years. Enrolling at Boston and NY, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Baltimore, Hartford, Main Masachussetts and even Chicago.
Canadian military experts all know the names of Smokey Smith and William Hall, but I suspect few also know the name of Joseph Benjamin Noil. He was one of the 11.5 THOUSAND above mentioned who had to serve. Yet his name is pretty much unknown in Nova Scotia, and Canada, ... where he was born.
But in the United States, if he walked into the White House, it would be customary for the President to salute him.
Records are difficult to obtain, but it is suspected that Noil was born about 1841 at Nova Scotia's Halifax, Liverpool or possibly the Annapolis Valley. He served during the later part of the Civil War and continued for many years thereafter in the US Navy.
His ship, the USS Powhattan, is shown above and was a flag ship for Admirals on several occasions throughout its life. It was an ocean going double sided paddle wheeling steam frigate, that could also use sail.
Here is his citation back in the 1870's...
For unknown reasons his name was spelled NOEL in error. He thus laid at rest for over the century. A few years back the incredible expertise of a fellow member of the US Medal of Honor Historical Society (Don Morfe) discovered what he thought was Noil's grave. Further work from very supported staff at the hospital/cemetery, the federal government and the Chicora Foundation, (a cemetery survey firm,) all helped to put the pieces of the puzzle together and confirmed that the marker on site was Noil's, though misspelled and lacking any notification that he was a MOH recipient. I added some background info to the cause.
Many delays have complicated the move to have a new proper MOH marker mounted on site over the past few years. But that is now changing.
Just a few weeks back I received confirmation that a stone was now on site and awaiting plans for a ceremony and unveiling at DC. Here is an image of the stone to be mounted...
Stay tuned, and I will advise when more is learned on this.