During the course of my research of Christopher C. Bruton (Co. G), I realized there was more to this man than historians had noticed.
Originally enlisted as a private in Company G of the 18th on May 7, 1861, his time in the regiment was brief after he was one of many to have contracted disease during the disease-infested Peninsula campaign. The Irish-native was hospitalized for chest pains and an enlarged heart in a Philadelphia hospital, and was discharged on August 23, 1862.
He returned to his hometown of Riga, New York, but like so many others, Bruton eventually enlisted again sixteen months later. He recruited his own company of volunteers in Rome, New York that all joined the 22nd New York Cavalry, and his efforts were rewarded with a commission to serve as a first lieutenant. Bruton received a slight gunshot wound on June 16, 1864, near Petersburg. The ball entered near his right knee and forever lodged in the meaty portion of his upper thigh, but the wound was manageable. He stayed in service until his next wounding which occurred at Winchester, Virginia on September, 19, 1864, when a bullet ripped off his left index finger. After a brief hospitalization, Bruton was back in the saddle and promoted to captain. On March 2, 1865, Bruton captured a Rebel flag at Waynesboro, Virginia that happened to be the headquarters flag for Confederate General Jubal Early. Congress honored his brave deed when they approved and awarded Bruton with the Congressional Medal of Honor.
On March 26, 1865, Bruton was awarded the Medal of Honor:
The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Captain (Cavalry) Christopher C. Bruton, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism on 2 March 1865, while serving with Company C, 22d New York Cavalry, in action at Waynesboro, Virginia, for capture of General Early's headquarters flag, Confederate national standard.
The Federal government returned the flag to Virginia in 1906. It is now in the possession of The Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond. The flag Bruton stole is shown below, courtesy of the Museum of the Confederacy.
His family was lucky to see him and two brothers come home from the war alive. The record of Bruton after the war is hard to follow, but based on recent research, Bruton served in the postwar military and contracted a disease that killed him on the Rio Grande River in Texas on June 14, 1867, at the age of twenty-seven.
The Medal of Honor Historical Society – a historical preservation group that tracks the lives of recipients of the medal – had all but marked him “lost to history” until I decided to investigate his burial. In 2014, I tracked the Bruton clan who eventually located to Michigan after the war, and I discovered a headstone in Caledonia, Michigan that was etched with the name “Captain C. C. Bruton” with a death date that matched, but no mention to the fact that he was decorated with the Medal of Honor.
I notified the MOH historical society, and also got in touch with the Caledonia Historical Society, St. Patrick’s Cemetery, and the local American Legion Post 305 in Caledonia, to tell of my findings.
I wanted to somehow mark his grave with an indication that he earned the nation’s highest honor, and what transpired was a joint effort from many strangers who finally honored Bruton 150 years after his act that earned him the medal.
On May 30, 2015, Memorial Day, the town of Caledonia pulled together for a ceremony to honor Bruton, and dedicated a new gravestone that finally honored his award. The team who came together that cannot be thanked enough is in no particular order:
Holy Family Catholic Church
General John A. Logan Camp No. 1, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War
Michigan Commandery, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States
American Legion Post No. 305
Caledonia Historical Society
Jack Murray, Boy Scout Troop 202
Annual Report of the Adjutant General of the State of New York, 18th New York Infantry & 22nd New York Cavalry.
U. S. War Department: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies; 128 vols. Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901, Series 1, Vol. 46, Part 1, p. 509.
National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D. C. - Pension Records, Christopher Bruton.
H. C. Bradsby, History of Bureau County, Illinois; Chicago, IL. World Publishing Co., 1885, p. 468-469.
St. Patricks Cemetery, in Caledonia, Michigan, Bruton plot.