Greensburg-born Civil War hero to be inducted into Hall of Valor
A Civil War soldier from Greensburg who received the Medal of Honor for his heroism in the waning days of the war will get long overdue local recognition when he is inducted into a hall of fellow heroes in Pittsburgh.
John C. Matthews will be among nine inductees into the Joseph A. Dugan Jr. Hall of Valor at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Oakland during ceremonies March 31. Seven hailed from Allegheny and Westmoreland counties, with one each from Jefferson and Lawrence counties.
Matthews, a member of the 61st Pennsylvania Infantry, was awarded the Medal of Honor for “protecting the colors” by preventing Confederate soldiers from capturing the flags during the Siege of Petersburg, Va., on April 2, 1865, said Michael Kraus, curator at Soldiers & Sailors. Although he was severely wounded, Matthews took the colors from a disabled flag bearer and carried the flags “until the enemy’s works were taken,” according to his citation for the medal awarded in 1891.
“Those are make-or-break moments in battle,” Kraus said.
Matthews, who was born in 1843 and died in 1924, was nominated by a descendant, Mary Agnes White of Sumter, S.C., who donated the medal to Soldiers & Sailors last year, Kraus said.
“She thought that returning the medal to Pennsylvania was the right thing to do,” Kraus said.
Matthews received his Medal in 1891, which was not unusual for Civil War presentations. For years after the war, former soldiers who were mentioned as having performed acts of valor applied for the new medal. Some received them; others did not.
Matthews is one of two Medal of Honor recipients who will be inducted into the Hall of Valor this year.
Army Sgt. Leslie H. Sabo, of Ellwood City, was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his heroism in attacking a North Vietnamese force that ambushed his platoon in Cambodia on May 10, 1970.
Vietnam War veteran Joseph Kosoglow, a Harrison City native, was a Marine sergeant who was awarded the Silver Star, the nation’s second-highest valor medal, for his heroism in a battle against the North Vietnamese in June 1966 at what was called Hill 488.
“It is a privilege and honor to serve the country. It is an honor to be recognized” at Soldiers & Sailors Hall, said Kosoglow, now living in McKinney, Texas, which is northeast of Dallas.
Also being inducted into the Hall of Valor, along with the medal they were awarded and the conflict in which they served, are:
• Air Force Maj. William K. Harding, Jefferson County, Distinguished Flying Cross, Vietnam.
• Army Capt. Herbert M. Krauss, Westmoreland, Silver Star, World War II
• Army Air Corps 1st Lt. Robert Long, Westmoreland, Distinguished Flying Cross, World War II
• Army Staff Sgt. Jack Pingree, Allegheny, Silver Star, World War II
• Army Cpl. Bruce D. Wagner, Allegheny, Silver Star, Vietnam, killed in action
• Army Pvt. Frank Williams, Allegheny, Silver Star, World War II, killed in action
The Hall of Valor induction ceremony “is one of the most inspiring ceremonies we do at Soldiers & Sailors. Many times, the veterans who are being honored are there,” Kraus said.
The Hall of Valor was created in 1963 to honor veterans, living and deceased, for valor “above and beyond the call of duty” while in action against the enemy. The Hall of Honor initially was open only to veterans from Allegheny County, Neff said. That was later expanded to cover veterans from Southwestern Pennsylvania and then finally to veterans from across the state, Neff said. The Hall of Valor has honored more than 700 veterans.
Soldiers & Sailors Hall typically receives nominations from family members of veterans, who provide documentation that their veteran was awarded a medal that makes them eligible for induction into the Hall of Valor, said Tim Neff, vice president and director of museum and education.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .