The Medal Of Honor

The Hometown History column is presented by the Fenton History Center and The Post-Journal. Each Friday, a distinct item from the Fenton History Center collections or archival special collections will be featured. Learn about your hometown history through parts of its past.

If one of the items featured brings back some memories or brings up a question, please contact the Fenton History Center at 664-6256 or information@fentonhistorycenter.org to share your memory or get an answer to your question.

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By Karen E. Livsey

Archivist

In the fall of 1861, at the age of 17, Edgar Pierpont Putnam enlisted in Company D., 9th N.Y. Cavalry.

He continued to serve until he was mustered out July 17, 1865. During this time he was promoted to Corporal on June 25, 1862, and then Sergeant on November 1st of that year. He was wounded at Trevilian Station, Virginia on June 11, 1864 and at Five Forks, Virginia on April 5, 1865.

He participated in the battles of Yorktown, 2nd Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the battles of the Wilderness and Grant’s campaign to Richmond. He led his company in Sheridan’s raids around Richmond near the close of the war. His promotions continued as First Lieutenant and Captain, and “for gallant and meritorious services” he was brevetted Major when he was mustered out.

He later received the Medal of Honor for his gallant conduct at Crumps Creek, Va., on May 27, 1864. It was then that he “with a small force on reconnaissance drove off a strong body of the enemy, charged into another force of the enemy’s cavalry and stampeded them, taking 27 prisoners.”

The Medal of Honor is “awarded for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.” There have been 3,462 recipients since its inception in 1861. Different medals are made for the Army, Navy and Air Force. Marines and Coast Guard receive the Navy medal.

For service in the Civil War, 1,522 Medals of Honor were awarded. More were awarded after the war was over than during the war. As more and more soldiers applied for them, regulations were made to ensure the recipients did indeed deserve the honor. The Medal of Honor which was awarded to Edgar P. Putnam is now in the collection of the Fenton History Center. It is on display in the Military Room with other artifacts from the American Civil War.

Edgar, the son of James and Maria (Flagg) Putnam, was born in Stockton on May 4, 1844. After his service during the Civil War, he was Deputy U. S. Surveyor in Minnesota for several years, returning to Jamestown in 1874. Here he was in the book and drug business and served as postmaster in 1884. He served as clerk of the courts and was Chautauqua County clerk. Then he served as superintendent of parks for Jamestown and later was on the Parks Commission. He was married twice and had one daughter. He died in Jamestown on May 20, 1921, and is buried in Lake View Cemetery.

This weekend the Fenton will host a Union encampment in Fenton Park. This is the 150th anniversary year of the Emancipation Proclamation. Fenton History Center Board president Michael Rohlin will speak on the meaning and legacy of the Proclamation following the 10 a.m. flag raising on Saturday morning. The public is invited to learn about the Emancipation Proclamation and to visit with the soldiers to learn more about the life of a Union recruit. Shooting and drilling demonstrations will be taking place both Saturday and Sunday at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. Camp talks will be happening at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday.

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The purpose of the Fenton History Center is to gather and teach about southern Chautauqua County’s history through artifacts, ephemeral and oral histories, and other pieces of the past.

Visit www.fentonhistorycenter.org for more information on upcoming events.

If you would like to donate to the collections or support the work of the Fenton History Center, call 664-6256 or visit the center at 67 Washington St. just south of the Washington Street Bridge.