A moving display at the Anderson County Museum highlights Anderson’s Congressional Medal of Honor recipient: Cpl. Freddie Stowers. Sadly, there are no known photographs of Cpl. Stowers, so the picture above is an artist’s rendition, based on a study of his family’s facial features and oral descriptions of Cpl. Stowers. I hope today’s post is an appropriate — though not adequate — tribute for Veteran’s Day.
A portion of the display reads as follows:
Cpl. Freddie Stowers was recommended soon after his death to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic actions on September 28, 1918, at Cote 188 during the [World War I] Meuse Argonne Front. After an administrative oversight, his medal was given to his family on April 24, 1991, in a White House cerermony. President George Bush presented the Medal of Honor to his sisters. Cpl. Stowers was survived by a wife and daughter; however, efforts to locate them have failed.
Cpl Stowers is buried at Meuse Argonne Cemetery, Plot F, Row 36, Grave 40.
Another part of the display explains:
Freddie Stowers was born in Anderson County at Sandy Springs. In 1917, Mr. Stowers was drafted into the Army and reported to Camp Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina, to become part of the 371st Infantry, 93rd Division.
The 93rd Division was made up of African Americans who received training at Camp Jackson and Camp Wadsworth in Spartanburg. Local white residents and white officers showed displeasure at the African American soldiers’ presence and training. Their 9-week training was shortened to 6 weeks because of racial unrest in Spartanburg. The senior commanding officer, however, refused to participate in discrimination and is quoted in the display as saying “…that black soliders had always given a good account of themselve in battle and that this unit will go into combat.”
In addition to Cpl. Stowers, several African American soliders from the Anderson area and the S.C. Upstate received the Croix de Guerre from the French government for acts of bravery. They were Wilton Benson of Sandy Springs, Roy Mattison of Honea Path, Prue Sloan North of Seneca, John Henry Scotland of Iva, and Cpl. Stowers.
I have copied below the full citation of Cpl. Stowers from the Congressional Medal of Honor web site.
Corporal Stowers, distinguished himself by exceptional heroism on 28 September 1918 while serving as a squad leader in Company C, 371st Infantry Regiment, 93d Division. His company was the lead company during the attack on Hill 188, Champagne Marne Sector, France, during World War I. A few minutes after the attack began, the enemy ceased firing and began climbing up onto the parapets of the trenches, holding up their arms as if wishing to surrender. The enemy’s actions caused the American forces to cease fire and to come out into the open. As the company started forward and when within about 100 meters of the trench line, the enemy jumped back into their trenches and greeted Corporal Stowers’ company with interlocking bands of machine gun fire and mortar fire causing well over fifty percent casualties. Faced with incredible enemy resistance, Corporal Stowers took charge, setting such a courageous example of personal bravery and leadership that he inspired his men to follow him in the attack. With extraordinary heroism and complete disregard of personal danger under devastating fire, he crawled forward leading his squad toward an enemy machine gun nest, which was causing heavy casualties to his company. After fierce fighting, the machine gun position was destroyed and the enemy soldiers were killed. Displaying great courage and intrepidity Corporal Stowers continued to press the attack against a determined enemy. While crawling forward and urging his men to continue the attack on a second trench line, he was gravely wounded by machine gun fire. Although Corporal Stowers was mortally wounded, he pressed forward, urging on the members of his squad, until he died. Inspired by the heroism and display of bravery of Corporal Stowers, his company continued the attack against incredible odds, contributing to the capture of Hill 188 and causing heavy enemy casualties. Corporal Stowers’ conspicuous gallantry, extraordinary heroism, and supreme devotion to his men were well above and beyond the call of duty, follow the finest traditions of military service, and reflect the utmost credit on him and the United States Army.