Valor Friday

| February 3, 2023

Part three on my exploration of Congressmen of valor.

Thomas Wilson Bradley

Thomas Bradley, an Englishman by birth, immigrated to the US when he was a small child. He came to the country with his mother Mary Wilson and the James Roberts family, just before his fifth birthday, aboard the ship Fidelia.

Initially living in Connecticut, the family entered the knife business. Bradley’s mother married Thomas Bradley in 1850. Labor issues forced the moving of the family to New York. Growing up in Walden, Orange County, New York, he only attended school until the age of nine. After that he worked in his family’s knife shop.

In August 1862, just a few months after his 18th birthday, he enlisted into the Union Army as part of the 124th New York Volunteer Infantry. He was a sergeant by 3 May 1863, when he participated in the Battle of Chancellorsville.

At Chancellorsville, during the din of battle a call came in urgently. A volunteer was needed to secure some more ammunition. Bradley answered the call. Under heavy enemy musket and cannon fire, and all alone, Bradley moved across the battlefield to get the needed supplies and return them to his comrades.

For this act, Bradley was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1896. More immediately, right after the battle he was given what we would call a battlefield commission, and was appointed a captain. He was aide-de-camp to Major General Gershom Mott, commander of the 3rd Division, II Corps.

In that capacity he was wounded at Gettysburg. He also saw action at the Battle of the Wilderness and the Battle of Boydton Plank Road. Bradley had received a brevet promotion to major in the US Volunteers, and was mustered out with his regiment in June 1865.

After the war he returned to New York. He returned to the cutler business of his family, working his way up to the presidency upon his father’s death in 1880. He eventually sold the business in the early 20th Century.

Bradley was president of the local bank and sat on the board of another financial institution, and participated in many veterans organizations. In 1902 he was elected to the House of Representatives as a Republican from New York’s 20th Congressional District. He was re-elected four times and served a total of ten years in Congress.

Bradley also served as the assistant inspector general of the New York National Guard, first with the rank of lieutenant colonel from 1876 and later as a full colonel. He died in 1920 at the age of 76. He’d resided in Walden until his death. He left behind no close relations and gave his estate to the Village of Walden for the purposes of maintaining a public building he’d previously erected.

Mary Ellen Matise, writing for the Times Hudson Valley, on the 100th anniversary of Bradley’s death said of his legacy to the community;

“Bradley repaid his adopted country in many ways. He was generous to individuals and to the Village of Walden. He financed the Rock Hill Hose Company, the Walden Municipal Building and the Josephine-Louise Public Library. In his will Bradley bequeathed over 40 acres of parkland to the Village and the monument of President William McKinley which is situated in a prominent location on Main Street. The Walden Post Office, a federal building, was erected after his death in 1925 having been procured for the village while Bradley was Congressman. He was a trustee of the Wallkill Valley Cemetery, where he is buried.”

Charles Edward Phelps

Charles Phelps was born in Vermont in 1833. His father was a lawyer and a state legislator. At the age of five his family moved to Pennsylvania before settling in Maryland a few years later.

Phelps’ mother Almira and his aunt Emma Willard were both womens educators. Emma ran a successful women’s school in New York and Almira was principal Patapsco Female Seminary in Ellicott City, Maryland.

With such a family drive for education, it will be no surprise that Phelps attended college. He graduated from Princeton in 1852 and then studied at the Harvard Law School. He was admitted to the Maryland Bar in 1855.

In 1860 Phelps took his first elected office, to the Baltimore City Council. With the start of the Civil War the following year, he enlisted with the 7th Maryland Infantry. He was commissioned as a major and saw promotions to lieutenant colonel in 1862 and full colonel in 1863.

Phelps saw action at the Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia in May 1864. During the fighting his horse was shot out from underneath him. Just a few days after the inconclusive end of that battle the two sides met again at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.

On 8 May during the fighting near the Court House, Colonel Phelps was leading a charge of his men. As they pressed the attack he rode to the front of the attacking column. The Union men were taking withering fire from the Rebels. With losses mounting and the Union troops on the verge of breaking and scattering, Phelps rallied them.

Inspiring the men, he led them in a continued charge, to within feet of the enemy artillery breastworks. It was here that he was severely wounded and captured by the Confederates. He was soon rescued by elements of Sheridan’s cavalry. The cavalrymen who came to free Phelps were from George Armstrong Custer’s division.

For his actions that day Phelps would receive the Medal of Honor, awarded to him in 1898. He was discharged because of his wounds, but was also the recipient of a brevet promotion to brigadier general of volunteers for gallantry in action.

Returning to Maryland after his service, Phelps was elected in 1864 to Congress, representing Maryland’s 3rd District. He was a member of the Unconditional Unionist Party. They were a short-lived party during the war and shortly after, made up largely of Democrats loyal to the Union. Phelps was re-elected two years later as a member of the Conservative Party (as the Democrats were called in some border states).

After his four years in Congress, Phelps returned to Maryland and spent time as an educator. In 1882 he was appointed by the governor to a judgeship on the Circuit Court of Baltimore. He remained in that role until his death in 1908 at age 75. While on the bench, he’d also taught at the University of Maryland Law School. At the time of his death he’d been married to his wife Martha for 40 years.

William Edgar Simonds

William Simonds was a 20 year old school teacher when he enlisted in the Union Army in 1862. He enlisted into service as a private in the 25th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, but was appointed the sergeant major of Company A before he was mustered in.

The 25th Connecticut saw less than a year of federal service. They were assigned to the Department of the Gulf. They spent most of their time in the area of Port Hudson, Louisiana. Before taking part in the bloody protracted fighting over Port Hudson, Simonds and his men were in action near Irish Bend, Louisiana.

On 14 April 1863, at the Battle of Irish Bend, the 25th Connecticut was a part of the larger XIX Corps under Union General Nathaniel Banks. They attacked a Confederate position just a few days after the Battle of Fort Bisland. They were hoping to force a larger Confederate retreat.

Engaging with a much smaller Rebel force, the battle was short and saw the Confederates ultimately withdraw. Among the heroes of the battle was Sergeant Major Simonds. His Medal of Honor citation is brief;

“Displayed great gallantry, under a heavy fire from the enemy, in calling in the skirmishers and assisting in forming the line of battle.”

He received the medal in 1899. Ten days after the battle, Simonds’ leadership was rewarded with a second lieutenant’s commission. Reassigned to Company I within his regiment, they were mustered out in August of 1863.

Upon their release from federal service, Simonds studied law at Yale Law School, graduating in 1865. Admitted to the bar he practiced law in Hartford, Connecticut.

In 1883 he served in his first elected office in the Connecticut House of Representatives, serving as Speaker in 1885. He served a single term in the US House as a Republican from 1889-1891, failing to secure re-election.

After Congress, Simonds was a Commissioner of Patents, then was on his state’s agricultural board, and returned to his law practice. He died in 1903 at the age of 60.

John McCreath Farquhar

Born in Ayr, Scotland, John Farquhar is our final enlisted Congressman to have received the Medal of Honor. Immigrating to the US as a boy, his family settled in Buffalo, New York. He spent most of his adult life as a printer, editor, and publisher.

He was 30 years old when he enlisted into the Union Army in 1862. He mustered into service in Chicago as part of the 89th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment in August. He was quickly promoted to sergeant major in Company B.

Sergeant Major Farquhar didn’t even wait for the new year before he displayed uncommon valor. It was 31 December and the regiment was seeing its first action at the Battle of Stones River in Tennessee. Over the course of three days the Union troops, recently demoralized from the Union’s defeat at Fredericksburg, pushed back and forced the retreat of the Confederates. The victory for the Union helped turn morale back into the positive.

During the battle, when the extreme right arm of the union battle line started to break, Farquhar rallied his men and the numerous men from varied scattered units (listed as “fugitives” in his award citation). Deploying his regiment to reinforce the men of the broken units, he pivotally held the Confederates back until the Union could form a new, proper battle line.

It wasn’t until 1902 that Farquhar would receive the Medal of Honor for this action. After the battle, Farquhar would be given a commission as a major and made the judge advocate and inspector for the IV Corps under Erasmus Keyes.

After the war, Farquhar returned to Buffalo and resumed his business. He eventually sought elected office, winning a congressional seat as a Republican in 1884. He was twice re-elected before losing his party’s nomination in the election of 1890.

After Congress, Farquhar served on the United States Industrial Commission until he retired in 1902. He died in 1918 at the age of 86. He was preceded in death by his wife Jane (1832-1911) and a single daughter Lillian (1867-1876).

I’ll be wrapping up this series next week.

Category: Army, Historical, Medal of Honor, Valor, Veterans in politics

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Great research, Mason. Thanks again.


Thank you much for these Mason.

President Elect Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH Neande

Thomas Wilson Bradley = Bradley Fighting Vehicle?

Actually named for General Omar Bradley, who oversaw the transformation of the 82nd Infantry Division into the 82nd Airborne Division and the last of 9 individuals promoted to 5 star rank in the Armed Forces. (I wiki’d the info)


Have you done one on H.A. DuPont? Interesting man.


Thanks Mason. I’ll check it out. He’s an ancestor of mine. I’ve actually seen his medal. Buried in a vault at Winterthur. There’s a nice marble bust with a carved relief of the MOH in one of the main rooms there as well.

Last edited 1 year ago by Owen

Great read, Mason. Another outstanding job. We Thank you.