Private Thomas O. Martin

Fifth Iowa Volunteer Cavalry

Due to his young age, Private Thomas Martin served only a year and a half in the war. At eighteen, he enlisted on February 19, 1864 and was mustered into Company E on August 8, 1864. The Official Roster entries would suggest a rather nondescript enlistment, since they mark nothing besides his transfer to the Fifth Iowa Cavalry Consolidated with the rest of the company, and his mustering out on August 11, 1865. Still, there is clear evidence that Private Martin participated in an historic event, in which his fellow trooper, Corporal George Healey, earned the coveted Medal of Honor.

Healey recorded that after his initial capture of one Confederate soldier, "to my satisfaction I recognized in the new arrival Private Oscar Martin, of my company, who was bareheaded and coming toward me at a quick pace." Martin assisted Healey in the capture of four more "rebels" and Healey reports that the pair "turned our five prisoners over to General McCook, who paid us a high compliment."

There is little doubt that the cavalryman referred to by Healey was Thomas O. Martin. The only other "Martin" in Company E was "Christian," and the fact that Thomas included his middle initial in his official documents hints at the likelihood that he may have been known among his comrades by his middle name, presumably Oscar.

The descendents of Private Martin can be proud of the fact that their ancestor participated in this event, for which his friend received the highest decoration that his nation has ever awarded.

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