Frank D. Baldwin
Medals of Honor
Civil War & Indian wars
Frank Dwight Baldwin, whose four-decade Army career spanned from the Civil War through the Spanish-American War, was recommended for the Medal of Honor three times and received the award twice— one of just 19 Americans so honored. He was also one of just seven officers granted double brevet promotions during the Indian wars, as Congress by then authorized such advancements only in recognition of valor in the face of the enemy.
Baldwin first strapped on a sword on Sept. 19, 1861, as a second lieutenant in the Chandler Horse Guards of the Michigan Volunteers. After the guards disbanded, he re-entered service the following year as a first lieutenant in the 19th Michigan Volunteer Infantry and remained with that unit throughout the Civil War. During Baldwin’s first engagement, in central Tennessee in March 1863, his unit was captured by forces under Confederate Brig. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest and sent to the infamous Libby Prison in Richmond, Va. Soon freed in a prisoner exchange, Baldwin took command of the 19th Michigan’s Company D and was recommended for the Medal of Honor that fall for his defense of a railroad bridge near Murfreesboro, Tenn. That award wasn’t realized, but Baldwin charged ahead.
Promoted to captain in early 1864, he led his company in the July 20 Battle of Peachtree Creek, Ga., where he earned his first Medal of Honor. “[Baldwin] led his company in a countercharge,” the citation read, “under a galling fire ahead of his own men and singly entered the enemy’s line,” personally capturing two Confederate officers and a Georgia regimental guidon. Mustered out of the Volunteers at war’s end, he entered the Regular Army in 1866 as a lieutenant in the 19th Infantry.
In 1869 Baldwin was assigned to the 5th Infantry under legendary Indian fighter Nelson A. Miles, and for the next 35 years he soldiered throughout the American West. During the Red River War in Texas he was brevetted captain for “gallant service in actions against Indians” and in November 1874 earned his second Medal of Honor for leading a cavalry troop and an infantry company in a successful frontal attack against a superior Indian force at McClellan’s Creek and rescuing two white girl captives. Transferred to Montana in the wake of the disastrous Battle of the Little Bighorn, he was cited for conspicuous gallantry for leading a Dec. 18, 1876, attack on Sitting Bull’s camp at Red Water River and again for driving off an Indian force under Crazy Horse at Wolf Mountain on Jan. 8, 1877. Although Baldwin’s superiors recommended him for promotions on each occasion, he settled for a single brevet to major.
Baldwin served in other key Indian wars campaigns, including the post– Little Bighorn pursuit of Lakota Chief Lame Deer and the campaign to round up Chief Joseph’s Nez Percés. Baldwin also negotiated peaceful resolutions to unrest at the Columbia and Colville reservations in Washington Territory in 1884, served in the final campaign against the Sioux and was resident agent for the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache reservation at Anadarko, Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma).
Promoted to colonel in 1901, Baldwin took command of the 27th Infantry in the Philippines and led his regiment in operations on Mindanao, defeating a force of Moros at the Battle of Bayan on May 2, 1902, the first encounter of the Moro Rebellion. A month later he was promoted to brigadier general.
By 1903 Baldwin was commanding the Department of the Colorado, and when he retired from the Army in 1906, he was head of the Southwest Military Division out of Oklahoma City. In 1915 Congress promoted the 73-year-old to major general on the retired list. He returned to active duty two years later, serving as Colorado’s adjutant general through 1919.
Although he is little remembered today, a century ago Baldwin was a true living legend of the Old West. He was a close friend of frontier scout and fellow Medal of Honor recipient William F. Cody and served as an honorary pallbearer at Buffalo Bill’s 1917 funeral. Baldwin died in 1923 at age 80 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Originally published in the November 2014 issue of Military History. To subscribe, click here.