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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Medal of Honor

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The description and citation reads as follows: "POND, GEORGE F. Rank and organization: Private Company C, 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry .Place and Date: At Drywood, Kansas, 15 May 1864. Entered service at: unknown. Birth: Lake County, Illinois. Date of Issue: 16 May 1899. Citation: With two companions, attacked a greatly superior force of guerrillas, routed them and rescued several prisoners." The brevity of this citation is not an unusual because the "Medal of Honor" originated in the Civil War and lengthy descriptions would come later in the 20th and 21st Centuries. During the Civil War, five Congressional Medals of Honor were awarded to Union soldiers for their valor and bravery in battles fought in Kansas.

The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration that the Congress of the United States can award to a recipient in the Armed Forces of this country. Today, one often hears the expression that military decorations for valor have been "won" which is not as it should be. One does not win a military decoration and they are not awarded on a competitive basis which the words "win" or "won" imply.

The Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Silver Star, Congressional Medal of Honor or any other "combat" military decoration are awarded to an individual based on an act or acts of valor and bravery that the individual has performed and that have been or can be documented.

The official affidavits for Pvt. Pond's Medal of Honor have not been discovered. However, the following after action report describes the combat incident that Pvt. Pond participated in that resulted in his being nominated for the Medal of Honor. It is located on Pages 936 and 937 of Vol. 34 Part I of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion.

Hdqrs. 1st Brigade, District of Southern Kansas, Fort Scott, Kan., May 16, 1864

Captain: I have the honor to inform you, for the information of the Commanding General, that last night a raid was made upon Drywood, south and southeast of this, by about 60 guerrillas, under one Capt. Henry Taylor, formerly sheriff of Vernon County, Mo., of which I have briefly notified the General by telegraph. The outpost of Morris' Mills held by Company C, 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry, is reduced to less than 20 men, by the absence of the major portion of the same on furlough as veteran volunteers, so that they cannot have the same facilities for acquiring information of the enemy's movements which they had formerly. Notwithstanding this, they learned of the raid soon after the first house was plundered and supposing it to be a small party, but 5 men were sent out in pursuit. It was easy enough to follow the track by the plundered houses, all of which they had despoiled of everything, in all cases taking the men prisoners and carrying them along with the party. By the time they reached the house of Mr. Ury, 12 miles southeast of this, they had eight prisoners. Young Ury was formerly a scout in my employ and they had a particular spite against him. (In fact they wanted to kill him.) At this place they got three more prisoners, the two Urys and a man by the name of Williams and about $600 in money. They had discussed the propriety of killing the prisoners on the spot, but finally determined to take them off some distance first, to be sure they (the guerrillas) were safe.

Of the five men of Company C who had started in pursuit, two had gone back to camp to notify others of the extent of the force and the other three (including Pvt. George Pond) came up just as the bushwhackers were coming out of Mr. Ury's gate with their prisoners; without pausing a moment these three men dashed gallantly forward until within 20 paces of the whole company, firing as rapidly as possible and causing such an excitement among the enemy that the diversion allowed all the prisoners to escape. Ury, the scout, knocking down one of the rebels who stood next to him with a stick of wood he had hastily gathered from a pile near his feet.

A the first alarm the bushwhackers had fired at the prisoners, but the tumult was so great that none were hurt except the elder Ury, who was shot through the thigh and is in a fair way to recover. The younger Ury pushed straight for the Camp of company C, got five fresh men and is now on their trail. I have thought this gallant act of these three men of Company C deserves special mention and I therefore respectfully call your attention to it. Their names are Sgts. O.H. Carpenter and Elwin Webber and Private George F. Pond, Company C, 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry. I have about 200 men in pursuit in different parties who will give a good account of the enemy if they catch them and who will catch them if it can be done.

Very Respectfully, Your Obedient Servant,

Charles. W. Blair, Colonel, Commanding

Private George F. Pond was discharged from the Union Army in 1865 and along with his brother Homer married and lived in Fort Scott for the rest of their lives. Both are buried not far from each other in Evergreen Cemetery and George's Grave is marked with a special Congressional Medal of Honor Headstone that was supplied by the Department of Veterans Affairs. George Pond is one of six pairs of brothers who were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor during the Civil War.

Captain James B. Pond, also of the third Wisconsin Cavalry was also awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery in the first Battle of Baxter Springs, Kan.l; on Oct. 6, 1863. This will be the subject of the column on Oct. 4, 2008.

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches