John M Whitehead - Topeka Cemetery - Topeka, Ks
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member iconions
N 39° 02.543 W 095° 39.095
15S E 270514 N 4324826
Quick Description: Rev. John M Whitehead was a Civil War Recipient - earning his Medal of Honor at the Battle of Stones River in Tennessee.
Location: Kansas, United States
Date Posted: 11/20/2011 8:19:01 PM
Waymark Code: WMD5A7
Published By: Groundspeak Charter Member BruceS
Views: 1

Long Description:
From CMOHS.org website:
(visit link)

Citation:
Went to the front during a desperate contest and unaided carried to the rear several wounded and helpless soldiers.

Newspaper Article detailing Rev. John Whitehead's heroism:
(visit link)

Only three Wayne County men have received the nation's highest honor for military bravery -- the distinguished Medal of Honor. Two of them were in the Civil War.

The first one, Elihu Mason, was discussed last week.

The second one was a chaplain from Boston Township named John Milton Whitehead.

The Rev. Whitehead was born near Boston, Ind., (when it was called New Boston) on March 6, 1823. He later became an Army chaplain in the 15th Indiana Volunteer Infantry.

On Dec. 31, 1862, when Union forces engaged Confederate soldiers at the battle of Stones River, Tenn., Whitehead risked his life to save his comrades. For this he was presented the highest military honor for bravery that the nation can bestow, the Medal of Honor. His April 4, 1898, citation reads: "Went to the front during a desperate contest and unaided carried to the rear several wounded and helpless soldiers."

The fight at Stones River had the highest percentage of casualties on both sides for all major battles of the Civil War. The contest, though inconclusive, saw Northern losses at 12,906, and southern losses at 11,739.

In Whitehead's own words: "On the night of Dec. 30, 1862, my regiment, the 15th Indiana, was ordered to cross Stones River, at the ford. The command was obeyed, but as we advanced up the hill on the opposite side, we met the enemy in force and, countermarching quickly, recrossed the river. ... Early the next morning our colonel cried, 'Get your men up! Our pickets are falling back! The enemy is advancing!' In a second we were all astir, and at the dawn of that day the bloody battle of Stones River commenced. ... Our position was between the river on our left and the railroad and turnpike on our right, and directly in front of the enemy's corps. The firing from the Confederate batteries was terrible and destructive. ...

"Our regiment was ordered to hold our position on the left, nearest to the river, at all hazards. Three times we charged Jackson's Brigade and three times we put the enemy to flight, capturing a greater number of prisoners than there were men in our command when we went into battle.

"But this was accomplished only with a fearful loss of life. Of my own regiment every other man was killed or wounded; that is, half were gone... Though a non-combatant, I was with my regiment during the entire affair, comforting the dying, carrying off the injured, caring for them and praying. ...

"During the struggle, Captain Robert J. Templeton fell fatally wounded. I carried him to the rear and remained at his side until he breathed his last. I copied his last message and sent it to his friends at home. My own next-door neighbor from Westville, Indiana, Captain James N. Foster, dropped mortally wounded into my arms, the same ball killing two other brave soldiers. ...

"Colonel I.C.B. Surnan, of the Ninth Indiana, was shot twice, one ball severing the artery in the arm, the other penetrating the body and lodging between two ribs, whence I pulled it out with my fingers. One boot was filled with blood where he lay bleeding his life away. I dressed his wounds and helped him on his horse and he rode back into the raging battle. ...

"John Long, a private, had one leg shot to pieces. He cut the dangling limb off with his own pocketknife and hobbled off using his gun for a crutch, until I took him up and carried him to the rear.

Calvin Zenner of Company G received a fatal wound. I carried him back. A number of soldiers gathered around their expiring comrade as I offered a prayer for him, and they sang, 'O Sing to Me of Heaven' ... He soon closed his eyes and ceased to breathe. After nightfall, when both armies were quiet along the front lines, I helped to bring the wounded to the general hospital, carrying those who could not walk on my shoulders to the ambulance."

Whitehead helped hundreds of wounded soldiers during and after the battle, and it was written of him in "Deeds of Valor: How America's Civil War Heroes Won the Congressional Medal of Honor" that the Wayne County chaplain "was help to many hundreds of wounded soldiers and brought comfort and solace to a great number of dying ... [and] also preached at many a hero's graves."

Surnan, who Whitehead had aided by digging a bullet from his ribs, later testified, "When I was severely wounded at the Battle of Stones River, Chaplain Whitehead gave me his assistance; he was all bespattered with the blood of the injured he had cared for. He seemed to be an angel among the wounded ... single-handedly with grapeshot whizzing about, carrying injured and dying men from the field of battle, after which he knelt and prayed for them. Yankees and Johnny Rebs alike are under one Supreme Maker ... and into His hands a vast number were delivered that day, in that place. Reverend Whitehead prayed for all and thought nothing of the danger he was in, attending the maimed, looking after the dead, directing and assisting in burial. ...

"In camp, on the march and on the field of battle ... John Milton Whitehead's services were performed admirably and without the hope for reward or promotion."

According to "Deeds of Valor," that night, "while both armies were quiet along the front lines," the Boston Township native "fetched more wounded to a general hospital further back, carrying those who could not walk on his shoulders, to awaiting ambulance wagons."

Whitehead died at the age of 86 on March 8, 1909, and is buried in Topeka, Kan.

Only three Civil War chaplains have won the nation's highest honor for military bravery.

One of them was the Rev. John Milton Whitehead from Wayne County.

In fact, he was the first chaplain ever to be awarded this honor in the nation's history.
Armed Service: Army

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