Vol. 5, No. 27
Until David Bellavia received his Medal of Honor on June 25, 2019, John Butts was the most recent recipient of the prestigious honor. However, Forrest Lee Vosler was the last Orleans County native to receive the medal while still living. Born on July 29, 1923 at Lyndonville, New York to William and Lottie Vosler, Forrest graduated from Livonia High School and enlisted in the U.S. Army at Rochester on October 8, 1942. Following basic training at Atlantic City, he received training as a radio operator at Scott Field, Illinois and later completed gunnery training at Harlingen, Texas. He received a promotion to the rank of Sergeant in May of 1943 and was again promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant in October of 1943 as his unit prepared for deployment overseas.
Vosler was assigned as a radio operator and aerial gunner aboard a B-17 Flying Fortress nicknamed the “Jersey Bounce Jr.” with the 358th Bombardment Squadron, 303rd Bombardment Group stationed out of England.… More
Vol. 5, No. 26
Of the five Medal of Honor recipients from Orleans County, John E. Butts of Medina was the only county native who received the award posthumously for his heroic actions near Cape La Hague, France. The son of Jerry and Anna Hogan Butts, John was born August 4, 1922 at Medina, New York. As a young man, he attended the St. Mary’s parochial school, joined Boy Scout Troop 25, and played right guard for the Medina High School football team before enlisting with the New York National Guard on October 12, 1939.
When Company F of the 108th Infantry was federalized, Butts was 17 years old and lied about his age in order to join. He was sent to Hawaii in the months following the attack at Pearl Harbor and later returned to the mainland in November of 1942 to enroll in the Officer Candidate School at Ft.… More
Vol. 5, No. 25
According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, nearly 3,500 soldiers have received the Medal of Honor since its inception in 1862. Of those medals awarded, nearly half served with the Union Army during the Civil War. Between the conclusion of the American Civil War and World War One, 765 men received the medal, the largest number serving during the Indian Campaigns (426) and the smallest number serving in the Dominican Campaign (3) during the U.S. occupation of the Dominican Republic from 1916 to 1924. Of those 756 medals, 33 were awarded to Marines serving during the Boxer Rebellion, a nearly two-year uprising led by the Yihetuan (or Boxers) against foreign imperialists in China. Thomas Wilbur Kates, a native of Orleans County, was one of those men who received the Medal of Honor for his actions during this uprising.
Born on May 7, 1865 at Shelby, Thomas was the son of English immigrants Charles and Mariah Caple Kates.… More
Vol. 5, No. 12
The recent vote by the Hoag Library Board of Trustees to sell the 26th U.S. Colored Troops “National Color” in March has raised questions about local connections to that particular unit and other Colored Infantry regiments. U.S.C.T. regiments, established under the direction of the Bureau for Colored Troops, appointed white officers to lead black soldiers. According to a dissertation entitled “The Selection and Preparation of White Officers for the Command of Black Troops in the American Civil War,” by Paul Renard, the government utilized various methods of electing officers to lead U.S.C.T. regiments. Early U.S.C.T. regiment officers were selected by a board of divisional officers while others were selected in a process similar to white regiments. Renard argues that the selection of officers through an examination board overseen by the Bureau for Colored Troops was the most effective method used.
Racism permeated throughout the Union Army, which refused equal pay to black soldiers and relegated segregated units to manual labor behind the front lines.… More
Vol. 5, No. 10
This photograph shows Johann George Singler around the time of his enlistment in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Born March 28, 1829 in the territory of Baden to Joseph and Mary Greisbaum, Singler received his common education (equivalent to a high school course in the United States) while in Europe. At the age of 22 he emigrated to the United States on a 49-day journey across the Atlantic, settling at Cleveland, Ohio. Six months later he traveled to Buffalo where he worked as a carpenter for eight months and finally relocated to the town of Barre sometime around 1853. On February 10, 1855, he married Eva Rupp at Clarendon and the couple raised eight children together on a modest farm in Barre.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Singler enlisted with Company G of the 151st New York Infantry at the age of 33.… More
Grave of Cpl. James P. Clark of Company F, 108th Infantry, 27th Division – Somme American Cemetery
Vol. 4, No. 39
Amidst the commotion of political malfeasance, the excitement of football season, and the stress of a new school year comes the centennial of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. The massive campaign initiated on September 26, 1918 marked the beginning of the end for Imperial Germany. Over 1.2 million American soldiers participated in the advance that spanned the nearly 50 days leading up to the Armistice of November 11th.
Over the last three years, I have authored numerous pieces on the men of Company F who marched across the fields of the embattled French countryside. All of that research culminated with the opportunity to stand upon the hallowed ground that refused to release the bodies of so many young men. Now that 100 years have passed, a little interest has stirred up locally in an effort to commemorate this monumental anniversary.… More
Volume 4, Issue 21
Passing through the sandstone arch of Mount Albion Cemetery, one may catch a glimpse of the towering monument atop the highest point in the area. The Soldiers & Sailors Monument is perhaps the most impressive and beautiful war memorials in our area, but the true significance of the shrine is often overshadowed by the novelty and “thrill of the climb” up the winding steel staircase. There is a commonality between the circumstances surrounding the efforts to erect this monument to the memory of over 450 men who lost their lives during the Civil War and the war itself. In the face of grave sacrifice, a community struggled to memorialize the hundreds of young men, sons, brothers, and fathers, who left the security of home for ideals far greater than themselves.
Efforts to construct a county-wide memorial were initiated in 1864, but the association struggled to raise the necessary funds to complete the project.… More
Vol. 4, No. 18
As I prepared last week’s article about Asa Hill of the 28th New York Infantry and his beautiful monument situated at Millville Cemetery on East Shelby Road, I stumbled upon an image of another soldier from the same unit. Several years ago I encountered the story of William Collins but was unable to locate an image of him. As the 153rd anniversary of the capture and death of John Wilkes Booth passed on April 26th, I thought perhaps it would be worthwhile to recall this particular story.
William Collins was born September 28, 1843 to Michael and Susan Collins of Albion. His father was an Irish immigrant who worked as a day laborer in the village, raising a rather large family in the vicinity. Little is known about William’s early life, but shortly after the outbreak of the Civil War in April of 1861, the 17 year old enlisted and as was mustered into service on May 22, 1861 with Company G of the 28th New York Infantry, one of the first units raised in Orleans County.… More
Vol. 4, No. 17
Our rural communities are filled with strikingly beautiful landscapes and recognizable landscapes scattered throughout the region. As I passed through Millville this week, I thought about one of my favorite “little” landmarks in Shelby, a cemetery marker that has always grabbed my attention since I first visited Millville Cemetery.
The stone is rather remarkable, aside from its overwhelming appearance, towering over the seemingly smaller stones placed around it. Rarely does an attractive statue such as this adorn the burial site of an individual and perhaps its location in a rural cemetery makes it all the more unique. Yet the story of Asa Hill, the man memorialized by the granite obelisk and stoic soldier standing guard, adds a degree of mystery to the stone itself.
A native of Shelby, Asa Cummings Hill was born August 19, 1837 to William and Clarissa Miller Hill. When the South seceded from the Union in April of 1861, Asa found himself drawn to military service like so many other local men as indicated by his enlistment on November 14, 1861.… More
Volume 3, Issue 36
A quiet drive through the French countryside reveals the sprawling fields of golden wheat and green stalks of corn, the wind rushing through the hedgerows, and faint sounds of cattle. The openness of the landscape is broken up by the occasional town that contains century-old homes, churches, and schools, with the irregular modern buildings that house every amenity needed for the local community. After passing eastward through the small village of Bony, one is greeted by an immense marble structure that displays the French phrase “Morts pour la patrie,” or “To those who died for their country.”
The Somme American Cemetery, situated on 14.3 acres of rolling countryside in the Picardy region, is the final resting place for over 1,800 men who died during the assault on the Hindenburg Line on September 29, 1918. The cemetery was peaceful while a small crew of caretakers meticulously aerated the grass amidst the rows of marble crosses.… More