Nation Honors Military Heroes

Author Larry Brown poses on March 19, 2000, near Oxford, Miss. Brown, who wrote about the often rough, gritty lives of rural Southerners, died in November 2004. His unfinished final novel, "A Miracle of Catfish," was published in March 2007, with notes from Brown on a proposed ending.
AP Photo/The Oxford Eagle
President Clinton posthumously honored a former slave who became a Civil War hero and the mustachioed leader of the hard-charging Rough Riders who later became the nation's 26th president with the Medal of Honor on Tuesday in a White House ceremony.

Speaking before Congressional members and Pentagon officials, the president commended the two servicemen on their gallantry before handing relatives of Andrew Jackson Smith and Theodore Roosevelt glass-covered, wood boxes encased with the five-pointed bronze-colored star and aqua-blue, star-studded ribbon.

Mr. Clinton called them "two people who changed America in more ways than one by their personal courage, from very different vantage points."

Sitting to the right of the president, the 93-year-old daughter of Smith, Caruth Smith Washington, finally realized her lifelong dream of honoring her father 84 years after the government rejected Smith's request for a medal for his Civil War duty.

Smith, who Mr. Clinton said was being honored for his heroism because his unit "never lost their colors" during the Battle of Honey Hill in South Carolina in late 1864. "Corporal Smith carried them through the battle, exposing himself as the lead target," he said.

When Smith died in 1932, his daughter - who now lives in a New Jersey nursing home - took up the cause. But it was her nephew, Andrew Bowman of Indianapolis, who finally convinced the government to honor his ancestor.

"Sometimes it takes this country a while, but we nearly always get it right in the end," Mr. Clinton said during midday ceremony. "I am proud that we finally got the facts and that, for you and your brave forebear, we're finally making things right."

Bowman received the award from the president before handing it to his aunt, who quietly wept while sitting next to her nephew during the presentation.

In awarding the other medal, the president called Roosevelt a "larger-than-life figure who gave our nation a larger-than-life vision of our place in the world."

CMH Awards
Medals have been awarded for the following events:

Civil War: 1,520
Indian Wars (1861-'98): 428
Korea (1871): 15
Spanish American War: 109
Philippines Samoa: 91
Boxer Rebellion: 59
Vera Cruz (1914): 55
Haiti (1915): 6
Dominican Republic: 3
Haiti (1919-1920): 2
Nicaragua (1927­-1933): 2
Peacetime (1865-1870): 12
Peacetime (1871-­1898): 103
Peacetime (1899-1911): 51
Peacetime (1915-­1916): 8
Peacetime (1920-­1940): 18
World War I: 124
World War II: 440
Korean War: 131
Vietnam War: 239
Somalia (1993): 2
Unknown Soldiers: 9

Total: 3,427

Mr. Clinton said part of that vision was formed when Roosevelt - represented at the ceremony by more than a dozen family members - led his Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War and "charged up San
Juan Hill to encourage additional troops to follow."

"Lieutenant Colonel Roosevelt was the first to reach the trenches, killing a soldier with his pistol," the president said during the service held in the White House Roosevelt Room. "By taking San Juan Hill, eventually they forced the enemy fleet into the Battle of Santiago Bay, where it was routed. This led to the Spanish surrender and opened the era of America as a global power. ."

'Teddy' Roosevelt becomes the only president to receive the Medal of Honor and the only person to receive both the nation's highest military award and the Nobel Peace Prize.

The President's son, Brig. General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. also received the Medal of Honor posthumously for his service in D-day during World War II.

The only other father and son to receive Medals of Honor were U.S. Army generals Douglas MacArthur and his father Arthur MacArthur, who won the medals respectively in WWII and the Civil War.

Also considered a Civil War hero by many accounts, Bowman was born into slavery around 1842 and probably fathered by his owner. At 18, with just the shirt on his back, he ran away and ended up at the Battle of Shiloh, serving a Union colonel and surviving a bullet to the head.

Smith returned to Clinton, Ill., with the colonel. But in 1863, he signed on with 55th Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry Regiment as a corporal, setting up his defining moment in the Battle of Honey Hill.

Although the War Department, in paperwork dated Jan. 3, 1917, claimed Smith's acts of bravery couldn't be documented, Bowman was convinced the truth would be told about Smith.

Bowman spent the past decade scouring museums and libraries, retracing his grandfather's story. He approached the government for help, but was told too much time had elapsed for Smith to be given the medal.

Smith's memories of the Battle of Honey Hill were recounted in the National Tribune and Bowman also found independent evidence in archives. And there were two orders in 1865 from Smith's commanding officers commending and promoting him.

In one, a lieutenant colonel stated that Smith "carried the flag through the rest of the action (and) is hereby detailed as color sergeant in recognition of his conduct."

Mr. Clinton has awarded 37 Medals of Honor during his two terms. More than 3,400 medals have been isued since they were first handed out during the Civil War.

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