Valor Friday

| September 9, 2022

Daniel Edwards

The US Army’s First Infantry Division, known as “The Big Red One” for their shoulder sleeve insignia’s design, was one of the first division-sized elements organized by the Army upon the US entry into World War I. They paraded through Paris on 4 July 1917 after arriving in France, to bolster the spirits of the beleaguered French.

Nominally staffed with more than 27,000 men, the division would fire the first American shells on enemy locations on 13 October. They would suffer the first American casualties a couple of days later. By the end of the war they had penetrated further into German territory than any other American unit and were the first to cross the Rhine into Occupied Germany. We previously talked about one of the soldiers of the division, Rags the dog.

Their successes came at a price. During the war, the division suffered 4,964 killed in action, 17,201 wounded in action, and 1,056 missing or died of wounds. Five men of the division received the Medal of Honor, Daniel Edwards is one of those.

It’s murky at best exactly what the life of Daniel Edwards was like. He was prone to embellishment. Combine that with spotty official records of that time period, and some of things attributed to him probably didn’t happen. What did happen without doubt was a legacy of incredible bravery on the battlefield.

Born in Mooreville, Texas in 1897. He is said to have run away at age 14 from the family farm to become a cowboy. Edwards claimed to have been a Texas Ranger, served in the Mexican Revolution under Pancho Villa, was captured by Mexican federal authorities (by lasso no less), imprisoned in a salt mine from which he escaped, was an observer during the Occupation of Vera Cruz, and, for good measure, said he served in the Philippine Insurrection. Whatever his pre-war exploits, on 6 April 1917, when the US Congress voted to declare war on Germany, he enlisted in the Army.

Edwards was assigned to the Company C, Third Machine Gun Battalion of the First Infantry Division. He was twice recommended for the Medal of Honor, but his first award was downgraded to the second highest award for valor, the Distinguished Service Cross.

By April 1918, the Germans had pushed to within 40 miles of Paris. As the Allies pushed back, the 1st Infantry Division was on the line in front of Cantigny, France.

A small rural village, Cantigny had a population of only about 100. Even today, it’s estimated to only have 111 people living there. On 28 May 1918, then-Major General Robert Lee Bullard commanded the 1st Infantry Division in the battle to retake and hold the town.

Cantigny is situated on a hill with commanding views of the forests that surround it. While the village had little infrastructure, the location was ideal for artillery spotting, making it strategically important.

After an hour of artillery barrages on enemy positions, the 28th Infantry Regiment of the Big Red One left their trenches at 0645 hours to start the assault on Cantigny. Not only were enemy artillery positions targeted by the Allied guns, but a rolling barrage preceded the infantry advance.

The 28th Infantry was reinforced with two infantry companies, three machine gun companies, and a company of engineers, putting their numbers at more than 3,500 men in the attack. French aircraft, 368 artillery pieces, tanks, mortars, and flamethrowers aided the Americans.

Private Edwards was part of the initial advance on Cantigny. Carrying his machine gun upon his shoulder, he was attacked by a German soldier. The German thrust forward with his bayonet, striking Edwards in the wrist, causing a massive gash. One of Edwards’ fellow infantrymen killed the German attacker. Edwards refused to leave the line and continued forward despite his wound.

The force used against the German-held town was overwhelming. The men of the 1st Infantry Division secured the town in only 30 minutes. They suffered just 100 casualties, a minimal number in the accounting of war. Now came the challenge of holding the location.

With the town secured, the Americans pressed forward. Their last objective was some distance past the village. They were soon met by a German counterattack, halting further advance. Edwards and his squad provided machine gun fire to cover the retreat of the light infantrymen as they moved to a better position of cover.

Edwards and his squad repulsed the Germans twice. During these attacks, the other three men of Edwards’ squad were killed and he was seriously wounded, but he held his position in the face of the determined opposition.

For the rest of the day, enemy artillery rained down ceaselessly on the Americans. Just after 1700 hours the first major counteroffensive was launched. It was during this battle that a company of the 26th Infantry Regiment, led by then-Major Theodore Roosevelt Jr was used, earning him the Distinguished Service Cross and the first of his four Silver Stars.

Dressing his own wounds, Edwards remained at his post for the remainder of the day. Facing German attack after attack, including from their machine guns and flamethrowers, Edwards refused to be evacuated. He held his position until the evening, when the company was relieved.

Successfully defending, the Germans continued to try to retake the position repeatedly over the next two days. The Americans held strong despite suffering 1,603 casualties, including 199 killed in action. They captured 250 German prisoners, proved to their French and British allies that the Americans could be trusted to fight hard, and was the first American battlefield victory of the war.

For his part in the Battle of Cantigny, Edwards was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and a Silver Star Citation (which would later be changed to the Silver Star medal we know now). He also received a wound chevron (which would later be changed to the Purple Heart) and was evacuated from the front to a hospital.

General John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force, said of Cantigny;

The enemy reaction against our troops at Cantigny was extremely violent, and apparently he was determined at all costs to counteract the most excellent effect the American success had produced. For three days his guns of all calibers were concentrated on our new position and counter-attack succeeded counter-attack. The desperate efforts of the Germans gave the fighting at Cantigny a seeming tactical importance entirely out of proportion to the numbers involved.

The Cantigny victory was soon followed by the better known Battles of Château-Thierry and Belleau Wood in June.

On 18 July 1918 the 1st Infantry Division again was pressed into battle, this time as part of the 340,000 man strong Allied offensive to take Soissons, France. Edwards, who had been in hospital since his heroism at Cantigny, snuck out of the hospital to rejoin his comrades in the battle. Slated to be returned to the US from his injuries, his break out and hitchhiking back to the front are another example of his determination to be with his brothers in arms.

As before, the Americans advanced behind a rolling artillery barrage. Now a private first class, Edwards was in the thick of fighting. Despite his existing wounds and a freshly shattered right arm causing severe pain, Edwards crawled forward, alone, into an enemy trench. Edwards intent in moving into the trench was to kill or capture the enemy soldiers within.

Edwards killed four before the remaining four surrendered to him. While escorting his prisoners to the rear, one of the Germans was killed by a high explosive enemy shell. The blast also hit Edwards, shattering his leg. He was immediately evacuated.

Over the next four days, the Allies would secure a victory at Soissons.

Though he lost a large part of his arm, for his actions that day, Edwards was awarded the Medal of Honor, another Wound Chevron, and promoted to sergeant. As his citation notes, Edwards’ bravery was “now a tradition in his battalion because of his previous gallant acts.”

From France, Edwards would receive the Military Medal and the Croix de Guerre with bronze palm. Italy awarded him their War Merit Cross. He also was decorated with the Medal for Military Bravery from the Kingdom of Montenegro. In a 1924 photo from the White House when Edwards was formally awarded the Medal of Honor, Edwards can be seen wearing the French Legion of Honor, the Belgian Croix de Guerre,

After the war, Edwards parlayed his hero status into some celebrity. In 1920 he worked as a press aide on the successful presidential campaign of Warren G. Harding. His biography This Side of Hell: Dan Edwards, Adventurer, by Lowell Thomas was published in 1932. As with many Medal of Honor recipients, he gave speeches and lectures throughout the country.

Initially residing in New York, he married Francis Sullivan and they had one daughter. He claimed to have graduated from Baylor University before the war, but there’s some documentary evidence that he attended (and may have graduated) from Texas A&M in 1910. Post-war he used his veterans education benefits for an accounting program, but disliked it. He testified in front of Congress to receive benefits to get a master’s degree from Columbia School of Journalism.

It’s unclear to me what Edwards did or when he was commissioned an officer. There are photos at his 1924 Medal of Honor awarding ceremony at the White House showing him in an officer’s uniform with lieutenant’s bars. Edwards’ official headstone lists his rank as major and that he served during both World Wars.

Many heroes of the First World War volunteered for service in the second. Often they were commissioned, sometimes in a state guard, and used for recruiting efforts and bond drives. It’s reasonable to assume that’s what happened.

Edwards was the subject of a Ripley’s Believe It or Not! cartoon that claimed he had received 88 medals and 55 wounds in his various war services. His obituary said he was a general in Chiang Kai-shek’s Chinese Army and was wounded during the London Blitz. He claimed to have served in Paraguay, Turkey, Venezuela, Ethiopia, Morocco, Nicaragua, and Madagascar, but those claims are dubious.

At some point Edwards’ marriage broke up. He remarried in 1941 to Mary Hanie and they had four children. They resided in Arkansas, and he worked as a fishing guide. Edwards died on October 21, 1967, at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas, and was buried in Cunningham Cemetery, near Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Category: Army, Distinguished Service Cross, Historical, Medal of Honor, Valor

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Thank You, Mason, for sharing a Valor story of another Unsung Hero.

Rest In Peace, Major Daniel Richmond Edwards.


Never Forget.


Can’t understand why this genuine Warrior felt he had to embellish what he did do. His fully documented exploits were commendable. Can see why he thought being an accountant would be a dull way to make a living. “…Texas A & M in 1910…” The original Sheldon Cooper, in college at age 13?

Great write up, again, Mason. Thanks!


Thanks, Mason, for another interesting write-up of a very interesting character. Of particular interest to Poe is that Edwards is buried little more than twenty miles from where this is being typed.


Are you in Arkansas? I used to live in Grant County, if you know where that is.


‘Bout 60 miles northwest of Sheridan…


I used to go to the Conway sale barn, about every week, back in that era.


Have you never heard of Hell’s Accountants?

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We can laugh, but Dementia Joe is going to send 87,000 of them out to gang audit conservatives… 😩 


I don’t think that it is going to materialize. However, if the IRS and Congress ever really wanted to know where to look for the money, there are people who know.

Instead, this is just more of Dark Joe trying to act like a thug, a tough guy and government enforcer. Better that the IRS would take him and his extended family to the truthin’ post and explain to them just how much it’s gonna cost them.

Skivvy Stacker

Are we sure he’s dead? He might be embellishing a bit.