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MailTribune.com
  • Since You Asked: Decorated soldier was in the Volunteer Infantry

  • With the local soldiers from the Oregon National Guard going to Iraq soon, I was wondering about the fellow from Southern Oregon who was awarded the Medal of Honor. Was he with the Guard?
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  • With the local soldiers from the Oregon National Guard going to Iraq soon, I was wondering about the fellow from Southern Oregon who was awarded the Medal of Honor. Was he with the Guard?
    — J.R., Grants Pass
    That would be Pvt. Frank High of Ashland, who did win the Medal of Honor, the military's highest honor for courage. He was awarded the medal for action he took on May 16, 1899 during the Spanish-American War.
    Pvt. High's mettle was tested on a burning bridge in the Philippines on that day while serving as a member of the 2nd Oregon Volunteer Infantry. The unit was part of what evolved into today's Oregon National Guard.
    The soldier, for whom High Street is named in Ashland, was among 22 scouts who "charged across a burning bridge, under heavy fire, and completely routed 600 of the enemy who were entrenched in a strongly fortified position," according to the official citation.
    High, who was 91 when he died in Ashland in 1966, is the only Southern Oregonian ever to win the medal.
    Of the 12 Medals of Honor awarded to Oregonians since the medals were first issued during the Civil War, only three were given to living individuals.
    Although High was born just across the state line in California, where his family had a ranch, he joined the Oregon volunteers in Jacksonville, according to a 1966 article in the Mail Tribune.
    High was among many Oregonians who marched into the military at the outset of the Spanish-American War in the spring of 1898. Most of the Oregon volunteers were shipped to the Philippines, where Commodore George Dewey and his sailors quickly defeated the Spanish navy. Although the volunteers easily routed the Spanish troops, they encountered another enemy: Filipino freedom fighters. In February 1899, Filipino insurgents attacked American troops around Manila, triggering the beginning of a 10-year guerrilla war.
    High was a member of an elite scouting reconnaissance force that included 16 men from a North Dakota unit and four men from the 2nd Oregon. On May 16, the scouts discovered that the insurgents had set fire to an important bridge near San Isadoro.
    Because the river could not be forded, High and the other scouts sprinted across the burning bridge into a hail of bullets. Supported by the 2nd Oregon, the scouts led the fight to remove the Filipinos from their dug-in positions.
    Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com.
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