July 26, 2011

James H. Fields

   James H. Fields, Medal of Honor recipient, was born at Caddo, Texas, on June 16, 1920, the son of Mr. and Mrs. R. B. Fields. He graduated from Lamar High School in Houston and was drafted into the army in 1942. He was a member of the Tenth Armored Infantry, Fourth Armored Division, United States Army. First Lieutenant Fields was cited for "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty" on September 27, 1944, at RĂ©chicourt, France. He led his depleted platoon in a counterattack on an enemy position and exposed himself to enemy fire while attending to one of his wounded men. He himself was wounded in the face by a bursting shell. Badly injured and rendered speechless he continued to direct his platoon in the attack by hand signals. Two enemy machine-guns had the platoon in a deadly crossfire. Fields left his foxhole, picked up a light machine gun, and, firing from the hip, knocked out both the enemy positions. His action inspired his men to increase the pressure of the attack. Only when the enemy was scattered did Fields allow himself to be evacuated to the command post. There he refused further evacuation until he could brief the battalion commander. Only eleven of the fifty-five men in his platoon survived the day's engagement. Fields's heroism was largely responsible for the repulse of the enemy forces and was an inspiration to the entire command. After the war he became an independent oil operator. He died at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Houston (now the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Houston) on June 17, 1970, and was survived by his wife, Mathilde, and four children. He was buried in the VA Houston National Cemetery. Source 

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, at Rechicourt, France. On 27 September 1944, during a sharp action with the enemy infantry and tank forces, 1st Lt. Fields personally led his platoon in a counterattack on the enemy position. Although his platoon had been seriously depleted, the zeal and fervor of his leadership was such as to inspire his small force to accomplish their mission in the face of overwhelming enemy opposition. Seeing that 1 of the men had been wounded, he left his slit trench and with complete disregard for his personal safety attended the wounded man and administered first aid. While returning to his slit trench he was seriously wounded by a shell burst, the fragments of which cut through his face and head, tearing his teeth, gums, and nasal passage. Although rendered speechless by his wounds, 1st Lt. Fields refused to be evacuated and continued to lead his platoon by the use of hand signals. On 1 occasion, when 2 enemy machine guns had a portion of his unit under deadly crossfire, he left his hole, wounded as he was, ran to a light machine gun, whose crew had been knocked out, picked up the gun, and fired it from his hip with such deadly accuracy that both the enemy gun positions were silenced. His action so impressed his men that they found new courage to take up the fire fight, increasing their firepower, and exposing themselves more than ever to harass the enemy with additional bazooka and machine gun fire. Only when his objective had been taken and the enemy scattered did 1st Lt. Fields consent to be evacuated to the battalion command post. At this point he refused to move further back until he had explained to his battalion commander by drawing on paper the position of his men and the disposition of the enemy forces. The dauntless and gallant heroism displayed by 1st Lt. Fields were largely responsible for the repulse of the enemy forces and contributed in a large measure to the successful capture of his battalion objective during this action. His eagerness and determination to close with the enemy and to destroy him was an inspiration to the entire command, and are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Armed Forces.

29° 55.828, -095° 27.041

Section Hb
Houston National Cemetery

July 19, 2011

Benjamin Lee "Benny" Boynton

   Ben Boynton, football player, was born on December 6, 1898, in Waco, Texas, the son of Charles Albert and Laura Bassett (Young) Boynton. He began his football career as quarterback at Waco High School, where he was an all-round sports star (1913, 1914, 1915). At a time when the sports focus was on eastern collegiate football, Boynton attended Williams College, where during his sophomore year his kickoff returns placed him high among top contenders for national recognition. He played quarterback on an undefeated Williams team and was selected as one of the members of the All-Eastern eleven.

   At the close of the 1917 season the International News Service placed him on its All-American team. He thus became the first Texan named to an All-American team. He left school in 1918 and became a gunnery sergeant in the marine aviation corps during World War I. In 1919 he returned to Williams, where he achieved legendary status in eastern collegiate football. Harvard, Yale, and Princeton all lost to Williams College in 1917, 1919, and 1920.

   Boynton was named to Frank Menke's All-American teams for three seasons. He was one of the few players listed as three-time All-American by the Official Football Guide in 1919 and 1920. He was described as one of the best drop-kickers ever and a fine field general and open-field runner. He tied an all-time record for the longest scoring run by any method (110 yards) when he ran out a long punt return in the 1920 game against Hamilton College. He was also classed as one of the first great passers in football. After graduation Boynton worked for Bethlehem Steel Company in Steeltown, Pennsylvania, and was on the professional football circuit for four years with five different teams. At one time he played on two teams at the same time - the Frankfort Yellow Jackets on Saturdays and the Buffalo All-Americans on Sundays. In professional football he was considered second only to Jim Thorpe in all-round football ability; he was also described as a "brainy" fellow who could do anything.

   Boynton organized the Southwest Football Officials Association in 1926 and officiated at college and high school games until 1939, when he became a sportscaster for Southwest Conference games. He served as a navy lieutenant commander during World War II. He was a longtime president of the Texas Golf Association and a Dallas insurance executive. He died in Dallas on January 23, 1963, and was survived by his wife, Katherine. Boynton was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1962. He was also named to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. Source 

32° 55.564, -096° 44.361

Abbey Mausoleum
Restland Memorial Park

July 12, 2011

Sarah Emma Evelyn Edmundson Seelye

   Sarah Seelye was born Sarah Emma Evelyn Edmundson in New Brunswick province, Canada, in December 1841. To avoid an unwanted marriage, she ran away from home when she was seventeen, disguised as a boy. She continued her male masquerade as a publisher's agent in the midwestern United States and, on May 25, 1861, enlisted in Company F, Second Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment, under the alias Franklin Thompson. For nearly two years she served in the Union Army undetected, with assignments including male nurse, regimental mail orderly, and brigade postmaster, and on special assignments for the secret service. Ironically, in the secret service duty she penetrated Confederate lines "disguised" as a woman. Fearing her guise would be discovered when she became ill with malaria in 1863, she deserted and resumed a normal existence in Ohio as a female.

   After regaining her health she again volunteered as a nurse, but this time with the Christian Sanitary Commission at Harper's Ferry, and as a female. Under a shortened version of her maiden name, S. Emma E. Edmonds, she wrote a fanciful, but highly successful, account of her experiences in the army, Nurse and Spy in the Union Army (1865). The popularity and exposure she gained from the book and its revelation that she had deserted the army at one time led the government to cancel her pension. She later married a childhood neighbor, Linus Seelye, and reportedly had five children, three of whom died in infancy.

   A congressional bill in 1884 recognized her service to the Union and granted her a pension of twelve dollars a month. The charge of desertion from the army was removed by Congress in 1886. In the early 1890s the Seelye family moved to La Porte, Texas, and on April 22, 1897, Sarah Seelye became a member of the McClellan Post, Grand Army of the Republic, in Houston, Texas - the only woman member in the history of the GAR, though as many as four hundred women may actually have served in the Union army. At the time of her death Seelye was writing her memoirs of the Civil War. She died in La Porte, Texas, on September 5, 1898. Three years later, at the insistence of her fellow members of the McClellan Post, her remains were transferred to the GAR plot in the Washington (German) Cemetery in Houston. Source 

Note: Her last name is spelled incorrectly on her stone.

29° 45.873, -095° 23.307

Section B
Washington Cemetery

July 5, 2011

Benjamin Johnson

   Benjamin Johnson, soldier, early settler, and son of Moses Johnson and Mary Ann Roberts was born on June 8, 1815, near Edgerly (in present-day Calcasieu Parish), Louisiana. He moved to Texas in 1832 and settled at Jefferson Municipality (present-day Bridge City in Orange County) on Cow Bayou.

   Johnson volunteered to fight in the Texas Revolution and enlisted in the Texas Army on November 12, 1835, under Capt. Willis H. Landrum’s Company. He participated in the Grass Fight and the siege of Bexar later that year. Johnson was given an honorable discharge on January 1, 1836, at the Alamo. After learning of the fall of the Alamo, he re-enlisted in Capt. James Gillaspie’s Company, in the Second Regiment of Texas Volunteers under Col. Sidney Sherman’s command. On April 21, Sherman formed part of the regiment of the left wing and fought in the battle of San Jacinto. On June 30, Johnson served a third enlistment as second sergeant in Capt. John G. W. Pierson’s Company at Washington. He received an honorable discharge on September 30, 1836.

   After service, Johnson received a donation of 320 acres of land for having served in the army. He returned to Jefferson, where on January 24, 1838, he received a 1,440-acre headright from the Jefferson County Board of Land Commissioners. On April 24, 1838, Johnson married Rachel Garner, daughter of Bradley Garner, Sr., and Sarah Rachel Harmon. Rachel was from a family of military service. Her father fought in the Battle of New Orleans, and her brothers David, Isaac, and Jacob Garner fought at the Grass Fight and the Siege of Bexar. Her brother-in-law Claiborne West was a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. Soon after marriage Johnson and his new wife settled in Sabine Pass on a farm of his sister-in-law Sarah Garner McGaffey. Records show that Benjamin and Rachel Johnson were one of the earliest settlers in Sabine Pass along with John McGaffey, Thomas Courts, and Jacob Garner. Johnson then appeared before the land commissioners and received an additional headright of 3,000 acres, granted to married men. He and Rachel became the parents of at least eight sons and two daughters.

   On July 7, 1838, Johnson was granted an additional 640 acres of donation land for having fought at the battle of San Jacinto. That same year, he was certified as one of fifty-seven jurors to serve in the Jefferson County courts. He was elected a county commissioner on December 2, 1852. He and his family were charter members of the second Baptist Church of Jefferson County. Rachel Johnson died in 1856. On July 4, 1861, Johnson married Matilda Myers, whom he had employed as his housekeeper. Later that year in August, Benjamin Johnson joined his three sons, Bradley, John, and Uriah Johnson, and served under Ben McCulloch in the Confederate Army. In addition to his military and public service, Johnson was a farmer, stockman, and patriarch. Benjamin Johnson died at the age of fifty-seven at Sabine Pass on October 13, 1872, and was buried at the Johnson family plot at the Sabine Pass Cemetery in Jefferson County. A Texas Historical Marker was erected in his honor in 1972. Source 

29° 43.108, -093° 54.319

Sabine Pass Cemetery
Sabine Pass