Recognizing Blue Earth County Medal of Honor Recipients
Thursday, July 12 marks the 156th anniversary of signing into law the Medal of Honor by President Lincoln in 1862. Awarded to US military service members who distinguish themselves by acts of valor, the Medal of Honor is the highest and most prestigious personal military decoration. Since its inception, just over 3,500 medals have been awarded; eight of those recipients have a connection to Mankato or Blue Earth County.
Of the eight with area connections, six of those earned the Medal of Honor from the same event.
According to previous articles by the Mankato Free Press, “It was Feb. 15, 1863 in Tennessee, a group of men went to forage for food for their mules. They stumbled upon a corncrib and began to load up the contents when Confederate soldiers surprised them. Greatly outnumbered and essentially surrounded, the men hid in the crib and opened fire. By the time the rest of the Union group appeared to help, over 100 Confederate soldiers were firing at the men. The men crawled out of the crib and continued to fight. They captured three Confederate soldiers, rounded up seven of their horses and confiscated many weapons. The Confederates retreated, leaving three wounded soldiers and a dead mule.”
All six men involved in this event had enlisted in Minnesota and served in the 2nd Minnesota Infantry Regiment. They were Lovilo Holmes, Milton Hanna, Joseph Burger, Byron Pay, John Vale, and Samuel Wright.
Holmes and Hanna are both buried in Glenwood Cemetery in Mankato and were both active members in the Mankato community. Holmes worked as a carpenter and lived on Broad Street, while Hanna operated a grocery store on South Front Street and served on the Fire Department.
The other four men spent some time in Blue Earth County before or after the war. Burger represented Blue Earth County in the Minnesota State House of Representatives from 1881-1882. Pay lived and worked in Mankato and Vernon Center prior to enlisting and returned after the war for a brief period before he was hired out by J.B. Hubbell to run wagon trains in the West. Vale farmed in the county before the war and only remained in Minnesota for a few years after returning. Wright worked as a hired hand before the war living out of boarding houses in Blue Earth and Nicollet Counties and did not return to the area.
The two other recipients each gained their Medal of Honor in separate actions.
James Allen served with the Army of the Potomac in the 16th New York Infantry and participated in every battle they fought during the war. He earned his medal during the battle of Crampton’s Pass, where he participated in an advanced assault and single-handedly captured 14 Confederate soldiers and the Georgia Regiment’s colors. Following the war, Allen and his family lived in Mankato from 1885 to 1890.
Raymond Davis was born in Mankato and represents a unique subset of recipients that received the honor during a period in history where the award could be given for actions not involving direct combat with the enemy. On July 21, 1905, the USS Bennington’s boilers exploded, killing 62 of the 197 sailors aboard. Davis, who served on the Bennington, was awarded for his heroic actions in his effort to rescue injured sailors and control the fire from the explosion.
Biographical information was taken from www.minnesotamedalofhonormemorial.org. Please visit their website for more information on these recipients and other Minnesota Medal of Honor winners.