Military-Related Deaths for the Week of April 9-15

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Military-Related Deaths for the Week of April 9-15

Clara Barton, c. 1866, photograph by Mathew Brady
(Unless otherwise indicated, all illustrations are courtesy of Wikipedia)

This Week in Military History

April 12, 1912 – Clara Barton, age 90

Clara Barton was born on Christmas Day, 1821 in North Oxford, Massachusetts. She was an extremely timid child, which she overcame through helping others. She became a schoolteacher at age 17, and in 1852 helped found a free school (an unusual thing in the 19th century) in Bordentown, NJ. Once the school was up and running, Clara was replaced by a male principal elected by the local school board.

In 1855, she moved to Washington DC and began work as a clerk in the U.S. Patent Office. After three years, she weathered a demotion and was finally fired. She returned to her home state, but in 1861 returned to the Nation's Capital upon Abraham Lincoln's inauguration as President.

In late April of 1861, wounded men of the 6th Massachusetts Infantry were attacked while marching through Baltimore on their way to Washington. When the injured men were brought to the railroad station, where Clara tended to many of them. Later, when the men were moved to the unfinished U.S. Capitol, she brought them medical supplies, food, and her tireless work to ease their pain. [Clara soon realized that some of the men she was tending had been students whom she had taught earlier in her life.]

Over the next four years, Clara Barton took her hard work and compassion to several battlefields, including 2nd Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg, Petersburg, and Cold Harbor. She met continual opposition from the War Department, but she finally prevailed. She constantly canvassed for supplies to aid the wounded men. She dressed their wounds, wrote letters home for them, or just sat and talked to them. She became known as the "Angel of the Battlefield."

After the War Between the States ended, Clara ran the Office of Missing Soldiers, which sought to locate the graves of soldiers. One of her greatest successes was the marking of the graves of 13,000 Union soldiers buried at Andersonville prison camp. Working out of a house in the Gallery Place neighborhood of Washington, she devoted four years of her life to this cause.

Clara was ordered to take a trip for relaxation, so she went to Europe and visited the Red Cross offices in Geneva, Switzerland. After lending her assistance during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, Clara became convinced that American recognition of the International Committee of the Red Cross was imperative. Returning to America, she began a relentless campaign to have the federal government recognize the Red Cross. Finally, in 1881, the federal government enacted the necessary legislation, and the American Red Cross came into existence. At the first meeting, Clara Barton was elected the new group's president.

During her campaign for the American Red Cross, Clara was constantly told that it was unlikely that another national calamity like the War Between the States would occur again. She answered that other calamities like forest fires, floods, and other natural disasters would need help from the Red Cross. One of the first major disasters that the Red Cross met was the 1889 Johnstown (PA) Flood. She also traveled to Constantinople, capital of the Ottoman Empire, to take aid to victims of the Hamidian Massacres in Armenia. One of her last operations in the field was leading disaster relief to hurricane-ravaged Galveston, TX in 1900.

In 1904, Clara Barton was forced out as president of the American Red Cross. She lived the rest of her life in her home in Glen Echo, Maryland. This home is now a National Historic Site, under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, Department of the Interior. In 1912, Clara died in her home, succumbing to tuberculosis. She was buried in her native Massachusetts.

Technical Sgt. Joe Louis presented with Legion of Merit, c. 1945; Photographer unknown, image courtesy of
Technical Sgt. Joe Louis presented with Legion of Merit, c. 1945
Photographer unknown, image courtesy of

April 12, 1981 – Joseph Louis Barrow – age 66

Joe Louis Barrow was born May 13, 1914 in Chambers County, Alabama. His father was a  sharecroppers, and his grandparents were former slaves. In 1926, the family moved to Detroit, MI. Joe began hanging out at a local gym, and began boxing to keep out of trouble.

His professional name was shortened to "Joe Louis. He won a number of amateur fights, and finally went professional in 1934, knocking out his opponent in the first round. After that, Joe Louis fought a total of 69 times, winning 66 of them (52 by knockout).
Louis became world champion in June of 1937, knocking out James J. Braddock. For the next 12 years, Joe Louis would hold the world's heavyweight boxing title. During that time, he fought two monumental bouts:

  • On June 22, 1938, Joe fought German boxer Max Schmeling in Yankee Stadium. Regarded as a stand-in for Adolph Hitler, Schmeling had beaten Louis two years earlier (Louis's first professional defeat). The rematch in 1938 featured a relentless, perhaps angry Louis looking for retribution; Schmeling was knocked out with less than a minute to go in the first round. [Both men enlisted in their respective national armed forces during the Second World War.] For years afterwards, Louis and Schmeling were friends, until Louis's death. Schmeling died in 2005 at age 99;
  • On June 18, 1941, Joe fought Pittsburgh-born light heavyweight Billy Conn in the Polo Grounds in New York City. The fight was scheduled for 15 rounds. Conn was ahead on the scorecards after the 12th round. Unfortunately for Conn – who had fought a strategic fight to that point – he decided to go for the knockout in the 13th. Instead, Louis dropped Conn in that round, retaining his world heavyweight title. After the fight, Conn joked with Louis, "Why couldn't you let me hold the title for a year or so?" to which the Brown Bomber responded, "You had the title for twelve rounds and you couldn't hold on to it."

On June 10, 1942, Louis volunteered for service in the Army. He was at first assigned to all African-American unit. However, the higher-ups in the War Department realized the public relations bonanza that fell into their laps. Joe was re-assigned to Special Services, touring the country doing charity bouts and exhibitions. He was also used a recruiting tool, to get other black Americans to enlist. When a reporter asked about his decision to enter the racially segregated U.S. Army, his explanation was simple: "Lots of things wrong with America, but Hitler ain't going to fix them." In a famous wartime recruitment slogan, he echoed his prior comments: "We'll win, because we're on God's side." By the end of the war, Joe Louis was promoted to technical sergeant.

Resuming his boxing career after the end of the war, Louis was not the same man as before. He retired from boxing on March 1, 1949. Unfortunately, the IRS said he owed them several hundred thousand dollars. So in 1950, he began boxing again, but won more fight by TKO or decisions. His final bout was October 26, 1951, when he lost by TKO to eventual heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano.

Joe Louis died in 1981 from cardiac arrest in Las Vegas. In his adopted hometown of Detroit stands Joe Louis Arena, the home of the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League. There is also a golf course in Glendale, IL named in his honor.

In 2005, Louis was ranked as the best heavyweight of all time by the International Boxing Research Organization, and was ranked number one on The Ring magazine's list of the "100 greatest punchers of all time." He is best known by his nickname "The Brown Bomber."

Artist's rendition of cannon explosion which killed Pvt. Daniel Hough; Artist unknown, image courtesy of
Artist's rendition of cannon explosion which killed Pvt. Daniel Hough
Artist unknown, image courtesy of

April 14, 1861 – Private Daniel Hough, Battery E, 1st U.S. Artillery; age c. 35-36

Daniel Hough was born in County Tipperary, Ireland in 1825. He emigrated to the U.S. sometime in the 1850's. Shortly afterward, Hough enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was placed in Battery D of the 1st U.S. Artillery Regiment. His military record states that he had gray hair, blue eyes, a fair complexion, and was 5 feet, 8 inches tall. After his initial enlistment ran out, he re-enlisted and was assigned to Fort Moultrie, in the harbor of Charleston, SC. Hough was transferred to Battery E of the same regiment. In January 1861, Hough's unit was transferred to Fort Sumter.

History caught up with Pvt. Hough on April 12, 1861, when Rebel batteries began a bombardment of Fort Sumter. After a 34-hour bombardment, Union commander Major Robert Anderson agreed to surrender the fort. One of the terms of capitulations was to allow the Federal garrison to fire a 100-gun salute to the American flag.

During the course of the salute, serious incident occurred. Hough was assigned to the 47th gun of the salute. Soon after Hough had loaded the gun, preparing to fire, a spark in the gun barrel set the cartridge off. The gun exploded, blowing off Hough's right arm and almost instantly killing him, as well as detonating ammunition stored next to the gun. Five other soldiers, including Edward Galloway, were wounded (Galloway would die of his wounds five days later in a hospital). The salute was cut short at fifty guns.

Hough was buried on the Fort Sumter parade ground during the surrender; however it is not known where his remains are now. Possible fates are either burial in the Fort Moultrie burial ground or in the St. Lawrence Cemetery in Charleston. Alternatively, his body could have been destroyed while still in Fort Sumter during the Siege of Charleston from 1863-1865. Seven million tons of artillery shells were fired at Fort Sumter during that time, causing extensive damage to the entire structure and its grounds.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.