Hoosick Township Historical Society

Harris Smith Hawthorn 1832 - 1911


The information on this page is from an online article posted on The Eastwick Press website - October 2006.
Members of the American Legion Post #40 Honor Guard were among those on hand Saturday 10/21/2006 to pay tribute to Civil War Medal of Honor awardee Harris S. Hawthorn.,
(Bea Peterson photo)



Way in the back of the old Maple Grove Cemetery, on the downhill side near the railroad tracks, is the grave of Harris Smith Hawthorn. He was born in Salem, NY, on February 29, 1832, and died March 23, 1911. Buried with him is his wife Adelia Brown Gill who was born December 25, 1834, and died May 8, 1920. The tall plain marker indicates Harris served in Company F, 121st New York Infantry. Except for their striking birth dates, the marker tells little about the couple.

In September 2005 Norma Brenenstuhl, an officer of the Maple Grove Cemetery, received a letter from J. Donald Morfe, Field Researcher for the Medal of Honor Historical Society explaining that Harris S. Hawthorne was a Medal of Honor winner. He requested that the cemetery install a bronze plaque, supplied by the government, on Hawthorn’s grave stone acknowledging he was a Medal of Honor recipient. Norma worked with Phil Leonard on the project. Ken Begin installed the plaque when it arrived and on Saturday, October 21, a short ceremony was held at his gravesite to honor him.

Information gathered states Harris S. Hawthorn (or Hawthorne) was awarded the Civil War Medal of Honor on December 29, 1894. He was a member of Company F, 121st New York Infantry. At Deatonsville (Sailors Creek), Virginia on April 6, 1865, he captured Confederate Major General George Washington Custis Lee (son of Robert E. Lee). His sworn statement says that he knows of his own knowledge that he is the first person (officer or enlisted man) who seized or captured General Custis Lee of the Confederate Army, in the engagement of the 6th of April ...and delivered him to Colonel Olcott. Hawthorn lived and married in Hoosick Falls.

On hand for the ceremony was the Hoosick Falls American Legion honor guard, consisting of Bernie Guerard, Don St. Hilaire, Harold Nichols, Keith McCart, Fred Brenenstuhl and Walt Zwinge, Hoosick Falls Mayor Laura Reynolds, Town of Hoosick Supervisor Marilyn Douglas, Rensselaer County Legislator Lester Goodermote, Norma Brenenstuhl and Town Historian Phil Leonard. A salute was fired by the honor guard and taps was played by Tim Hayes. Mayor Reynolds said she was honored to be present at such an occasion, and Fred Brenenstuhl offered a prayer.

In Morfe’s letter to Norma Brenenstuhl he had a quote which stated Poor is the Nation that has no heroes but beggared is that Nation that has and forgets them. Morfe went on to write that Since the Revolutionary War 41 million Americans have served in the armed services with only just over 3,400 receiving the Medal of Honor. The medal is the highest honor awarded to American military personnel for gallantry in action. Hoosick Falls should be proud to have such an honored man in its history.

Bea Peterson
The Eastwick Press - October 2006

Compiled for HoosickHistory - November 2006.