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Civil War Medal of Honor winner from Houlton experienced triumph, tragedy

Bangor Daily News - 10/8/2018

Oct. 08--By Jen Lynds, BDN Staff --October 8, 201811:34 am

HOULTON, Maine -- Many who live in Houlton know that the statue of a Union soldier in Monument Park was dedicated to all Civil War soldiers from the community, including Major Gen. Henry Clay Merriam.

But not many people also know that the U.S. Army veteran and Medal of Honor winner, who was born in Houlton, was also an inventor who led a life of triumph and tragedy.

Merriam was born in 1837, according to Cora M. Putnam, author of The Story of Houlton, and entered Colby College after his high school graduation. After commencement, he enlisted in the military and raised a company of volunteers in Houlton. He was then commissioned captain of Co. H, 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry. After fighting in the Battle of Antietam, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel for his actions and was sent to Louisiana. After commanding the 1st Louisiana Native Guard, he led soldiers through the Siege of Port Houston in 1863.

In 1865, he led what was then called the United States Colored Troops on an attack on Fort Blakely in Alabama, action that earned him the Medal of Honor. By the end of the fighting, the Civil War regiment had produced 15 Medal of Honor winners.

According to the citation, Merriam received the award after he "volunteered to attack the enemy's works in advance of orders and, upon permission being given, made a most gallant assault."


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