Medal of Honor Winner - Sergeant Will Croft Barnes
US Army Signal Corps soldiers still supported the Army operations on the frontier as they sought to keep the peace among the Indians and settlers. One such soldier was Sergeant Will Croft Barnes, who became one of only five Signal soldiers to have received the nation’s highest award, the Medal of Honor for his action during the western frontier wars. On 29 August 1881 at Fort Apache Barnes was at the fort with less than 70 other soldiers and civilians, who had been cut off from wire communication by the Indians. Barnes volunteered to go alone atop a 2,000 foot mesa and use his signal flags to alert the post to any threatening Indian activity. However, instead of Indian movements, Barnes was soon able to signal the appearance of the US Army column and the fort was soon relieved.
During further operations, Barnes found himself involved in skirmishing while continuing to get messages through via mounted courier. He also went out many times with an armed escort to repair the telegraph lines. Barnes abilities as a soldier and signalman impressed his superiors for being “prompt and unhesitating in the discharge of all duties assigned to him, more than once being exposed to great danger.” These actions were mentioned in the recommendation for the Medal of Honor for:
His gallantry in action in the attack by Indians on the post September 1st 1881. Besides this particular act of gallantry Pvt Barnes is entitled to great credit for good conduct & attention to duty during the trying period, from Aug 29th to Sept 10th, as well as at all times while on duty here, and particularly for going out with one man to repair the line, when it was supposed that Indians were lurking near the road.
On 8 November 1882, General William T. Sherman, Commanding General of the Army approved the award. The authorized inscription on the medal read: The Congress to 1st Class Private Will C. Barnes, Signal Corps, for bravery in action, September 1st 1881, at Fort Apache, A.T.”
In the spring of 1883 Barnes, who by then had been promoted to Sergeant, received the medal in a retreat ceremony at Fort Apache. Barnes remained at Fort Apache until he contracted a serious eye ailment, which led to his discharge from the Army on 15 September 1883.