Discussion Willie Johnston Civil War Medal of Honor at 11 years old

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eboulais

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Mar 29, 2019
The youngest Medal of Honor recipient was awarded at 11 and was granted it at 13. Born in New York, 11-year-old Willie Johnston enlisted in the Union Army alongside his father, serving as a drummer boy with the 3rd Vermont Infantry during the Civil War. In June 1862, overpowered by Confederate forces, his unit retreated down the Virginia Peninsula under orders from General George McClellan. Along the way, the men discarded their equipment to hasten their pace. Young Willie, however, clung to his drum throughout the march and was later asked to play for his entire division on July 4. When Abraham Lincoln heard about the drummer’s bravery, he recommended him for the Medal of Honor, and Willie received the award in September 1863.

Willie Johnston.gif
 

John Hartwell

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Aug 27, 2011
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Central Massachusetts
Here's a clearer, full size copy of that picture, a new addition to Ron Coddington's outstanding Flickr Photostream. Looking at it one is struck by just how young he was. [Reproduced with permission]:
49087774193_2f009b2d33_o.jpg
Coddington notes: "Johnston is pictured here with the Medal and his drum. He wears the uniform of the Veteran Reserve Corps, which be joined due to health issues. According to Marius B. Peladeau, author of “When Willie Went to War,” this portrait might have been made during a visit to Washington to receive his honor. Peladeauu also notes that the drumsticks appear to be expensive, perhaps topped by German silver or ivory."
 
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BrianB

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May 16, 2014
One interesting thing about Willie Johnston is that he is one of the very few MOH winners whose fate is unknown. He has been traced to the Boston area, circa 1900. Then - he absolutely vanishes. Somebody posted on Wikipedia that he died in September 1941, but no source for this information was ever provided.

So, does anyone out there have any info about whatever happened to Willie?
 

John Hartwell

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I find Willie mentioned a couple of times in Vermont newspapers: in 1908, when photographs of all Vermont MoH recipients were put on display in the State House in Montpelier, and again in 1913, on the 50th anniversary of his medal. But, neither mention where,or, indeed, whether he was living.
 
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