2017-11-10 / Front Page

Harmon Museum receives Medal of Honor donation

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Staff Writer

OLD ORCHARD BEACH — The Harmon Museum has recently been given a civil-war era medal honoring one of Old Orchard Beach’s own.

William Hayes Googins, was born in 1838 in Old Orchard Beach and after moving to Black Point, died in 1926. Googins was several professions during his life, among them were carpenter, farmer and cooper. His most notable job was soldier.

Googins served in the Civil War as a member of the 27th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment. The 27th Maine Regiment was made up of 949 men predominantly from York County, according to information on a web site by Civil War historian Steve Dow.

In late June of 1863, after serving nine months, the regiment was preparing to return home. It was then learned that the capital had been left unguarded, and the president and secretary of war asked for volunteers to stay beyond their 9-month term to guard the capital, according to Dow.

About 315 men agreed to stay on and extend their enlistment. Not long after, they were released after the Union won the Battle of Gettysburg on July 4, according to Dow.

Congressional Medals of Honor were issued to those who were on record as having volunteered to extend their stay and guard the capital. However, the war department never received an accurate list of who stayed on to guard the capital, and because it was unclear who did stay and who didn’t, all 864 surviving men of the 27th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment were issued the Congressional Medal of Honor, according to Dow.

Even though the members of the regiment didn’t see military action, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton felt they deserved recognition because of their bravery, according writer Steve Hrehovcik in a 2013 article in Tourist News.

Colonel Mark Wentworth, commander of the 27th of Maine, distributed the medals to those who had volunteered to guard the capital. The remaining medals were stored in his stables, and it is unclear what happened to them, according to Hrehovcik.

The Congressional Medal of Honor was established in 1861 and is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States.

According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, 3,500 medals of honor have been distributed since the award was created in 1863.

“These things are hard to get. They don’t give many of them out,” said Old Orchard Beach Town Historian Dan Blaney.

However, the award was later taken back in 1917, after the military changed the criteria for the medal and revoked those from the Maine 27th. 

Googins was one of those men who received the controversial award, and his great-grandchildren, Bruce, Dale and Dan Libby, gave the museum the medal in September. 

Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 325 or egotthelf@journaltribune.com. 

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