Theodore Roosevelt’s Heir Earns the Medal of Honor

All but forgotten today, Leonard Wood, if he is recalled at all, is chiefly remembered because Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri is named in his honor.  The initial commander of the Rough Riders, Wood was regarded a century ago as the political heir of Theodore Roosevelt.  Roosevelt, until the Grim Reaper cut that prospect short in January of 1919, was widely considered a shoo in for the Republican nomination for President in 1920.  After his death, his friend Leonard Wood became the front runner, seemingly destined to cap his odd career with the Presidency.  Born on October 9, 1860 in Winchester, New Hampshire, he was trained as a physician.  Unable to earn a reliable income in civilian life, he applied for a commission in the Army Medical Corps.  In June 1885 he  contracted with the Army to serve as an Assistant Surgeon without rank.  He found in himself an unexpected talent for military command when, in the last campaign against Geronimo, he took command of a detachment of the 8th Infantry after the officers in the detachment were killed in hand to hand combat with the Apaches.  He showed such courage and skill in this role, that Captain Henry Lawton, the commander of the expedition, and General Nelson Miles, recommended Wood for a Medal of Honor, and lobbied persistently for it over the next dozen years until it was finally awarded in 1898.  Here is the text of the Citation:

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Assistant Surgeon Leonard Wood, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in the Summer of 1886, in action in the Apache Campaigns in Arizona Territory. Assistant Surgeon Wood voluntarily carried dispatches through a region infested with hostile Indians, making a journey of 70 miles in one night and walking 30 miles the next day. Also for several weeks, while in close pursuit of Geronimo’s band and constantly expecting an encounter, commanded a detachment of Infantry, which was then without an officer, and to the command of which he was assigned upon his own request.

More posts on Leonard Wood and the other chief figures in the 1920 Presidential race to come.


Published in: on May 3, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Theodore Roosevelt’s Heir Earns the Medal of Honor  
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