SIGNAL CORPS MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS (Part 1)

–Morgan D. Lane

Second-Class PVT Morgan D. Lane’s military service began with his enlistment Aug. 22, 1862, in Company I, 5th Regiment of Michigan Cavalry, at Allegan, Michigan. In the cavalry he rose to the rank of sergeant. In March 1864, SGT Lane transferred to the Signal Corps and was appointed a second-class private April 1, 1864. His entire service was in the Army of the Potomac, from which he was honorably discharged June 24, 1865.

After November 1864, he served in the 5th Corps, to whose headquarters he was attached in early April 1865 as the orderly of LT P. H. Niles, a Signal Corps officer. During the pursuit of GEN Robert E. Lee’s army, the event that earned PVT Lane the Medal of Honor occurred. LT

Niles’ description of the event was quoted in the April 20, 1865, report of CPT Charles L. Davis, Chief Signal Officer, Army of the Potomac:

“On the 6th of April, 1865, near Jetersville, Virginia, in company with Captain Benyaurd, U.S. Engineers, and my orderly, Private Lane, and in advance of the army, we pursued and captured 7 rebels, viz, 2 naval officers, 1 engineer, 1 acting signal officer (all of the rebel gunboat Nansemond), and 3 enlisted men. The flag of the gunboat Nansemond was secured from one of these enlisted men by Second-Class Private Morgan D. Lane, U.S. Signal Corps.”

In early 1866 PVT Lane sent to Congressman Charles Upson of Michigan a slightly different account of the event. PVT Lane claimed to have captured the Nansemond’s commanding officer and the flag that “was on his person.” Continuing, PVT Lane said he was given 30 days’ leave and was promised a “Gold Medal” for his deed.

Congressman Upson forwarded PVT Lane’s letter to the War Department, which sought to locate the Nansemond’s flag to substantiate PVT Lane’s claim that he had captured it. However, the search was in vain. When, in March 1866, the letter reached Chief Signal Officer COL Benjamin F. Fisher, he endorsed it by quoting from CPT Davis’ report supporting PVT Lane’s claim that he had secured the flag but from one of the enlisted men, not from the Nansemond’s commander. COL Fisher’s endorsement was all the evidence the War Department needed. PVT Lane’s Medal of Honor was issued March 16, 1866.

The Signal Regiment inducted this Medal of Honor recipient as a Distinguished Member of the Regiment in 1997.

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