In addition to the Union soldiers and sailors of the Civil War who received the Medal of Honor and are buried in Missouri, the Department of Missouri (Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War) is currently aware of three such Medal of Honor recipients who are buried in the State of Arkansas. Acting Master’s Mate William J. Franks of the U.S.S. Marmora, Armorer George Taylor of the U.S.S. Lackawanna, and Private John Kennedy of Company M, 2nd U.S. Artillery were each awarded the Medal of Honor for their conspicuous service during the Civil War and subsequently buried within the geographical boundaries of this department. These are their stories.
William J. Franks
William J. Franks was born in Pittsboro, Chatham County, North Carolina, in 1830. He entered the Union Navy on September 16, 1863, in Duvall’s Bluff, Arkansas. Arriving in Yazoo City, Mississippi, on March 5, 1864, Franks disembarked from the U.S.S. Marmora with other members of the crew “in the midst of a heated battle and, bravely standing by his gun despite enemy rifle fire which cut the gun carriage and rammer, contributed to the turning back of the enemy during the fierce engagement.” Franks, who held the rank of Seaman at the time, received the Medal of Honor along with two of his crewmates and was promoted to Acting Master’s Mate for his actions during this battle.
After leaving the Navy in 1865, Franks settled in Arkansas and married Mary Francis, with whom he had five children. He died in April 1880 and is buried in Maple Springs Cemetery, Batesville, Arkansas. The U.S.S. Franks (DD-554), a Fletcher-class destroyer, was named in his honor and launched on December 7, 1942.
George Taylor was born in Watertown, Jefferson County, New York, on November 15, 1830. His Medal of Honor citation states the he was “on board the U.S.S. Lackawanna during successful attacks against Fort Morgan, rebel gunboats and the ram Tennessee in Mobile Bay, on 5 August 1864. When an enemy shell exploded in the shell room, Taylor although wounded went into the room and, with his hand, extinguished the fire from the explosion. He then carried out his duties during the remainder of the prolonged action which resulted in the capture of the prize rebel ram Tennessee and in the damaging and destruction of Fort Morgan.”
His award was issued through General Order 45 on December 31,1864. His Medal of Honor grave marker states his name as George Taylor F. Johnson; however, his citation is listed simply under “George Taylor,” and his name is given as George Taylor in A History of the United States Navy from 1755 to 1894 by Edgar Stanton McClay, which was published by D. Appleton and Company in 1894.
John Kennedy was born in County Cavan, Ireland, on May 14, 1834. He enlisted at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for a five-year term in Battery M, Second U.S. Artillery, on December 16, 1857. It was on June 11, 1864, when Kennedy and four other artillerymen also serving in Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer’s cavalry division stood their ground at the Battle of Trevilian Station and defended their 12-pounder brass artillery piece against a Confederate cavalry charge.
According to a quote in the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, Kennedy later recounted the event: “With the ammunition gone, in the tussle, we used our pistols. When we emptied them, we took the sponge staves and handspikes and used them freely until overpowered, by them actually riding us down. I was fencing with the handspike with a calvaryman when another came in rear [sic] and knocked me down.”
General Custer led a charge which recaptured the gun, but not before Kennedy and Private Charles O’Neil were captured and taken to Andersonville Prison. Forty-four men in Battery M were killed or wounded in the battle. O’Neil would die at Andersonville; Kennedy would survive to continue his service in the 2nd Artillery until 1891, when as an ordinance sergeant, he would retire to Little Rock, Arkansas, with wife Margaret Kirker Woodlock, who he married in 1878, and their five children, including a son from Margaret’s first marriage.
Kennedy was nominated for a Medal of Honor twenty-eight years after the action at Trevilian Station, and was presented the medal on August 19, 1892. The simple citation reads that he: “remained at his gun, resisting with its implements the advancing cavalry, and thus secured the retreat of his detachment.” He died in Little Rock on September 28, 1910, and is buried in Willow Lot 298 of Oakland and Fraternal Cemetery in Little Rock, Arkansas. The USCIS Fort Smith Field Office is named in his honor.