As drizzling rain fell and more threatening skies loomed, about 30 people turned out Saturday morning to honor an all-but-forgotten Medal of Honor recipient.
James Russell, who died in 1905 and is buried in the soldiers’ section of Jacksonville East Cemetery, received full military honors and a new military headstone.
The work of an Ohio research society and Jacksonville’s military veterans’ organizations made sure that Russell’s service during the Indian Wars will not be forgotten.
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1379 Commander Tom Wilson said he was contacted in 2013 by a Medal of Honor society that requested help in verifying Russell’s burial site.
Russell was a private in Company G of the 1st U.S. Cavalry when he earned the medal while in combat in the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona on Oct. 20, 1869. His citation was for “gallantry in action with Indians.”
“I received a phone call last year,” Wilson said. “After talking to this representative in Ohio, he sent some paperwork and some pictures and I sent him some pictures.” Later, it was determined that Russell was a Medal of Honor winner.
Following this discovery, it was noted that Russell’s headstone was worn down and did not reflect that he had received the medal.
Wilson said Jacksonville’s military veterans’ organizations — AMVETS Post 100; the West Central Illinois Leathernecks Detachment 1177 of the Marine Corps League and its auxiliary, American Legion Post 279 and VET-2-VET — collected money to purchase a new gravestone.
Russell’s new headstone shows that he was a Medal of Honor recipient, and also gives his rank and unit when he left the Army — corporal, Company K, 3rd U.S. Cavalry — and his death date.
“From my research, what really touched me was that Russell seemed to have experienced some emotional and/or mental problem, and it appeared to be directly related to his military service,” said John McCorkle of Jacksonville, who spoke briefly about Russell’s military career and later years during Saturday’s ceremony.
Other military veterans’ organizations participating in Saturday’s ceremony included Jacksonville American Legion Post 279, the Combined Veterans Ceremonial Team and a member of VFW Post 11524 and American Legion Post 442, both in Winchester.
Greg Olson can be contacted at 217-245-6121, extension 1224, or on Twitter @jjcGregOlson.