By Cliff Radel
Enquirer staff writer
WINTON PLACE - Five brave Cincinnatians who earned the Congressional Medal of Honor survived withering gunfire to defeat the Confederates in the Civil War.
But they couldn't beat the rules of Spring Grove Cemetery and have their graves marked with their accomplishments, at least until a 77-year-old tree farmer took up their cause.
The five heroes - John Brown, John Henry Dorman, Manning Ferguson Force, George A. Loyd and John P. Murphy - rest in the historic cemetery's tree-shaded groves. These men earned the right to wear the highest honor America can give its troops.
You wouldn't know that by visiting their graves. Markers on their Spring Grove plots contain no mention of the medal. Or the honor.
But they soon will. Because Ray Albert, the aforementioned tree farmer, spoke out.
Ray Albert and his daughter Roxanne Albert Macioci from Amanda, Ohio are on a campaign to add a Medal of Honor marker for gravestones of five Civil War era soldiers buried at Spring Grove Cemetery.
(Enquirer photo/MICHAEL E. KEATING)
For four months, he tried to correct this omission. But unaccommodating Spring Grove employees and a cemetery rule - one marker per grave - left him stymied.
"They told me they could note the Medal of Honor recipients in the cemetery's records," Albert said as he stood in the shade of a tall pine on Spring Grove's manicured grounds. He shook his head and fumed:
"That's not good enough!"
Medal of Honor recipients deserve the best.
Consider the exceptional nature of their valor:
Since the Revolutionary War, 41 million Americans have served in the armed forces. Of that number, only 3,459 have received the Medal of Honor.
The honorees make up .008 percent of all the troops who have fought for the Stars and Stripes. Only one out of every 11,853 people to wear an American uniform has received the medal.
For months, those numbers left Spring Grove officials unmoved. That changed Friday afternoon after the Enquirer called Tom Smith, the cemetery's executive vice president, and made him aware of Albert's mission.
"I had no idea those statistics for these heroes were that impressive," Smith said. Then, he listed his plans for honoring America's highest decorated servicemen.
He pledged that their names will make the cemetery's Web site on its list of notable burials. A brochure will be produced "listing what they did to earn the Medal of Honor and including a simple map that'll show where they're buried."
Saving the best until last, he declared, "We're going to do something significant, something unique, something classy. We're going to come up with our own marker, a bronze medallion of the Medal of Honor insignia mounted on granite with the proper inscription. And, we'll place it at all our Medal of Honor recipients' graves. Should take 6-8 weeks.
"I don't want it to look like just another marker," he added. "I want it to stand out. Thanks for the call."
Thank Ray Albert of Amanda, Ohio. The veteran of World War II and the Korean War - "I enlisted in the Navy when I was 17" - is persistent. And dedicated.
He wants attention paid to these valiant men because "they didn't do this for money. They earned the Medal of Honor fighting for our country. They should not be forgotten."
For the last 19 years, Albert has made sure people remember. As members of the Medal of Honor Historical Society, he and his daughter, Roxanne Albert Macioci, have been cataloging the final resting places of these singular heroes in Ohio.
Albert and his daughter know 144 Medal of Honor recipients are buried in the state, 16 in Hamilton County, seven in Spring Grove - including the five with no mention of the Medal of Honor.
"That's just not right," Albert fussed as he stooped to brush some pine cones away from the grave of Manning Ferguson Force.
Albert stoops a little slower these days. He's not been feeling his best. He was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer.
What they did
Force served as a Brevet Major General in the Civil War. In peacetime, he was a Hamilton County judge and president of the Cincinnati Historical Society. For 67 years, he lay in an unmarked grave sheltered by an ivy-encircled pine.
In 1966, a group of history buffs saw to it that Force received a bronze marker with blue-green lettering. The marker's text includes just about everything you would want to know about Force, except: He earned the Medal of Honor.
Here's how: In the midst of Sherman's march to the sea, Force led a gallant charge during the battle of Atlanta. Severely wounded, he held his position.
Less is known about the other four Medal of Honor recipients. All survived the Civil War and lived full lives. But, their stories are just as compelling.
During the battle of Vicksburg, Sgt. John Brown volunteered to carry a message through a hail of bullets and in plain view of rebel riflemen.
Seaman John Henry Dorman also fought at Vicksburg. Although he was wounded several times, he returned to duty aboard his ship.
At the battle of Petersburg, Va., Pvt. George A. Loyd captured the heavily guarded division flag belonging to a Confederate general.
During the bloodbath known as Antietam, Pvt. John P. Murphy waded into the thick of the enemy to capture the flag of the 13th Alabama Infantry.
Getting the markers
When Albert and his daughter first saw the five graves this spring, they went into their obtain-a-grave-marker mode.
As he has with 35 other Medal of Honor recipient's graves in Ohio, Albert told cemetery officials he and his daughter would fill out the forms and e-mail them to obtain an official gray granite grave marker. No charge for the marker with the Medal of Honor insignia. The government picks up the tab.
"We don't do this to get paid," Albert said. "We do this to honor these guys."
The only charge to the cemetery (about $200) comes from building a concrete foundation for the 12- by 24-inch marker. Plus annual maintenance.
"When he talks to these cemeteries," said Macioci, "my dad always gets his way."
It took a while with Spring Grove. But, it finally happened Friday.
Albert was elated.
"Spring Grove is such a special place," he said. "So peaceful. So historic. So many people come there to take tours.
"Soon, when they walk the grounds, they'll be able to look down at these graves and say: 'There lies a hero.' "
The Medal of Honor
The Congressional Medal of Honor was authorized in 1861. Criteria for earning the medal were established in 1963. The medal is the highest honor awarded to American military personnel for gallantry in action. A Medal of Honor recipient need not be an American citizen.
Selling the Medal of Honor is a federal crime. If convicted, violators can be fined and/or imprisoned for not more than six months.
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