Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Brave Drummer Boy

Union Private Orion Perseus Howe one of the youngest Medal of Honor awardees, received the Medal for action on May 19th 1863 as part of the Vicksburg Campaign.

Orion Perseus Howe was born in Portage County, Ohio December 29th 1848 the son of William Harrison and Eliza Ann (Westland) Howe.  Following the death of his mother in 1852, the family moved to Waukegan, Illinois.

At the age of 12 Howe, along his younger brother Lyton Druett Howe joined the 55th Illinois Infantry as musicians.  Their father was the regimental band leader.  During a battle at Vicksburg, Mississippi May 19th 1863, Howe crossed the field under fire to report the need of ammo to Union General William Tecumseh Sherman on the behest of Colonel Oscar Malmborg.  Howe and several other men volunteered, and Howe although badly wounded was the only one to make it.  It was reported that “he ran through what seemed a hailstorm of canister and musket-balls, each throwing up its little puff of dust when it struck the dry hillside. Suddenly he dropped and hearts sank, but he had only tripped. Often he stumbled, sometimes he fell prostrate, but was quickly up again and he finally disappeared from us, limping over the summit and the 55th saw him no more for several months."

Howe reenlisted in the 55th Illinois on December 25th 1863.  He was discharged November 30th 1864 as a Corporal having seen action in 14 battles.  General Sherman wrote about Howe to Union Secretary of State Edwin M Stanton and attained an appointment for him to the United State Naval Academy.  Howe didn't make it through the Academy, but did graduate from the New York University.  He settled in Springfield, Missouri, where he died January 27th 1930.  He is buried in the Springfield National Cemetery.

Howe’s Medal of Honor reads, “A drummer boy, 14 years of age, and severely wounded and exposed to a heavy fire from the enemy, he persistently remained upon the field of battle until he had reported to Gen. W. T. Sherman the necessity of supplying cartridges for the use of troops under command of Colonel Malmborg.”