Author and historian Timothy Reese, a noted authority on the Battle of Crampton's Gap, has consented to have AotW present here the principal content of his reference website, formerly hosted on Earthlink, now withdrawn from service. This page from that site lists the Medals of Honor awarded for action at the Battle.
See also his main Crampton's Gap page.
At the time of the Maryland Campaign the U.S. Congress had not as yet instituted the Medal of Honor or the criteria by which it would be awarded to worthy enlisted men. Throughout 1862 the political machinery for its creation steadily followed its course. President Abraham Lincoln approved the original resolution which became law on March 3, 1863, broadening its provision to include officers.
The framework by which it was recommended and conferred was inherently imprecise. As a result many likely candidates were overlooked while others were given precedence for consideration based on who pressed the issue for award in each case. Initially the medal was largely conferred on soldiers who had captured enemy colors in combat, failing to distinguish cases where a soldier had merely picked up an abandoned flag as a trophy. By warís end the process by which it was granted had largely become a matter of political patronage.
During the postwar era efforts were made to disentangle these influences. War records were reexamined, new recommendations were made through commissioned eyewitness testimony, and additional medals were granted to many men who had been earlier overlooked or lost in the shuffle. The two Medals of Honor awarded for gallantry at Cramptonís Gap fall into this category. Surprisingly both were awarded as the result of quick thinking and bold deception in a fleeting moment of precarious risk. In both instances the recipient might just as well have become another battle statistic.
See more about ... all of the Medals of Honor on the Maryland Campaign
... was acting as regimental adjutant at Cramptonís Gap. His regiment was spearhead of an assault on the extreme Confederate right flank on the David Arnold farm closely followed by the 2nd Vermont, both units of Gen. William T.H. Brooksí 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, Sixth Corps. The 4th Vermont charged across Arnoldís upper paddock in line of battle against a stout stone fence behind which were thinly arrayed companies A and B of the 16th Virginia Infantry and dismounted troopers of the 2nd Virginia Cavalry.
Disparity in numbers foretold that defense would quickly crumble, Confederates fleeing up the thickly wooded mountainside in haste. Pursuit was just as vigorous to the summit though in like disarray. Being mounted, Hooker gained the crest of the south ridge and there set about collecting his men as they arrived panting from the valley floor. General Brooks then came up immediately ordering Hooker to gather the four companies of the 4th Vermont thus far collected and to press on down the ridge toward Brownsville Pass to silence Confederate artillery which had been obliquely shelling their former position. Hooker pushed on down a rugged wagon road traversing the crest, his soldiers soon left behind unable to keep pace with Hookerís horse.
Lieutenant Hooker trotted on alone well ahead until he ran into a sizeable collection of Confederates, in fact the 16th Virginia Infantry, evidently massing around the colors to decide where next to go, wholly disoriented beneath the forest canopy, their ammunition mostly spent. Here in their very midst Hooker abruptly sparked an awkward moment for both parties. Instead of offering his sword in surrender Hooker confidently announced to their commanding officer that a large mass of his Union comrades were right behind, suggesting that they call it a day. No doubt relieved his inadvertent quarry complied on the spot, delivering up their battle flag, Maj. Francis Holladayís sword, and 116 prisoners of war. Had Hooker hesitated it is far more likely he would have been shot or himself taken prisoner.
No medal was immediately forthcoming for his cunning. Subsequent feats of bravery brought to light his daring at Cramptonís Gap, the incident for which a Medal of Honor was duly conferred on September 17, 1891, ironically 29th anniversary of the battle of Antietam.
...also found chaotic need for subterfuge. Allenís regiment had been holding the Federal firing line at right center when Confederate defense collapsed to either side of it. The 18th New York charged ahead leaving the 16th to mop up. Here the Union line inclined to its right pursuing Confederates making haste for Whippís Ravine and a more rapid ascent up the mountain. Regiments quickly became fragmented, Allen and a comrade becoming separated from their unit.
Earlier as it diagonally gave way the 16th Georgia had run into sudden resistance in its path, the regimental standard bearer dropping his precious burden as he raced to escape close pursuit. The hapless fellow was run down by a sergeant of the 96th Pennsylvania and shot to death somewhere in the ravine, leaving the colors far behind as a battle trophy. Instead, others Georgians stumbled upon and reclaimed them.
His buddy had been shot in the leg, so Allen found a comfortable place to leave him, gave him a welcome pull from his canteen, then moved on alone uphill. Within minutes Allen was slightly wounded by a volley unleashed from above. Stunned but no less angered, he commenced waving his arms shouting "Up, men, up!" as though his entire regiment was close at hand. Fire had in fact come from a bewildered knot of fourteen men of the 16th Georgia, his numerical unit counterpart, gathered about their reclaimed colors unsure of what next to do as Federals rampaged above them on both sides. Convinced their plight was hopeless, this tiny band promptly stacked muskets in abject surrender.
Allen quickly got between them and the muskets with his fixed bayonet to reinforce his hand, accepting the high-mileage stars and bars as a prize. Still there were tense moments until Col. Joel Seaver, 16th New York, spied Allenís predicament through field glasses and hastened others to Allenís aid before the Georgians got wise. Allen then moved on up the mountain to ringing cheers as Union troops spotted his trophy. He saw to it that his comrade was found and brought in for treatment. To his deep regret the soldier died six days later.
For his clever ruse Allen was promoted corporal the same day. Many years later his brigade commander, Col. Joseph J. Bartlett, was instrumental in bringing Allenís case to the attention of army authorities. On September 11, 1890 Allen was belatedly awarded the Medal of Honor for Cramptonís Gap shrewdness.
It is only fair to mention that two additional Confederate flags were captured that day under far more horrendous circumstances. These were taken from the largely destroyed Cobb Legion Infantry by soldiers of Col. Alfred Torbertís New Jersey Brigade. The stalwarts who seized these trophies remain anonymous to this day and were never recommended for Medals of Honor as had been Hooker and Allen. This accounts for half the colors taken as battle trophies at Cramptonís Gap. Fate it seems is not all that discriminating. In the late-century spirit of reconciliation three of the four captured flags were returned to their respective states. Whereabouts of the fourth are unknown.
-- Timothy Reese, Burkittsville, Maryland
© 2000, Tim Reese
published online previously as part of the website at http://home.earthlink.net/~tjreesecg/index.html