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Category:  Did You Know?
Published:  December, 2009

Did You Know?

There are times when I’m shocked to make Fayette County discoveries.

Did you know that Fayette County has had (at least) five Congressional Medal of Honor recipients?

If you’re a Fayette County history teacher, I propose the following question for an upcoming test.

Which of the following Fayette County natives DID NOT receive a Congressional Medal of Honor?
A. Samuel Johnson
B. Joseph Wortick
C. George C. Marshall
D. Henry Casey
E. Francis Morrison
F. Alfred L. Wilson

The answer is C., George C. Marshall. In fact, all (except one – Alfred L. Wilson) of the other people on that list were recipients of the Medal of Honor as a result of their heroism during the Civil War.

The Medal of Honor was created in 1861 to acknowledge Civil War heroes, but it gained full Congressional approval in 1863.

Since then, nearly 3,400 men and one woman have been received the Medal of Honor.

Samuel Johnson (Antietam, Md., May 30th, 1863), Casey Henry and Joseph Wortick (Vicksburg, Miss.) and Francis Morrison (Bermuda, Md.) were among the earliest recipients.

One Fayette County native, Alfred L. Wilson of Fairchance received his Congressional Medal of Honor for his valor during WWII.

Cpl. Wilson’s Medal of Honor was the direct result of his refusal to abandon his fellow troops after he and they had been seriously wounded.

His citation said, in part, “He continued his work until excessive loss of blood prevented him from moving. He then verbally directed unskilled enlisted men in continuing the first aid for the wounded. The effects of his injury later caused his death.”

As you know, Fayette County has always stood ready to provide military men and women in times of war.

The Gettysburg Star and Republican Banner of June 26th, 1846 (a month after the start of the Mexican American War), reported that Fayette County was already prepared to send nearly two hundred men into battle.

There were 107 infantrymen in the unit known as the “Union Volunteers and 86 would enter the war under the title “The Youghiogheny Blues.”

Even before the Spanish-American War was declared (April 25th, 1898), Fayette County was already on the alert.

The April 22nd edition of the Connellsville Courier carried a front page story with the headline: “SOLDIER BOYS OF COMPANY D – Are Hourly Expecting Orders to Move off to the War.”

That article said that volunteers from Uniontown, Connellsville and Mt. Pleasant, “will be the first soldiers in the field after the regular Army.”

At the bottom of the article there was a list of the 65 Fayette County men who’d recently enlisted.

Just seven days later – on Friday, April 29th – the Connellsville Courier reported that the “Boys of Company D” were heading into battle after a “great send-off” on Wednesday – just two days after the war began.

Despite the obvious community-wide anxiety about seeing young men go off to war, Connellsville was said to have prepared a “gala day.”

“The crowds upon the streets have not often excelled in size and never were equaled in enthusiasm,” it was reported.

Thousands of people turned out offer their “Farewells and God Speeds” to the troops on their departing train.

The Spanish-American War only lasted 109 days. The man who arguably gained the most fame from that conflict, Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, would later earn a Congressional Medal of Honor for leading his small regiment known as the “Rough Riders” in combat. (He received the Medal of Honor posthumously in 2001)

Did you know that one of the men who fought alongside Roosevelt’s unit in the battle known as the “charge up San Juan Hill” was a Fayette County native?

In an article published in the Connellsville Courier four days before the end of the war, a letter from Y. Johnson of New Haven was published.

Johnson, according to the article, was the son of John Johnson, “the colored politician of New Haven, and well-known throughout the coal region as a base ball (their spelling, not mine) player.”

Johnson, too, was a member of the famed “Buffalo Soldiers” who were officially known as the 9th Colored Cavalry.

His account of the charge up San Juan Hill (although a bit exaggerated) reflects that of a man who was quite proud to have served his country in war. “I think the fight is over now,” he wrote.

“You ought to have been here to see the colored soldiers charging up the hill. We took a battery under a sheet of fire from the enemy. The band is playing now as I write, although the wounded are all around,” he concluded.