John Vale might have blushed at Saturday’s ceremony at Oakdale Memorial Gardens in Davenport where the Civil War hero was remembered.
He was a Medal of Honor recipient for his efforts during the Civil War. The ceremony commemorated the 150th anniversary of the skirmish that took place Feb. 15, 1863, for which he was recognized with the medal. He was buried in Oakdale when he died in 1909.
“By all accounts, he was a very humble man,” said Dustin Oliver of Bettendorf, a volunteer event coordinator for many similar events at Oakdale. “When he died, the article said how humble he was and said he was a fine, upstanding citizen of Davenport.”
It was Oliver’s idea to honor Vale with the special ceremony.
Vale was born Aug. 9, 1835, and died Feb. 4, 1909, in Davenport. Born in London, England, Vale grew up in the city and was employed as a store clerk at the age of 13. In 1851, he immigrated to LeClaire and worked at a sawmill. Later, he moved near Mapleton, Minn., and enlisted in the 2nd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry.
On Feb. 15, 1863, he was one of a detachment of 16 men who defended a Union supply convoy against a Confederate cavalry unit near Nolensville, Tenn. Outnumbered 125 to 16, Vale warned his detachment of the impending attack, and the small band of soldiers were able to hold off the enemy until help arrived and drove the Confederate unit away.
After the war, he settled in Davenport, where he worked in the U.S. Post Office for many years. In 1897, he was one of eight other men from that detachment who were awarded the Medal of Honor.
“They were only able to find eight of the men. Two already died in battles,” Oliver said. “It was about that time they started going back through the records, awarding people who had not been awarded this honor before.”
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Oliver said the only information he read about the medal was that it was mailed to Vale by the Chief of the War Department to his Davenport home.
“In 1909, he died of some illness, undisclosed,” Oliver said. “The last year of his life, he was an invalid and was being taken care of by his wife.”
Saturday’s ceremony included a reading of the official Medal of Honor citation as well as the report of the skirmish by Brig. Gen. James Steedman, a wreath-laying by Company “A” 49th Regiment Veteran Volunteer Infantry/Sons of Veterans Reserves Honor Guard for the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and other military honors.