Only 19 men have had the privilege of being called a double recipient of the Medal of Honor. The first to receive that honor was Army Maj. Gen. Frank D. Baldwin, who earned his medals for Civil War bravery and for saving two child hostages years later. Baldwin went on to have a storied career that lasted through World War I.
Baldwin was born on June 26, 1842, in Manchester, Michigan, to Francis and Betsy Ann Baldwin. According to the Texas State Historical Association, he had two half-sisters.
Baldwin enlisted in the volunteer Army as a second lieutenant on Sept. 19, 1861, a few months into the Civil War. The 19-year-old initially enlisted with the Michigan Horse Guards but mustered out pretty quickly. He rejoined in September 1862 as a first lieutenant with the 19th Michigan Volunteer Infantry.
Baldwin was captured twice by the Confederates throughout the Civil War. He rose to the rank of captain in 1864 and was reassigned to the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, 20th Corps of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s Army.
On July 12, 1864, Capt. Baldwin fought back a Confederate charge, then led his company on a counter charge in battle at Peachtree Creek, Georgia. Despite intense enemy fire, Baldwin charged ahead of his men and was the first to break the enemy line. During the scuffle, he captured two armed Confederate officers and a Georgia regimental flag, known as a “guide on.”
For his efforts, Baldwin earned the Medal of Honor. He didn’t receive it until Dec. 3, 1891.
After the Civil War, Baldwin was discharged and attended Hillsdale College. However, he wanted to return to the Army, so he accepted a commission in 1866 into the 19th U.S. Regular Infantry as a second lieutenant. It was two steps down in rank from what he had attained as a volunteer soldier, but that didn’t seem to bother Baldwin.
In 1867, he married Alice Blackwood, who he’d met in 1863 shortly after one of his stints in captivity with the Confederates. They had a daughter named Juanita.
Baldwin went on to make a career of the Army, and he even became the first person out of just a handful to be awarded the Medal of Honor twice.
On Nov. 8, 1874, then-1st Lt. Baldwin led two companies on a mission against a Native American camp at McClelland’s Creek, Texas. The soldiers were outnumbered, but Baldwin knew the enemy was traveling with two girls, a 7- and a 5-year-old. According to the Texas State Historical Association, their family had been attacked by the natives in Kansas. Most of the rest of their family was killed, but the girls were taken hostage.
Baldwin knew that if he and his party waited for reinforcements, the natives would likely escape and possibly kill the girls. So, he led his men on a raid into the camp. The natives were so surprised that they abandoned the village and most of their belongings.
According to the TSHA, Army scouts were riding through the camp when they found the two girls — emaciated and near starvation — hiding under a pile of buffalo hides.
For leading the raid, Baldwin earned a second Medal of Honor on March 17, 1894. He also earned the brevet rank of captain.
Baldwin’s legacy only grew from there. He served as a colonel during the Philippine-American War. Formerly known as the Philippine Insurrection, the conflict came after Spain had ceded its colony, the Philippines, to the U.S. after losing the Spanish-American War. However, Filipino nationalists who preferred independence to changing colonial rulers weren’t ready to give up the fight. The insurrection lasted from 1899 to 1902.
Baldwin was promoted to brigadier general in 1902 and returned from the Philippines a year later. He was assigned to command the Department of Colorado, which was a division of the Army at the time.
Baldwin retired in June 1906 and chose to remain in Colorado. He came out of retirement for a brief stint when the state’s governor asked him to serve as the adjutant general for the Colorado National Guard during World War I.
Baldwin died April 22, 1923, in Denver. According to one obituary, he suffered from cirrhosis of the liver and had undergone surgery to relieve his suffering less than two weeks prior.
Baldwin was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
This article is part of a weekly series called “Medal of Honor Monday,” in which we highlight one of the more than 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients who have earned the U.S. military’s highest medal for valor.
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