b. 1839 Boughton Aluph, Ashford, Kent, England. d. 22/11/1891 St Louis, Missouri.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 29/12/1890 Wounded Knee, South Dakota.
He was born Stephen John Hobday in the summer of 1839 at Boughton Aluph and was baptized on August 4 that same year. His father John Davis Hobday, born in Boughton in 1815, worked as a laborer and gardener. He married Mary Austin in August 1836, a twenty-three-year-old from the neighboring parish of Westwell on the outskirts of Ashford in county Kent in the southeast corner of England. Over the next twenty years John and Mary had eight children, all born in Kent County: Valentine John in 1838, Stephen John (the subject of this post) in 1839, Harriett in 1841, Mary Ann in 1845, James Moss in 1847, William in 1849, John Davis in 1851, and lastly George Edward in 1855. Stephen’s mother died in 1896 and his father in 1898.
In 1861, Stephen was still living at home in Boughton and working as a domestic servant. Sometime during that decade he emigrated to the United States. He made his way to Memphis, Tennessee, where in 1868 he enlisted in the Army for three years, taking his youngest brother’s name, George. Hobday’s enlistment record states that he was a twenty-six-year-old laborer from Pulaski County, Illinois, and stood five feet eight with grey eyes, brown hair, and a dark complexion. He was initially assigned to Captain John Christopher’s D Company, 25th Infantry Regiment, which served in Memphis and later at Jackson Barracks, Louisiana, during the Reconstruction Period. Hobday was later transferred to D Company, 14th Infantry Regiment under the command of Captain Joseph Vanderslice at Fort Columbus, New York. He was discharged in August 1871 at the expiration of his first enlistment.
Five years later in September 1876 George Hobday enlisted at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for five years. Perhaps the widely publicized Little Big Horn campaign that summer spurred him to sign back up with the Army. He was assigned to G Company, 7th Cavalry, which had lost one officer, seven non-commissioned officers, and six privates killed in their fight under Major Marcus Reno’s command. As a member of G Company he likely fought at the Battle of Canyon Creek under the command of Lieutenant George Wallace in 1877. After completing his five-year enlistment in 1881 at Fort Meade, Dakota Territory, Private Hobday went to Chicago, Illinois, and on September 24 of that year he enlisted again for another five years. He was assigned to Captain Henry Nowlan’s I Troop and later transferred to Captain Moylan’s A Troop, completing his enlistment in 1886 still at Fort Meade.
Again, Hobday made his way to Chicago and enlisted for another five-year hitch; this time he was assigned to B Company, 23rd Infantry Regiment and posted at Fort Brady, Michigan. In April 1888, he was transferred back to the 7th Cavalry and Captain Moylan’s A Troop stationed at Fort Keogh, Montana Territory. It was this assignment that found Private Hobday serving as a cook in the cavalry camp near the Wounded Knee Creek Post Office on December 29, 1890.
In October 1891 at Fort Riley, Kansas, Private George Hobday finished his fourth enlistment. He traveled to St. Louis where, at the age of fifty-two he enlisted for a fifth time being assigned as an Ordnance Private at the Saint Louis Powder Depot at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. Shortly after joining the unit he contracted double pneumonia and died on December 22, 1891. He was buried in the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery with a headstone upon which his name was misspelled HOLDAY and with no mention of his being a Medal of Honor recipient.
Major John Kress, George Hobday’s commander, inventoried his personal effects, including his Medal of Honor and sent them to Hobday’s father at Kennington, Kent, England. John Hobday died seven years later, and apparently, Private George Hobday’s Medal of Honor passed to his youngest brother, the George Edward Hobday whose name Stephen John Hobday had taken when he emigrated to America.
George Edward Hobday, the younger brother, served a lengthy career in the British Army, retiring after World War I in British Columbia, Canada. When he passed away in 1933, George Edward passed his medals along with his brother’s Medal of Honor to his daughter, Mrs. Nora Hobday Bryce. She also came into possession of her brother, Cecil Hobday’s medals. Cecil had fought with the 2d Canadian Division during World War I and was killed in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. The entire collection of medals was offered for sale by The London Medal Company for £12,500, including Private George Hobday’s Medal of Honor, George Edward Hobday’s British Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, and Cecil Hobday’s Identification Bracelet and World War I medals. While this medal set would be an enviable acquisition for any military collector, potential buyers should be forewarned that purchasing or selling a Medal of Honor is a violation of U.S. law that carries a penalty of up to six months confinement.
In 2004, a newspaper article brought attention to the discrepancy on Private George Hobday’s headstone at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. The Congressional Medal of Honor Society rectified the issue by replacing the headstone correcting his name–at least to the one documented in his Army service records–and recognizing him as a Medal of Honor recipient. On official records he is still listed as being born in Pulaski County, Illinois, and is not on the list of foreign-born recipients of the Medal of Honor.
Conspicuous and gallant conduct in battle.
BURIAL LOCATION: JEFFERSON BARRACKS NATIONAL CEMETERY, LEMAY, MISSOURI.
SECTION 59, GRAVE 11649.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: UNKNOWN – MEDALS WERE REMOVED FROM AUCTION SITE.