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Ambush of Major Wham

134, 10 Oct 2010


Did you know…

From 1865 – 1899, Congress awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor to 426 men who served during the Indian Campaigns; of these, they awarded 18 to enlisted Soldiers of African- American decent and only two of those were Infantry Soldiers. Great information, but what does this have to do with Army Finance? Well, the two Infantry Soldiers, SGT Benjamin Brown and CPL Isaiah Mays, both assigned to the 24th Infantry Regiment, received their Congressional Medal of Honor for defending the U. S. Army Paymaster MAJ Joseph Washington Wham.

On 11 May 1889, a band of 12 robbers ambushed Wham and his 12-Soldier escort along the Fort Grant - Fort Thomas Road, about 15 miles west of Pima, AZ. Following a hard-fought gun battle, the bandits made off with $28,345.10 in gold and silver coins. During the 2-hour standoff, the thieves wounded eight of the 12 Soldiers escorting Wham. Brown calmly directed the Soldiers into defensive positions; he alone engaged the bandits from the open with little regard for his own safety. Brown, while shot in the abdomen, continued to fight and did not leave the battle until wounded a second time.

With Brown out of the fight, Mays took command and continued to resist valiantly until the crook bandits had severely wounded most of his men. Toward the end of the fight, Mays, "walked and crawled two miles to Cottonwood Ranch and gave the alarm."

On 15 February 1890, Congress awarded the Medal of Honor to Brown and Mays for their selflessness in defense of Paymaster Wham. Additionally, they awarded Certificates of Merit to eight of the 10 Soldiers who escorted the payroll.

The Committee on Military Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives reported, "all the evidence . . . shows conclusively that all was done by Major Wham and his brave little escort that men could do to protect the Government's property, and continued to fight until the heaviest casualty list ever…"

If you have questions about this trivial piece of information, if you would like to pass along a little known fact about the Finance Corps, or if you would like to contact the Museum Curator, call Mr. Henry Howe at (803) 751-3771 (DSN 734-3771) or send an email to henry.howe@conus.army.mil

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