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Second posthumous Medal of Honor award brings attention to first from Clinton

Posted: Friday, Jul 2nd, 2010

CLINTON—The second posthumous Medal of Honor, which will be awarded this summer, brings light to the first: a corporal from Clinton who fought in the Civil War.

It recently was announced that 1st Lt. Alonzo Cushing, who was born in Delafield, Wisc., will be the second Civil War soldier in the last decade to receive the nation’s highest honor later this summer. Duly noted in news accounts was the first: Cpl. Andrew Jackson Smith, of Clinton.

Smith died at age 88 and is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, New York, His Medal of Honor was awarded Jan. 31, 2001.

Smith had an especially good reason to want to fight in the Civil War: he was born into slavery. When his Confederate father planned to take Smith to war, the young slave, and another, ran away and joined the Union army.

Smith was honored for retrieving both the state and federal flags at the Battle of Honey Hill, in South Carolina. At that time, he was with the U.S. Army in the 55th Massachusetts Voluntary division, a “sister” regiment to the 54th, which was immortalized in the film “Glory.”

According to an account written by by his grandson, Andrew S. Bowman,

Smith’s mother was a slave named Susan and his father was Elijah Smith who enlisted in the Confederacy. When young Smith learned that his father intended to take him to war with him, the 19-year-old slave ran away to Smithland, Ky., with another slave. The two walked 25 miles in freezing rain and presented themselves to the 41st Illinois guards.

Smithland was being used as a strategic military outpost by the U.S. troops who could control the movement on the Ohio and access to the Mississippi River from the north and the Cumberland from the east.

Smith became a servant to Maj. John Warner in the 41st Regiment at Paducah, Ky.

According to his grandfather’s account, Smith agreed, if Major Warner fell in battle, to take his belongings to his home in Clinton.

On March 10, 1862, the 41st Regiment traveled to Pittsburg Landing (Shiloh). Major Warner had two horses killed underneath him and both times Smith brought him another horse. He then was struck by a “spent minie ball that entered his left temple, rolled just under the skin, and stopped in the middle of his forehead. As Andy laid his head upon the regimental surgeon’s bloody apron, the surgeon removed the ball after which he pulled a sponge through the wound to cleanse it. Andy carried the scar to his grave seventy years later.”

For the complete article see the 07-02-2010 issue.

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