A HELENSBURGH man was awarded the United States Medal of Honor in 1894 for bravery in the American Civil War.
James Jardine, who had emigrated from the burgh, received the award for “gallantry in the charge of the volunteer storming party."
At the time he was a Sergeant in Company F of the 54th Ohio Infantry, which he had joined as a Private at Hamilton County in Ohio. He later was promoted to First Lieutenant.
His act of gallantry took place at Vicksburg, Mississippi, on May 22 1863, but the award was not made until April 5 1894.
The Siege of Vicksburg was the final major action in the Vicksburg campaign of the Civil War.
In a series of maneuvres, Union Major General Ulysses S.Grant and his Army of the Tennessee crossed the Mississippi River and drove the Confederate army of Lieutenant General John C.Pemberton into defensive lines surrounding the fortress city of Vicksburg.
An assault on May 19 against the Confederate fortifications was repulsed with heavy casualties, so on the morning of May 22, General Grant launched what he hoped would be a crushing assault, but the Union infantry was repulsed and thrown back along a three-mile front.
The Union Army suffered more than 3,000 casualties, and 97 Union soldiers earned Medals of Honor — the second largest one-day total in history.
Sergeant Jardine was one of 80 soldiers cited for gallantry in the charge of the volunteer storming party, which actually denotes the fact that he was at the head of his attacking force where the enemy fire was hottest and the danger the greatest.
Grant then besieged the city from May 25 to July 4 when it surrendered, yielding command of the Mississippi River to the Union.
The Confederate surrender at Vicksburg is sometimes considered, when combined with Robert E.Lee's defeat at Gettysburg the previous day, the turning point of the war, which ended two years later.
It took the United States Government a long time before they recognised the gallantry of the men who were ‘in charge of the volunteer storming parties’ on May 22 1863.
Many of the 97 Medals of Honor, the highest military decoration, earned that one day, were not awarded until 1894, in the case of James on April 24 of that year.
The story of how he won the medal, presented to him by the President of the United States in the name of The Congress, is told in a remarkable interview with him published in the Inter Ocean newspaper of Chicago, Illinois, opn May 29 1895. It can be read here.
A descendant, financial controller Karen Ondrasek, from Beavercreek, Ohio, who has been researching her family history and has discovered many Jardines living in the Helensburgh and Cardross area, says that James was the son of Helensburgh couple Graham Jardine (left), born in 1795, and Mary (right), nee Brodie.
Graham, a sawyer and former preses of the Dumbarton Provident Society, owned 1 and 3 Sinclair Street, Helensburgh.
He too was an interesting character as he died at Ballarat in Victoria, Australia, on February 23 1857, having not lived to hear of his son’s bravery. He presumably went to Australia at the start of the gold rush with the hope of making his fortune.
He bequeathed the 1 Sinclair Street property, a shop downstairs and a flat above which were both let out, to his widow Mary who lived at no.3. She later sold the two properties and moved to 6 Charlotte Street. No.1, including the furniture, was valued at the time at just over £24.
James, who was born on April 16 1837, was their eldest child, and their other children were Peter, Catherine, Graham, Marion and Malcolm. The family went to America around 1851.
She says: “His brother Graham was my great grandfather — if I have my 'greats' correct.”
- Photos taken on Broadway and now owned by Vicksburg National Military Park; supplied by Jeff Giambrone, Vicksburg.