Across America there are many regional Medal of Honor (MOH) exhibits, memorials and museums. Many of them have remarkable artifacts associated with the MOH. One of the strengths of the National Medal of Honor Museum in Arlington is the magnetic effect it will have on the regional exhibits. It will expand tremendously the visibility of their treasures, as well as sharing the knowledge of curators and other experts of the various missions of the museums.
One of the more remarkable and colorful of these regional museums is at Fort Chadbourne near Bronte, Texas. This museum and its curator, Ann Pate, will be a great resource for the National museum in Arlington as it is for the state of Texas. It is also a treasure chest of MOH memorabilia.
Fort Chadbourne was founded in 1852 as one of a series of military safe havens to protect the westward immigration of America’s settlers. Soldiers from the Fort served on both sides of the Civil War and were involved in every aspect of the wild west from Indian fights to gun fights.
The fort closed in 1867 and fell into ruin until it fell into the loving arms of eight generations of the Odom/Richards family, which began its restoration in 2001. The tale of its restoration is one of engineering and architectural genius and determination that defines the heroic.
Visitors today will see an extraordinary gun collection featuring weapons used by five Medal of Honor recipients, including double-recipient Frank Baldwin, surely one of our nation’s greatest soldiers. It has a rifle belonging to Chief Gall, adopted son of Sitting Bull, used in the massacre of Custer and his men at the Little Big Horn.
There is an impressive sword once owned by Peter Boehm, one of six Medal of Honor recipients who served at the Fort. Boehm may have been involved in one of the more interesting tidbits concerning recipients. We have recipients who rescued each other, recipients who killed each other, a recipient killed by Wild Bill Hickok, father son recipients, brother recipients, etc. Boehm observed Natalie Beaumont, the daughter of Eugene (a MOH recipient) and Margaret Beaumont, at play near the parade field at the fort, which was also a grazing ground for buffalo. Suddenly the buffalo stampeded toward the 4-year-old Natalie. As her horrified mother looked on, Peter Boehm immediately sped to the rescue of the girl, grabbing her and climbing a tree as the buffalo raced by. Here we have a MOH recipient rescuing the daughter of another MOH recipient. Later a nearby mountain would be named after Margaret, the wife of a MOH recipient.
The museum is brimming with artifacts from the more than 500,000 recovered on site. It is home to the only restored Butterfield Stage Stop in Texas. Many great Texans served at the fort, including Captain Thomas Frost of Frost Banks. The fort’s beautiful Gold Star Monument was dedicated by Woody Williams, a MOH survivor of Iwo Jima.
Visitors are enthralled with tales of the wild west, including the amazing Pvt. Matlock, who staggered into the dispensary looking like a human porcupine. He had been impaled by 13 arrows. And he survived! The fact that the Native Americans caught him “in his cups” may have contributed to his survival. There is the tale of a horse race between the cowboys and Native Americans where both sides thought they had a ringer. Guess who won? And a group of Native Americans who amazingly rode into the fort wearing items taken from two privates they had murdered and mutilated. The murdered and their murderers are buried together at the fort. And on and on, one exciting adventure after another.
The historic site of Fort Chadbourne encompasses all that Texas history has to offer: military, ranching, Texas trails, Texas Rangers, Native Americans and so much more. It is a great testament to the incomparable state of Texas, a remarkable Texas family and sheer Texas determination. I look forward to the day when the treasures of this museum will be available in Arlington.