One of the joys of genealogy research are the discovery of ‘nuggets’ in the form of stories from the lives of ancestors and extended family members. Some of their life stories are more enjoyable than a well-crafted Hollywood screen play.
Such was the case recently, when I started adding sources and details to the life of my 4th cousin, Samuel Cole Wright of Plympton, Massachusetts.
His life in the military started as a ‘typical’ enlistment from Massachusetts during the Civil War. Like thousands of other young men, Samuel entered the fray with the intent to protect the freedom of men regardless of religion, color or occupation. Ownership of another human was repugnant to U.S. Citizens in the north. That fact coupled with a firm belief in the hard-won principles of the Constitution of the United States for which their grandfathers had so recently fought and died to secure, easily secured support against those who believed in treating others as chattel.
Samuel enlisted in the 29th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry as a Private in Company E in May 1861. Still serving with that unit, his actions on the battlefield at Antietam, Maryland on 17 September 1862 resulted in an eventual reward of the Congressional Medal of Honor.
He had been wounded in the Seven Days battles in June 1862 and was wounded again at Antietam, refusing to leave the field of battle despite direct orders to do so.
He survived typhus in June 1863 and being run down by a team of horses in October 1863. His health as compromised yet again on 2 June 1864 when he was wounded at the Battle of Cold Harbor. Samuel was subsequently shot through his right eye and left for dead on 30 July 1864 at the Battle of the Crater at Petersburg, Virginia.
After a long recovery from this grievous wound, he was discharged from military service on 3 February 1865 with the rank of Sergeant.
After the war, Samuel worked as a U. S. Customs Agent and as a Justice of the Peace.
The Medal of Honor was awarded with these words:
“The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Private Samuel Cole Wright, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism on 17 September 1862, while serving with Company E, 29th Massachusetts Infantry, in action at Antietam, Maryland. Private Wright voluntarily advanced under a destructive fire and removed a fence which would have impeded a contemplated charge.”
General Orders: Date of Issue: January 29, 1896
Action Date: September 17, 1862
Company: Company E
Division: 29th Massachusetts Infantry.
(Reference: MilitaryTimes – Hall of Valor. http://projects.militarytimes.com/citations-medals-awards/recipient.php?recipientid=2846)
Samuel was born on 29 Sep 1842 in Plympton, Massachusetts, the 8th child in the family of Winslow and Mary Cole Wright. He married Mary E. Nickerson on 3 January 1870 in Plymouth. Samuel and Mary had one child, Mary Dresser Wright who was born in 1875.
Samuel’s Medal of Honor was donated to the Antietam National Battlefield in the National Park Service by his third great grandson, Corey MacLeod of Greenville, South Carolina on 9 May 2008. (Reference: http://www.nps.gov/anti/parknews/release-08-06-10.htm)