Medal of Honor winners confirmed

April 18, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

As the country is focused on a new war, a local history buff has dug into the past to document proof of two undiscovered Washington County war heroes.

Seth Lathrop Weld of Sandy Hook and John W. Wagner of Clear Spring both went on to receive the prestigious Medal of Honor, said Donald Brown of Boonsboro.

For many years, local historians knew of only one Medal of Honor winner from Washington County.

Cpl. William Othello Wilson of Hagerstown was a "Buffalo Soldier," a black man who fought during the Indian campaigns after the Civil War.


In February, his only living daughter, 90-year-old Anna V. Jones of Hagerstown, donated Wilson's Medal of Honor to the Maryland African American Museum Corp.

While doing research for that story, The Herald-Mail uncovered more possible Medal of Honor winners.

Brown followed up the tip by reviewing old census records and other historical documents to confirm that two more medal winners were born in the county.

Seth L. Weld

Seth L. Weld was born in Sandy Hook, the sixth child of George H. and Emily Weld, according to the 1880 Census.

George Weld ran a grocery store in the small south county hamlet before he moved to Mitchell County, N.C., when Seth Weld was a young boy.

Seth Weld enlisted in the U.S. Army at Altamont, Tenn., and went on to serve in the Philippine-American War, also known as the Philippine Insurrection.

Although the three-year war officially ended in 1902, Weld was awarded the medal for an incident at La Paz, Leyte, on Dec. 5, 1906.

His citation reads:

"With his right arm cut open with a bolo went to the assistance of a wounded constabulary officer and a fellow soldier who were surrounded by about 40 Pulajanes, and, using his disabled rifle as a club, beat back the assailants and rescued his party."

Weld, who was a corporal in Company L of the 8th U.S. Infantry, received the medal in 1908.

After he died at the age of 79 in 1958, he was buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas.

John Wagner

John Wagner earned his Medal of Honor for service during the Civil War.

Born in the Clear Spring district in the late 1830s or early 1840s, Wagner enlisted in the 8th Missouri Infantry at St. Louis.

It was June 1861, just two months after the start of the war.

According to his service record, Wagner was 5 feet 61/2 inches tall with brown hair and hazel eyes.

He became a corporal and earned his medal for gallantry during the "Volunteer Storming Party" at Vicksburg, Miss., on May 22, 1863.

His unit and other Union troops were making their first assault against the southern city's well-constructed defenses, said Dennis Frye, a local Civil War expert.

Wagner settled in Boston after the war and married a woman named Mary A. Cook. Because they were both in their 40s, Brown suspects they did not have children.

He died in December 1894 and was buried in Forest Hill Cemetery in Suffolk County, Mass.

William Othello Wilson

Wilson, the first local person discovered to have earned the Medal of Honor, is buried at Rose Hill Cemetery in Hagerstown.

Wilson earned his medal for service with the U.S. Army 9th Cavalry.

He rode through enemy territory on his way to get reinforcements for his wagon train when it was pinned down at the Battle of Wounded Knee near Pine Ridge, S.D., on Dec. 29, 1890.

As a result, there were no casualties.

Wilson returned to his hometown of Hagerstown and married Margaret Virginia Brown on May 5, 1898. They had seven children.

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