Medal of Honor

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On September 10 1874 Sergeant Zachariah Woodall; Privates Paul Roth, John Harrington, and George Smith; and Scouts Amos Chapman and Billy Dixon were given dispatches from Colonel Miles at a camp on McClellan Creek (present day Gray County) to deliver to Camp Supply in the Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma). The troop traveled at night and rested during the day in secluded areas to avoid contact with Indian warriors. On September 12 at 6 a.m., just as the sun was rising, the troop was near the Washita River and Gageby Creek (in present day Hemphill County); they rode up a little hill and when they reached the top, they were suddenly face to face with approximately 125 Kiowa and Comanche warriors who quickly encircled the small troop.

All six Soldiers were wounded by rifle fire almost instantly; Private Smith mortally, being shot in the left lung (he would die later that day). Sergeant Woodhall and Privates Roth and Harrington received severe wounds. Scout Chapman was shot in the knee which shattered it while trying to help wounded Private Smith. Scout Dixon was shot in the calf of the leg. They fought in the open for four hours, losing their horses and supplies during the initial fight.

Around noon, the Soldiers moved and took refuge in a buffalo wallow several hundred yards away, which was about 10 feet in diameter. Billy Dixon carried Scout Chapman to the wallow. Some of the Solders used their knives and hands to build up the sides of the wallow while the others provided suppressing fire; all under intense rifle fire at close range by the warriors. The Soldiers thought Private Smith had been killed and was laying on the ground at the original place of attack. Running out of ammunition, Private Roth ran from cover to retrieve Private Smith’s gun and ammunition. When Private Roth found Private Smith still alive, Private Roth and Scout Dixon drug him back to the safety of the wallow. Although mortally wounded, Private Smith sat somewhat upright in the wallow along with his comrades so as to conceal the crippled condition of the Soldiers.

The attack lasted all day, from morning to dark. The Indian warriors abandoned their attack at dark, after a thunderstorm blew in from the north bringing extremely cold wind and rain.

With no food, coats, or hats, and only the water from the rain that collected in their wallow, the Soldiers remained in the wallow for 36 hours after the initial attack in fear that the Indians were lying in wait. Private Smith died about 11 p.m. the day of the attack. Private Roth left the wallow in the middle of the night to seek the trail to the nearest Army Fort, 75 miles away. He could not find the trail at night and returned to the wallow after a few hours. Scout Dixon left the wallow on the 13th at sunup to seek help from the Army and was successful, with the Army later rescuing the remainder of the troop.

Scout Chapman’s leg was amputated back at Camp Supply. Scout Dixon was wearing a thin cashmere shirt during the battle; he reported his shirt was riddled with bullet holes, but none had hit him in the chest. President Ulysses Grant awarded the Medal of Honor to all six Soldiers – the only battle in US military history in which every Soldier in the battle was awarded the Medal of Honor.

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