• German immigrant earned Medal of Honor

  • In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, a broader view of Army history and those important to it has led to streets and other things being named for non-commissioned officers. Jacob Widmer is one of these.

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  • Quentin Schillare | Special to the Fort Leavenworth Lamp
    Fort Leavenworth was established in 1827, during the administration of John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States. It is the oldest active military installation west of the Mississippi River. The fort is the third oldest continuously active Army post after the batteries at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., (1778) and Fort McNair (formerly Washington Barracks) in Washington, D.C., (1791).
    During its 188 years under Army control, it has expanded from a small garrison clustered around the Main Parade to the nine square miles occupied today. Almost all of the 80 paved streets and roads, especially on Main Post, have namesakes from the 19th century — most from the Civil War era and most named for general officers. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, a broader view of Army history and those important to it has led to streets and other things being named for non-commissioned officers. Jacob Widmer is one of these.
    Born in the Württemberg, Germany, in 1845, Widmer immigrated to the United States as a teenager and enlisted in the Army in Philadelphia in 1864. According to unit records, he joined Company A, 113th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers (12th Cavalry), on Feb. 9, 1864, and mustered out of wartime service with the company on July 20, 1865.
    Military life must have agreed with him because Widmer soon enlisted in the Regular Army and served during the Indian Wars with the 5th Cavalry in Kansas, Colorado, Arizona, Wyoming, Nebraska and elsewhere in the West, including service at Fort Leavenworth.
    He received the Medal of Honor for actions while serving with Company D, 5th Cavalry, on Sept. 29, 1879, at Milk River, Colo., in the White River War. He was recognized for accompanying a small detachment on a very dangerous mission through enemy territory to deliver dispatches requesting reinforcements during a running battle with Ute Indians. He contacted friendly forces that marched to the aid of his surrounded comrades and relieved the siege on Oct. 5, 1879. The Medal of Honor was presented on May 4, 1880.
    Readers may notice that Widmer served in a cavalry company and not a troop — although cavalrymen started to refer to themselves as troopers and their unit as a troop during the Civil War, the term did not become official until an Army reorganization in 1883.
    Widmer’s leadership was recognized and he was appointed company first sergeant. July 4, 1880, found the 5th Cavalry at the recently opened Fort Niobrara, Neb. The soldiers celebrated Independence Day in an appropriate manner, but they were on duty the next day. On the morning of July 5, Widmer was shot with a .45 caliber Springfield carbine and killed by a drunken soldier of Company D as he tried to get the soldier to report to stable duty.
    According to the Army Record of Death and Interment, Widmer was buried on July 6, 1880, in the Fort Niobrara post cemetery, the first interment. He was 35 and had served as a volunteer and Regular Army soldier for 16 years.
    Page 2 of 2 - Fort Niobrara closed in 1906 and sometime later Widmer’s remains were relocated to the Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery where his tombstone is identified by its Medal of Honor shield and its gold lettering.
    Widmer Court is a short cul-de-sac off 7th Cavalry Road on the southern boundary of Fort Leavenworth.
    As a namesake, Widmer has a connection with another Fort Leavenworth namesake. When Widmer reenlisted in the 5th Cavalry in 1874, the reenlistment officer was 1st Lt. Eben Swift, an Army educator, future major general and the namesake for both Swift Hall on McClellan Avenue and Swift Street off Hollowell Drive.
    For information on his book: Fort Leavenworth: The People Behind the Names visit here.
    For the 1st installment of the People Behind Post Places Series visit here.
    For the 2nd installment of the People Behind Post Places Series visit here.
    For the 3rd installment of the People Behind Post Places Series visit here.
    For information on his book: Fort Leavenworth: The People Behind the Names visit - See more at: http://www.ftleavenworthlamp.com/article/20151022/NEWS/151029661/?tag=2#sthash.Yb8plZwG.dpuf
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