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War honor finally received
Porter Township Board trustees Diane and Charles Konneck (left and center) and Plum Grove cemetery overseer Nancy DuFour display the plaque honoring Civil War Medal of Honor recipient Elisha Johns.
By Karen Harris Truth Regional Reporter
Union's unacknowledged war hero will finally get the recognition he deserves -- 109 years late.
Sgt. Elisha Johns was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1894, but his grave marker at Plum Grove Cemetery fails to mention this distinction.
In fact, no one in Porter Township was even aware that the area had its own war hero until a letter from J. Donald Morfe of the Medal of Honor Society was sent to Marty Russell, Porter Township Clerk. Russell said, "This letter informed us that we had a Medal of Honor recipient that was buried in our area and that his grave marker did not mention this honor. I passed the letter on to Nancy Dufour, our cemetery overseer, and she contacted Mr. Morfe."
Dufour added, "We were told that we would be sent a plaque to add to Elisha Johns' grave. When it arrived, we were pleased and surprised that it was such a large, heavy plaque. It's about 1 foot by 2 foot and made of bronze."
The Medal of Honor plaque will be unveiled to the public at noon (Michigan time) Saturday in a ceremony to honor Johns' contribution to the United States and his bravery in action in the Battle of Vicksburg during the Civil War. This ceremony will kick off the Memorial Day weekend.
Diane Konneck, trustee on the Porter Township Board, explained, "We are having the Cassopolis American Legion Honor Guard at the ceremony. In addition, Al Pscholka, a representative from Congressman Fred Upton's office, will come to read an official letter of greetings from Congressman Upton."
"We feel it is about time we honor our local war hero, even if it's 100 years late," Russell commented. "We think he's waited long enough for recognition for his service and bravery."
Konneck added, "This is an extremely prestigious award and we certainly want to do something special to recognize Elisha Johns' achievements and Memorial Day weekend is an appropriate time to do it."
Johns isn't the only Medal of Honor recipient to receive a bronze grave marker decades after burial.
The Medal of Honor is the highest award given to the nation's bravest soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coast guardsmen. The Medal of Honor is awarded by the president of the United States, in the name of Congress, which is why it is often called the Congressional Medal of Honor. The decoration was created in 1861 and remains a rare honor.
Elisha Johns was born in Clinton County, Ohio, on Aug. 25, 1837. He entered the Union Army in Martintonk, Ill., and served as a corporal in Company B, 113th Illinois Infantry during the Civil War. During the Battle of Vicksburg, Miss., Johns was a member of the volunteer storming party on May 22, 1863, and displayed gallantry in action.
During that incident, Johns joined 150 other volunteers in bridging a dike with planks of wood to create a way for the storming party to attack the Confederate fort. More than 100 of these volunteers were shot before the bridge could be installed. The remaining men then crossed the dike and started to charge the fort only to find that the charging unit failed to support them. The men were forced to huddle down along the fortification's wall for hours until darkness when they could make their way back to their unit.
Johns was awarded the Medal of Honor on Aug. 9, 1894.
He was married to Margaret Luce Johns in 1856 and had one daughter and two sons. Elisha Johns died June 14, 1920.
Dufour added, "We are currently doing some research to try to find any living relative of Elisha Johns that may still be in the area. We would love to invite them to our ceremony and thank them for Elisha's service to his country."
"The Honor Guard is planning to do a flag ceremony and it would be a very nice gesture if we had a living relative to present the flag to," Konneck said. "If there is a descendent of Elisha Johns still in the area, we encourage them to contact the Porter Township offices."
By The Numbers
More than 41 million people have served in the U.S. military since the Civil War.
Only 3,460 have received Medals of Honor.
74 Medal of Honor recipients are buried in Michigan and 44 are buried in Indiana.
There are 124 living recipients of the Medal of Honor.
Half of the living recipients earned their Medals more than 50 years ago while serving in World War II (45) or Korea (17).
Elisha Johns is one of 10 Medal of Honor recipients from the Michiana area. They include Henry Fox of Mottville, Joseph Nolan of Niles, Philip Schlacter of Sturgis and John Ayers of Three Rivers, as well as Orville Chamberlain of Elkhart, Enoch Weiss of South Bend, and Ruel Johnson and Harry Michael, both of Goshen. Frank D. Baldwin of Constantine was awarded the Medal of Honor twice.
Medal Of Honor
The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon a person serving in the armed services of the United States.On July 25, 1963, Congress established a set of guidelines under which the Medal of Honor could be awarded. The Medal of Honor recipient had to be engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States, engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force or serving with friendly forces engaged in armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.
The names of all Medal of Honor recipients can be found at www.home of heroes.com and www.findagrave.com. Information about the Medal of Honor itself can be found on the Medal of Honor Societys official Web site at www.cmohs.org.
© 2005, by Truth Publishing Company
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