Carroll's Civil War hero Honor: John Buffington, the only county man to receive the Medal of Honor in the Civil War, will be feted during Celebrate Taneytown on Saturday, when a wreath is placed on his grave.

August 21, 1997|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

John E. Buffington didn't care much for ceremony during his lifetime. But Carroll County's only Civil War Medal of Honor winner will be honored Saturday at Celebrate Taneytown, the city's second Civil War festival.

Re-enactors representing the 11th Pennsylvania Fife and Drum Corps will lay a wreath on Buffington's grave in Trinity Lutheran Church cemetery at 9: 30 a.m. A local historian will read an account of the actions that earned Buffington the nation's highest military honor.

The Celebrate Taneytown planning committee is honoring Buffington as part of a festival that will include a costume ball, workers in "forgotten arts" -- pre-Industrial Age crafts -- and re-enactors in an encampment that will be open at night for candlelight tours.

Buffington left the Army 130 years ago without applying for a medal, said his great-grandson, Barry Garner of Taneytown. "He didn't think he was worthy."

Born in 1841 on a farm near Middleburg, Buffington signed up for a three-year hitch in the Union Army in 1862, listing his occupation as farmer, according to family records preserved by Garner.

Buffington's Medal of Honor certificate cites him for "most conspicuous gallantry in action." Buffington, the color-bearer for the 6th Maryland Regiment, was the first enlisted man from the 3rd Division to break through the enemy line at Petersburg, Va., on April 2, 1865. A sergeant at the time, he was later promoted to lieutenant.

Buffington was recommended for the medal for his actions at Petersburg. He shared a $400 reward with two other soldiers. The reward was given by Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, the Union commander, to soldiers who distinguished themselves at the Battle of Petersburg, an assault on a fort south of Petersburg, and the Battle of Five Forks, Va.

"He is as modest and retiring in manner as he was gallant and brave in action, and never applied for the medal nor alluded to the subject," the Baltimore American reported in an article on the March 28, 1908, ceremony at which Buffington received his medal.

It was awarded at Reindollar's Opera House in Taneytown after an Army pension agent discovered that it had never been presented.

Buffington returned to farming in the Middleburg area after the war. He married Agnes A. Garber of Taneytown in 1866. The couple had five daughters and one son.

Garner said no stories about his great-grandfather have been passed down through the family. Garner inherited photographs, Buffington's Medal of Honor certificate, military commission, roster of Company C and church confirmation certificate from his father, Fred Garner Sr. One of Buffington's granddaughters has the medal, Barry Garner said.

Buffington died in 1924 in Washington.

Celebrate Taneytown planners learned of Buffington's role in the Civil War too late for a ceremony at the festival last year, planning committee member Judith Shultz said. The committee applied to the Virginia-based Medal of Honor Historical Society, which obtains markers from the Department of Veterans Affairs, for the graves of medal winners. The application went in too late for this year, but the marker is expected to be available by next year's festival, Shultz said.

Pub Date: 8/21/97

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