On Saturday, March 25, the Fort Clark Historical Society (FCHS) and the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association (SISCA) teamed up to celebrate National Medal of Honor Day, which is the day that has been designated to honor those who have been awarded the military’s highest honor.
The day was warm. Above us was a brilliantly blue, cloudless sky. It was truly a beautiful day to honor our nation’s bravest. At 2 PM, we gathered in front of the memorial flagpole located in front of Dickman Hall. Mr. Russell Nowell was the master of ceremonies for this part of the ceremony. He engaged and educated the crowd by telling us about the origins of the Medal of Honor award, how National Medal of Honor Day came to be, and some of the gentlemen who received the award while stationed at Fort Clark. Five men, in particular, were highlighted and honored. They were four Black Seminole Indian Scouts and Claron A. Windus, who had once been a deputy in Brackettville. During his presentation, Mr. Nowell invited descendants of the Black Seminole Medal of Honor recipients to place commemorative bricks that had been created with their names on them in their resting place in front of the memorial flagpole. Ms. Beverly A. Kelly and Mr. Joe Louis Factor did the honors. Following the end of this program, we hopped into our vehicles and drove to the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery.
As we arrived at the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery, we were greeted by thousands of tiny wildflowers. Surely, this was a gift from Mother Nature. The beauty of this only emboldened our reverence for those that we had come to honor. At the cemetery, we gathered the four Black Seminole Indian Scouts who had received the Medal of Honor. They were Pompey Factor, Adam Payne (Paine), Isaac Payne (Paine), and John Ward. Pompey Factor, Isaac Payne, and John Ward received their Medals of Honor for their bravery during the same battle. On April 25, 1875, these three men participated in a charge against “twenty-five hostiles while on a scouting patrol,” according to their Medals of Honor citation. The fourth Black Seminole who received the Medal of Honor was Adam Payne. He served as a private in Texas at Blanco Canyon, a tributary of the Red River, where he participated in an engagement that occurred on September 19, 1874. Adam Payne "rendered invaluable service to Col. R. S. Mackenzie, 4th U.S. Cavalry, during this engagement," according to the Medal of Honor citation.
This information was presented by four Black Seminole descendants, Ms. Beverly A. Kelly, Mr. Joe Louis Factor, Mr. Larvell Blanks, and myself. Following our presentation, a beautiful wreath was laid at the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery marker. From there, several of us walked to each of their graves and paid our respects to these four brave men.
Following the ceremony at the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association, we hopped in our cars again and traveled to the Masonic Cemetery. It is at this cemetery that Claron A. Windus has been laid to rest. He received the Medal of Honor for bravery while serving as a bugler during a battle with the Kiowa in northern Texas on July 12, 1870. His citation reads: “For the President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Bugler Claron Augustus Windus, United States Army, for gallantry in action on 12 July 1870, while serving with Company L, 6th U.S. Cavalry, at Wichita River, Texas.” A wreath was also placed at his grave in reverence and in honor of his bravery.
This was the first time that the FCHS and SISCA have celebrated National Medal of Honor Day. I am so happy that we did, and I am certainly looking forward to commemorating this day again next year.
Note: This blog appeared as an article in the 3/30/17 edition of the Kinney County Post.