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Reflections with Sammy Way: Sumter was site of medal ceremony

Heriot was killed during WWI in France, earned award posthumously

By SAMMY WAY
Posted 11/1/19

Reflections has researched a World War I soldier killed in action who received the Medal of Honor presented to his family at a private residence in Sumter. According to information obtained from The Watchman and Southron newspaper, James Davidson …

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Reflections with Sammy Way: Sumter was site of medal ceremony

Heriot was killed during WWI in France, earned award posthumously

Posted

Reflections has researched a World War I soldier killed in action who received the Medal of Honor presented to his family at a private residence in Sumter. According to information obtained from The Watchman and Southron newspaper, James Davidson Heriot received the Medal of Honor posthumously in 1919 at the home of Mrs. H.T. Abbott. It is reported that this event took place on Washington Street near the former location of the Lutheran Church.

James D. Heriot listed his place of birth as Providence, South Carolina, and he also entered service there as reported in the pamphlet "South Carolina's Recipients of The Medal of Honor, Second Report Amended in 1973."

"Cpl. Heriot was a member of the 118th Infantry, Company I. Heriot, with four other soldiers, organized a combat group and attacked an enemy machine gun nest which had been inflicting heavy casualties on his company. In the advance, two of his men were killed, and because of the heavy fire from all sides, the remaining two sought shelter. Unmindful of the hazard attached to his mission, Cpl. Heriot, with fixed bayonet, alone charged the machine gun, making his way through the fire for a distance of 30 yards and forcing the enemy to surrender. During this exploit, he received several wounds in the arm and later in the same day, while charging another nest, he was killed. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by Gen. John J. Pershing and later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor."

Maj. Gen. Henry G. Sharpe, in charge of the Southeastern Department with headquarters at Charleston, was instructed to present the medal to his mother. He contacted the Heriot family, and they agreed to meet in the city of Sumter at the home of a family friend. Gen. Sharpe arrived in Sumter by train and after renting an automobile continued to the local residence. It was a formal but very quiet ceremony. The presentation was made at Mrs. Abbott's residence, and besides Mrs. Heriot and Gen. Sharpe, the only others present were Robert L. and Joseph C. Heriot, brothers of the young man whose heroism was being officially recognized; Mrs. Abbott; and Lt. W.C. Bacon, an aide who accompanied the general from Charleston. Gen. Sharpe made the presentation by reading the previously mentioned citation, for which the medal was given and the regulations governing the wearing of the medal. The award was a posthumous one, James D. Heriot having met his death on the battlefields of France. This action won him a distinction that had been accorded to only 40 American soldiers up to that time. Mrs. Heriot and her two sons came from their home in newly formed Lee County to meet Maj. Gen. Sharpe.

By previous arrangements, Gen. Sharpe called at Mrs. Abbott's home and there met Mrs. Heriot. The ceremony took place at about 10.30 o'clock, Gen. Sharpe returning to the Claremont Hotel and then to Charleston, while Mrs. Heriot and her sons left soon afterward for their home.

The medal traditionally is presented by the president in person, but in this instance, the presentation had to be made posthumously. Maj. Gen. Sharpe of the Southeastern Department was designated to make the presentation and received the duplicate receipts for the medal, showing that it had been presented at the site agreed upon.