Before Leander Herron was stationed at Fort Larned in 1868, he had his first brush with fame in 1864. This famous Civil War picture of Generals Grant and Meade at Massaponnax Church in Virginia during the Overland Campaign also shows an unknown private, circled in red. This was Corporal Leander Herron, who would later be awarded the Medal of Honor for an act of bravery performed while stationed at Fort Larned.
On the evening of September 1, 1868, Corporals Leander Herron and Paddy Boyle were detailed to carry the mail back to Fort Larned from Fort Dodge. Near Little Coon Creek, about 11 miles northeast of Fort Dodge, they heard gun fire and came upon a wood detail under attack by approximately 50 Kiowa Indians. Without hesitation, both men went to help their fellow soldiers. Thinking that they could not hold out without aid, Corp. Boyle rode his horse through the gauntlet of Indians to get help from Fort Dodge; Corp. Herron stayed with the party, helping them fight off the Indians all night. Just as the Indians began closing in and the soldiers thought the end had arrived, "a body of horsemen in white" appeared. Corp. Herron recounts, "at first, we thought they were Indians in disguise. But they called out in English, and when the leader galloped up, it was Boyle, at the head of the squadron from the 7th United States Cavalry." The men were in such a hurry to get there that they came in their nightshirts, not even taking time to change into their uniforms!
The corporal in charge of the wood detail was wounded seven times by both bullets and arrows, while one trooper had three wounds, and two troopers had one wound each. Years later the Kiowa chief Satanta said that he lost 22 braves in that fight. It was also reported that two pet prairie dogs in a wooden box in the wagon were both killed. Fifty years later Corporal Herron was awarded the Medal of Honor for risking his life to aid his fellow soldiers.The citation for the award reads:
While detailed as mail courier from the fort, voluntarily went to the assistance of a party of 4 enlisted men, who were attacked by about 50 Indians at some distance from the fort and remained with them until the party was relieved.
Corp. Herron's family recently gave the Fort a recording of an interview about those events that earned him a Medal of Honor. The recording was from The Chevrolet Chronicles, a series of half-hour programs hosted by World War I flyer Eddie Rickenbacker. The first episodes aired in October 1930, and each presented the personally narrated experiences of prominent American war heroes.
The story from this recording has proved a fascinating and informative resource. Hearing the voice of a soldier who was actually stationed at Fort Larned has been a very exciting experience for everyone here at the Fort. Celeste Dixon did a lot of work removing static from the audio file for easier listening. After improving the audio file, she also put together a very impressive video to accompany the sound. You can check it out and hear the story for yourself on the multimedia page of our website.