Thursday, March 29, 2012

Cavendish Civil War: Congressional Medal of Honor

The Congressional Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force, which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States. For a small town, it’s pretty amazing that Cavendish would boast one Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, let alone two.

William J. Sperry was born and raised in Cavendish. He received his medal for gallantry during the assault of Petersburg, VA, "with the assistance of a few men, captured 2 pieces of artillery and turned them upon the enemy.". He served as Sergeant of Co. "E " Sixth Regiment and was promoted 2nd Lt of that Company 21 Aug. 1862. He mustered out as Major in June 1865. Sperry died from the recurrent fever he had experienced intermittently since coming home from the Civil War, in Claremont, NH March 3, 1914.

During the flood of 1927, his widow’s home in Cavendish was one of the seven houses destroyed. Among the items lost was her husband’s Medal of Honor. A second one was awarded, via an act of Congress. However, workmen cleaning up from the flood eventually found the original medal downstream. Sperry is buried in the Cavendish Cemetery on High Street and his Medal and other artifacts are housed at the town office. For more information about Sperry.

Thomas Seaver was born in Cavendish, but his family moved to Pomfret, Vt while he was still in grade school. However, after the Civil War, Seaver settled in Cavendish once more and began work as an attorney, serving as a public defender. He was made a judge of the probate court in 1886 and in 1892 received the Medal of Honor “ For so long a record, embracing numerous acts of distinguished gallantry, it is difficult to select that one for which a medal should be awarded, as being the most distinguished of all. I respectfully suggest that General L. A. Grant select himself the special act of distinguished bravery for which this medal should be awarded, since he, from personal knowledge, is best able to make that selection.... the papers having been submitted to the Asst. Secretary of War were endorsed by him as follows: 'Let the medal issue for distinguished gallantry in action near Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia, May 10, 1864.'" For more about Seaver.

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