Henry Ware Lawton MOH

b. 17/03/1843 Maumee, Ohio. d. 19/12/1899 Philippines.

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 03/08/1864 Atlanta, Georgia.

Henry W Lawton MOH

Lawton was born on March 17, 1843, in Maumee, Ohio. He was the son of millwright George W. Lawton and Catherine (née Daley) who had been married in December 1836. Henry had two brothers, George S. and Manley Chapin.

In 1843, Lawton’s father moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana, to work on a mill. The family followed him the same year. George went to California in 1850 to build shakers for the gold miners. He returned to Ft. Wayne later in 1853 and shortly after, on January 21, 1854, his wife Catherine died. She had been living with family members in or near Birmingham and Sandusky, Ohio, during George’s absence. According to accounts given years later by Andrew J. Barney, a resident of the area and family friend, Henry attended public school in Florence Township, Ohio, from 1850 to 1854. Barney married the sister of Henry’s mother in 1856 and for a time, Henry lived with the Barney family, and with his aunt, Marie Lawton, of Sandusky. He traveled with his father to Iowa and Missouri in 1857, returning to Fort Wayne in 1858. He enrolled at the Methodist Episcopal College in 1858 and was studying there when the American Civil War began.

Lawton was among the first to respond to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for three-month volunteers. He enlisted in Company E of the 9th Indiana Volunteers, and was mustered into service on April 24, 1861, as one of the four company sergeants. He saw action at Philippi, Laurel Hill, and Corrick’s Ford, in what is now West Virginia. He was mustered out on July 29, 1861, and returned home. Colonel Sion S. Bass was then organizing the 30th Indiana Infantry, and Lawton re-enlisted.

The 30th Indiana Infantry mustered into service on August 20, 1861. Lawton was his company’s first sergeant but was promoted to 1st lieutenant on August 20. The 30th joined the Army of the Ohio, under General Don Carlos Buell in Kentucky and remained there for a brief period. The army moved on to Tennessee early in 1862. Its first major engagement was at the Battle of Shiloh, where Lawton’s regiment suffered heavy losses. Lawton had experienced one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. His unit moved on and fought at the Siege of Corinth in Mississippi.

Lawton’s unit also fought at Iuka while attached to Buell’s forces. At the age of nineteen, on May 7, 1862, outside of Corinth, he was promoted to the rank of captain.

He fought at the battles of Stones River and Chickamauga and saw action in over 22 major engagements. He received the Medal of Honor years later for his bravery at the Atlanta campaign (May 22, 1893). He was a brevet colonel at the end of the war.

After the war, Lawton became a companion of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. After the Civil War he studied at Harvard Law School, graduating in 1866, before returning to the army. Lawton wanted a Captain’s commission in the Army but did not receive it. Generals William Tecumseh Sherman and Philip Sheridan wrote recommendations supporting Lawton’s efforts to rejoin the Army.

Sheridan strongly urged Lawton to accept a 2nd lieutenant’s commission, which he did, joining the 41st Infantry Regiment under the command of Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie on July 28, 1866. Lawton served for many years under Mackenzie, mainly as quartermaster, and also as a close confidant. He developed a reputation as a fierce and determined fighter as well as one of the most organized quartermasters in the service. Lawton served with Mackenzie in most of the major Indian campaigns in the southwest, including the Fourth Cavalry’s victory at the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon.

While earning a reputation as a fierce and tenacious fighter, Lawton was also regarded as having compassion for the Indians. Among those who respected Lawton was Wooden Leg, a Northern Cheyenne who was in a group of Cheyenne escorted by then Lieutenant Lawton to a southern reservation. Lawton also served as an advocate for the Indians on the reservation when he learned that the local Indian agency was short-changing the Indians on their food allotments.

In 1883, Lawton and Major William F. Tucker claimed 800 acres overlapping a traditional farming village near the Zuni Indian Reservation. The area, now desired for cattle ranching, was omitted from reservation borders in 1877. Lawton and Tucker were opposed by anthropologist Frank Hamilton Cushing, Chicago Inter-Ocean editor William Eleroy Curtis, and Boston Herald reporter Sylvester Baxter. In May 1883, US President Chester A. Arthur responded to the controversy with an executive order, expanding the reservation to include the contested village.

In 1886, he was in command of B Troop, 4th Cavalry, at Fort Huachuca and was selected by Nelson Miles to lead the expedition that captured Geronimo. Stories abound as to who actually captured Geronimo, or to whom he surrendered. For Lawton’s part, he was given orders to lead actions south of the U.S.-Mexico boundary where it was thought Geronimo and a small band of his followers would take refuge from U.S. authorities. Lawton was to pursue, subdue, and return Geronimo to the U.S., dead or alive.

Lawton’s official report dated September 9, 1886, sums up the actions of his unit and gives credit to a number of his troopers for their efforts. At the same time, in his typical fashion, Lawton takes no credit for himself. Geronimo himself gave credit to Lawton’s tenacity for wearing the Apaches down with constant pursuit. Geronimo and his followers had little or no time to rest or stay in one place. Completely worn out, the little band of Apaches returned to the U.S. with Lawton and officially surrendered to General Nelson A. Miles on September 4, 1886. While debate continues as to whom Geronimo surrendered, it was rare that Native Americans rarely “surrendered” to junior officers. They usually surrendered to general officers or higher.

At various times after the campaign, Lawton was questioned by friends about the campaign. He remained tightlipped and stated that his unit simply pursued Geronimo and brought him back. On September 17, 1888, Lawton was promoted to major, inspector general of the Army. On February 12, 1889, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel, inspector general. His duties provided him with many opportunities to develop improvements in organization and equipment for the Army and he worked in this capacity for most of the time up until the Spanish–American War.

In May 1898, Lawton was appointed brigadier general of volunteers and assumed command of the 2nd Division, Fifth Army Corps, serving under General William Rufus Shafter. His unit was sent to Cuba, where it spearheaded the invasion of Cuba at Daiquiri, a shallow beach area 18 miles (29 km) east of Santiago. The landing of American forces took place on June 22, 1898.

Lawton’s force of 6,000 troops moved inland as Spanish forces retreated and he reached Siboney on June 23. General Joseph Wheeler took it upon himself to jump ahead of plan and found himself in a fierce fire fight with the Spanish at the Battle of Las Guasimas. Wheeler elected to send word back to Lawton for help and Lawton’s unit rushed forward to help Wheeler from his difficulties but the battle was over by the time Lawton’s lead regiments arrived and they took no part in the fighting. The fact that the Spanish did not put up a prolonged resistance gave the Americans the impression they would be easy to defeat. This resulted in some miscalculations regarding the Spanish capabilities in planning future engagements.

In the following Battle of El Caney, Lawton’s division suffered heavy casualties but eventually took the city and linked up with the rest of the U.S. forces on San Juan Hill for the Siege of Santiago. Once Santiago had fallen, Lawton wawnted to be returned to the U.S. along with General Shafter and Fifth Corps; however, the War Department selected him as military governor of Santiago de Cuba province, a position he held from early August to early October 1898.

Lawton suffered from a fever, possibly malaria, on and off between July and October. This fact was detected by only a few correspondents. For his part, Lawton did not make light of the illness except to a few close friends with whom he corresponded. His real condition may have been “recurring” malarial fever since he had been diagnosed with the illness, as well as dysentery in 1876. According to National Archive records, the army surgeon who diagnosed his condition at that time recommended a six-month leave in a different climate from the one in which he was stationed. His illness forced him to take a medical leave of absence on October 6, 1898. He returned to the U.S. on October 13 and shortly thereafter, began his preparation for the assignment that would take him to the Philippines.

With the fighting against the Spanish over, Lawton was transferred to the Philippines to command the 1st Division of Eighth Army Corps during the Philippine–American War. There, he played a significant part in the military victories during the first part of the war, scoring victories at Santa Cruz and Zapote Bridge. He was able to inspire troops by his personal leadership and successfully incorporated tactics learned while fighting Indians in the American West.

During the Battle of San Mateo, Lawton was, as usual, in the midst of the fighting and was killed by a Filipino sharpshooter, coincidentally under the command of a general named Licerio Gerónimo who possibly had Native American descent himself as Indians (Native Americans), Mestizos, and Criollos were once sent by Spain to serve as soldiers in the Philippines. He was the highest ranking American officer to fall in battle in either the Spanish–American or Philippine–American Wars. A vacancy had existed for a brigadier general in the Regular Army, and rumors had circulated for months as to whom the President would promote. The final tribute of recognition from the President and army had already been paid in the form of the promotion for Lawton on the day of his death. The adjutant general’s office was processing the promotion when word was received in the White House of Lawton’s death.

Lawton laid in repose at the chapel in Paco Cemetery Manila. His body left the Philippines on board the U.S. Army Transport Thomas on December 30, 1899. The Thomas reached the shores of San Francisco on Tuesday, January 30, 1900. Lawton was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on February 3, 1900.



Led a charge of skirmishers against the enemy rifle pits and stubbornly and successfully resisted two determined attacks of the enemy to retake the works.