b. 29/09/1866 Milton, Indiana. d. 27/01/1944 Pershing, Indiana.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 01/07/1898 El Caney, Cuba.
Graves was born southeast of Milton in 1871. His family moved to Germantown, and then to Cambridge City. Shortly after the Spanish-American War broke out, young Graves enlisted to serve on May 11, 1898, at Columbus, Ohio.
Enlisting for a three-year period of service, he gave his age as 29, when he was really 31-years-old. He lied about his age because he thought men had to be under 30 years of age to get in; he later learned the maximum age limit as 32. He was sent to Tampa, Fla., where he was ultimately assigned to Company C, 17th U.S. Infantry Regiment.
His company was ordered to Cuba. After 16 days evading the Spanish fleet, they landed at Diragui. It was at a battle near El Caney that Graves performed his deed of bravery that garnered him the Medal of Honor. American forces were engaged in ferocious battle with the Spanish along a sandy ditch on the offensive. During one ferocious charge, two Colonels strayed ahead of their troops and were ambushed by enemy snipers. One Colonel was shot in the arm but was able to edge his way back to American lines. The other Colonel, named Haskell, was shot in the right side of the torso and fell to the ground, unable to move. He was in the enemy’s sites. The company commander called for volunteers to go after the wounded officer. Thomas Jefferson Graves was one of four volunteers. In leaving the safety of American lines, three of the men were shot. Graves was not. “Bullets kept whizzing around me too,” he later reported, “but I alone succeeded in reaching the fallen Colonel.”
The officer weighed 200 pounds, Graves was unable to carry him, so he rolled him over toward the American lines. Soon other soldiers saw Graves’ strategy, and made mad dashes to them, and together they successfully brought the officer to safety. Once back to American lines, Graves noticed he too had been shot, but it was only powder burns on his stomach; the bullet had grazed him.
Thomas Jefferson Graves of Wayne County would ultimately be at the Battle of San Juan Hill and others. His time in service there, and in the Philippines, caused him depredation. He got kicked by a horse, which necessitated an operation on his leg just below the knee. He also contracted Yellow Fever, but would recover. He received his honorable discharge on May 10, 1901, while still in the Philippines.
He later returned to Wayne County where worked at the potter shop south of Pennville. In 1908 he married Mary Fetters. He and his wife moved to a farm south of Cambridge City, where he worked there until 1924. They ultimately moved into town. He served 16 years as Jackson Township surveyor, and four years as Jackson Township trustee. He gave up his political career in 1935 and from then on did odd “handy man” jobs around the community. He was proud to say he also daily helped his wife with the dishes.
His step-grandson, Robert Huddleston of Dublin, recalled in a 1998 interview, “Grandad was tough. He wouldn’t back down. He was nobody to mess with. I know he had a temper and he used it. He once stood his ground as an angry drunkard entered his house and fired a gun at him.”
Gallantly assisted in the rescue of the wounded from in front of the lines and under heavy fire from the enemy.
BURIAL LOCATION: EAST GERMANTOWN LUTHERAN CEMETERY, EAST GERMANTOWN, INDIANA.
SECTION 3, LOT 177, PLOT D.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: CAMBRIDGE CITY PUBLIC LIBRARY, CAMBRIDGE CITY, INDIANA.