Monday, May 12, 2008

Claron Windus, the only Medal of Honor winner who shot and killed another Medal of Honor winner


Claron "Gus" Windus was born in Janesville, Wisconsin in 1849. He was educated in the newly formed Janesville public schools. In 1864, at age 15, he ran away from home. He was desperate to join the state volunteers, so he lied about his age and got into the Fifth Wisconsin Infantry as a drummer. He was itching for combat. His wish came true during the siege of Petersburg, Virginia, and he found it to his liking. After the war, he lied about his age again and joined the United States Army. At the age of seventeen, Claron Windus was sent to Texas as a bugler with Company L of the Sixth United States Cavalry. The hard and often monotonous life of frontier duty didn't sit well with the teenager - He was court-martialed in 1868 for desertion and theft. His punishment was twelve months hard labor. It straightened him out. Ready and willing to return to the Cavalry, By 1870, Claron Windus was back in the saddle with company L.
Here's the official account of what happened next...
Under the command of Capt. Curwen B. McLellan, a mixed troop from Companies A, H, K, and L was dispatched to recover the mail from Indians who had attacked a mail coach near Fort Richardson on July 6, 1870. The force of fifty-eight men followed the trail of a small group of Indians until July 11, when nightfall found them on the south bank of the North Fork of the Little Wichita River, some forty miles northwest of Fort Richardson. On July 12, after they were unable to cross the river because of heavy rains on July 10 and 11, they were attacked by a band of Kiowa Indians. The ensuing battle came to be known as the battle of the Little Wichita River. Windus was both bugler and orderly and assisted the wounded army surgeon, George W. Hatch, in caring for the soldiers. He also assisted in successfully clearing of enemy snipers from prominent elevations. On the morning of July 13, Windus, Dosher, and Sgt. George Eldridge volunteered to go to Fort Richardson for help. They eluded several Indian search parties and brought relief to the beleaguered command. Windus and twelve others were recommended for the Medal of Honor by McLellan for "conspicuous acts of bravery."
Private Adam Paine of the United States Cavalry's Indian Scouts was a Mascogo - a Black Seminole - descendants of slaves and free Africans who joined the Seminole Indians in Florida in the 1700's and 1800's. He was described by his commanding officer, Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie, as having "more cool daring than any scout I have ever known."
In 1877, Claron Windus was the deputy sheriff of Brackettville, Texas - a small town near the Mexican border - and Adam Paine was a fugitive from the law. Paine was discharged from the Cavalry in 1875. He had spent the past year drifting back and forth across the border with a known cattle thief named Frank Enoch. Paine had reportedly stabbed and killed a white soldier in Brownsville and now he had returned with Enoch and two other ex-scouts to celebrate New Years with their people, the Mascogo community of Brackettville. Windus got wind of the fugitive's arrival and made plans to arrest them.
Early on New Years morning, 1877, Claron Windus and a small posse arrived at the Mascogo's New Years celebration. Windus saw Paine, walked up to him, stuck a two barrelled shotgun in his belly and pulled the trigger. The ex-Buffalo Soldier was shot at such close range that his clothing caught fire. Windus then turned, pulled out a six shooter and shot Enoch. In the ensuing confusion, the other two men, Isaac Payne (another Medal of Honor winner) and Dallas Griner, leapt on nearby horses and fled to Mexico. They later were cleared of charges of horse theft and re-enlisted as scouts.
"Less than a month after Adam Paine's death Claron Windus resigned as Deputy Sheriff in order to become Kinney County Assessor of Taxes. The next month he married Agnes Ballantyne and within a few years had become one of the largest landowners in the country by purchasing land sold at delinquent tax sales. By 1897 he was so wealthy that his house was the first in Brackettville to have indoor plumbing. In 1898 he volunteered for the war in Cuba and spent a year there - his third, and final war."
Claron Windus was born and raised a Wisconsinite, but he died a Texan... in 1927 in Brackettville - a town that has the unusual distinction of having the gravestones of five Congressional Medal of Honor winners. It is also the site of the only known killing of one Medal of Honor winner by another.
Four of the five Medal of Honor recipients buried in Brackettville were Seminole Mascogo Indian Scouts: Adam Paine, Isaac Payne, John Ward and Pompey Factor. The fifth is Claron Windus.

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