If you could rewrite history, what would you do? I would do many things, but the first thing I would take the medals of honor away from those who committed war crimes at Wounded Knee. If Germany honored the Nazis, those here and now in this country would be shocked and would be doing what they can to change that and take that honor away. However, over here it is ok because the truth was often hidden. Nobody heard of how the soldiers were still drunk from drinking a barrel of whiskey the night before, nobody knows they found four babies alive, under their dead mothers. Or that children were called out of the ravine, only to be shot. Nobody knows of the horrid truth. They don’t teach it in school.
The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States. Generally presented to its recipient by the President of the United States of America in the name of Congress.
That is what it says on the website http://www.cmohs.org/
So I decided to look at a few of these American heroes who were awarded for being so brave.
Sergeant William Austin from Texas was given the Medal of Honor on June 17, 1891 for for commanding troops “while the Indians were concealed in a ravine, assisted men on the skirmish line, directing their fire, etc., and using every effort to dislodge the enemy”.
What they didn’t state is that more than likely, those “Indians” were children. And what is up with using the word “dislodge.” The only survivors ran, or were babies that were found under their mother’s bodies. Dislodge is the term they used for cold blooded murder. William Austin lived to be 61 and was cremated, at his wishes.
John Clancy was given the medal for “twice voluntarily rescued wounded comrades under fire of the enemy.” What this doesn’t say is that most of the Lakota men at Wounded Knee were disarmed and most of the soldiers from the 7th were killed by “friendly fire”, so basically he rescued his wounded comrades from his other comrades.
Mosheim Feaster was only in the army for two years. He was awarded the medal of honor for gallantry. He advanced to an exposed position under heavy fire. Of course the heavy fire was from the 7th Cavalry, his own men. He lived to be 82 years old and is buried at the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, CA.
Ernest Garlington graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1876 and was commissioned to the 7th Cavalry on June 15th as a Second Lieutenant. He was quickly promoted to First Lieutenant ten days later when the whole 7th Cavalry was killed at the battle of Greasy Grass, or as they call it, Little Big Horn. He wasn’t present for the Battle of Greasy Grass, but he was the Lieutenant of a regiment that no longer existed. He went into Wounded Knee with this mindset fourteen years later. He was injured during the Massacre, most likely by friendly fire and received a medal for gallantry. He died at age 81 and is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery in a family plot.
John Gresham was actually from the 3rd Cavalry and was transferred to the 7th Cavalry as a replacement after they lost the Battle at Greasy Grass. From 1884 to 1887 he was a professor at Virginia Agricultural College. In 1887 he returned to the 7th to campaign against the Sioux, who had caused him to be transferred to the 7th in the first place. He ended up in Wounded Knee in 1890 and was awarded a medal for “leading a party into a ravine to attack a group of Indians hiding there.” What they don’t say is that this group of Indians hiding were women and children, because the men did not run. And he led a party in there to kill the group hiding there. He died at age 74 and is buried at the San Francisco National Cemetery.
Matthew Hamilton was a private from New York. He was awarded the medal for bravery in action, which is must be another term for murdering unarmed women and children.
Joshija B. Hartzog was a private who was given the medal because he “went to the rescue of the commanding officer who had fallen severely wounded, picked him up, and carried him out of range of the hostile guns.” Considering there were about 460 in the 7th Cavalry and maybe 100 unarmed Lakota men, you have to wonder how many of the guns were hostile guns and how many were their own.
Harry L. Hawthorne was from Minnesota. He distinguished his military career as a war hero with the medal he received for his actions at Wounded Knee that cold, cold winter morning. It is reported that he showed “distinguished conduct in battle with hostile Indians.” The meaning of the word distinguished is to show dignity, while the meaning of hostile is a military enemy. It is hard to think of how so many women and children were considered enemies. Harry Hawthorne died at age 88 and is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery.
There isn’t much information as to why Marvin Hillock was given a medal except for use of that word again, distinguished bravery. Showing dignity in the ethnic cleansing that was committed that day.
George Hobday was given the medal for “conspicuous and gallant conduct in battle.” That is the only information given. However the meaning of those two words together is to stand out and show bravery, which I imagine is not hard when you are armed and shooting women and children.
George Lloyd was given the medal for “bravery, especially after having been severely wounded through the lung.” So he was wounded, but so were many women and children. One of them being the grandmother of my children’s great grandmother. She was shot high up in her thigh and carried the wound for the rest of her life. She was around 12 or 13 at the time and ran as fast as she could with a bullet in her leg. She left behind three little brothers to die in the snow that day.
Albert W. McMillan was said to have been awarded a medal because “while engaged with Indians concealed in a ravine, he assisted the men on the skirmish line, directed their fire, encouraged them by example, and used every effort to dislodge the enemy.” The enemy again were the women and children who ran and hid, ran in the snow, ran hoping they will see the next day.
Thomas Sullivan was given a medal for “conspicuous bravery in action against Indians concealed in a ravine.” For finding the women holding onto their babies, tears freezing ,hiding in those ravines and praying to not be found.
Frederick E. Toy was from Buffalo, NY. He received his medal for “conspicuous bravery and coolness in action” however his own hometown newspaper questions his heroics and has supported the campaign to rescind his medal in the past. Frederick lived to be 67 and is buried at the Riverdale Cemetery in Lewiston, NY.
Jacob Trautman “killed a hostile Indian at close quarters, and, although entitled to retirement from service, remained to the close of the campaign.” He died 8 years later and is buried at South Side Cemetery in Pittsburgh, PA.
Pic taken from the website Home of Heroes, which includes pictures of the gravesite of Medal of Honor recipients.
James Ward was given a medal because he continued to fight after being severely wounded. Like the one woman who was said to have been “maddened by wounds, crawled from the edge of the village. With a butcher knife between her teeth, she made her painful way over a distance of ten yards to where a soldier lay on his back, wounded. She raised the knife over him and, as he screamed, plunged it into his breast. Another soldier, in the square, saw the act and sent a bullet into her head. She dropped next to her victim.”
Paul H. Weinert was in the unit that contained the four Hotchkiss guns. The revolving Hotchkiss cannon had five 37 mm barrels, and was capable of firing 43 rounds per minute with an accuracy range of 2,000 yards. His unit fired the rounds at the women and children “successfully clearing out a ravine” of children scared to move. He died at age 49 and is buried at Milton Cemetery in Milton, MA.
These are most of the recipients. Most of them went on to live for a long time. Many of them died old and were buried in nice cemeteries of their families choice. Unlike the 200 women and children who ran and hid for their lives that cold December morning. And the almost 100 men who were disarmed but died fighting back. Their grave is shared. A trench dug by the United States Government where their frozen bodies were thrown in. Colonel Forsyth was under house arrest for 18 months while the Army conducted an investigation of the massacre and was cleared of all charges.
Wounded Knee resulted in the most Medals of Honor ever awarded for one battle in the history of the U.S. Army. A hundred years after the massacre, the U.S. Congress finally acknowledged the mistake made at Wounded Knee with this apology: “It is proper and timely for the Congress of the United States to express its deep regret to the Sioux people for the massacre.”
The attempt to rescind the medals has happened many times. At a congressional hearing on July 29, 1993, Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell suggested their medals be rescinded given the controversial nature of the battle. In 1996 Senator John McCain replied to an online petition to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs :
The policies and decisions … that led to the Army’s being at Wounded Knee in 1890 doubtless can be characterized as unjust, unwise, or worse. Nevertheless, a retrospective judgment that the Government’s policies and actions were dishonorable does not warrant rescinding the medals awarded to individual soldiers for bravery in a brief, fierce fight in which 25 soldiers were killed and 45 others wounded.
In 2001, the National Congress of American Indians passed two resolutions condemning the Medals of Honor and calling on the U.S. government to rescind them. All efforts have been refused.
This country’s refusal to rescind the medals leads me to believe there is another reason. According to Senator McCain’s 1996 letter refusing the rescindment:
In part due to the efforts of the Medal of Honor Legion, President Wilson in 1916 signed a law that clarified the procedures and standards of proof for awarding the Medal of Honor. To receive the medal, one must demonstrate distinguished gallantry or intrepidity, at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty. The 1916 law also provided for a board of retired generals to review each of the 2,625 Army medals awarded for conduct during campaigns against Indian tribes between 1861 and 1890 , including Wounded Knee. As a result of this review, 911 medals were rescinded, all because the recipients were judged not to have distinguished themselves in combat and at the risk of their lives.
The fact that this country took back 911 medals in the Indian Wars and did not include Wounded Knee just tells me this country is still to this day hanging onto that old grudge from fourteen years earlier when the Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe kicked Custer and the 7th Cavalry’s ass in an ambush at Greasy Grass. On that day when the Lakota gave the 7th Cavalry it’s ultimate loss by taking their flags, proving they failed their nation. There are reports of soldiers hollering at Wounded Knee “This is for Custer!” as they would shoot the women and children.
It amazes me that people can look down on other countries who commit genocide on their own people, perform horrid acts of ethnic cleansing, and massacre their own people, yet only 122 years ago it happened here and they not only took a hundred years to even apologize, they gave them the highest honors for it.
So why should we care now? Other than rewriting history and moving on? Because we live here too. Because we were here first, and under their Declaration of Independence upon describing the tyranny the King of Britian held the colonies in, they are describing themselves and what they did to us. Especially when they describe us as “the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.” They are describing themselves and what they did at Wounded Knee, regardless of age, sex, and condition.
We live here too, we have rights too, and we have the right to ask for those medals to be taken away.
For those who were brutally killed that cold winter morning in December of 1890.
*Please note, the petition needs many more signatures. And as of January 15, 2013, to get a response from the President we will now need 100,000 signatures instead of the 25,000 we need now.
Sign the petition and please share.