MEDAL OF HONOR
SGT. MOSES WILLIAMS (MOH)
BUFFALO SOLDIER-9TH US CAVALRY REGIMENT
THE EARLY YEARS
Moses Williams was born in 1845 in rural Louisiana near Carrolton. He mentions in one of his reports “Father and mother died while I was an infant. One brother died of consumption, one sister of fever”. His records state he was 5-4, 180 lbs. and showed scars from having had small pox as a child. He had a reputation as a skilled marksman even though he had little or no vision in his left eye.
Williams enlisted in the US Army at Lake Providence, Louisiana on the 1st of October, 1866 and was assigned to Troop F., of the 9th Cavalry Regiment. Within a year, Williams was promoted to 1st Sgt. Of Company F. In 1871 he was transferred to Company K., as 1st Sgt. Of that Company.
The 9th Cavalry served in West Texas until 1875, protecting the mail and stage coach route between San Antonio and El Paso. Then in 1875, the 9th was transferred to New Mexico where Williams became 1st. Sgt. of Company I.
It was while Williams was in New Mexico that the 9th Cavalry was involved in the Victorio Apache War of 1879-80 and its sequel known as Nana’s Raid. The Warm Spring Apaches refused to leave their life as raiders and it was during this period that the old sub-chief known as Nana, (or Kas-tziden-1800-1896) who was 80 years old, took several dozen of his band and cut a bloody path across southwestern New Mexico.
A detachment of 22 Troopers, including Sgt. Williams, caught up with Nana when the old Chief ambushed the Troopers on the 16th of August, 1881 in the foothills of the Cuchillo Negro Mountains just west of present day Truth or Consequences, NM.
The story: “While Company “I” was bivwacked at Camp Canada Alamosa, the company got word that a nearby rancher and his entire family had been killed. When the Troop arrived at the ranch, the bodies of murdered woman and three children were found.
The Troop immediately followed the trail of the Raiders when they ran into the trap near the Cuchillo Negro Mountains set up by the cunning old Chief Nana.
MAP OF CUCHILLO NEGRO MOUNTAINS, NEW MEXICO
THE BATTLE OF CUCHILLO NEGRO MOUNTAIN, NEW MEXICO
16 AUGUST 1881
The skilled Apache Warriors concealed themselves behind boulders on the sides of the canyon and when the Soldiers rode in they opened fire from both side of the canyon. In the ensuing fight, the outnumbered Troopers were forced to withdraw and when the call for retreat was ordered four Troopers, two of which had been wounded, were separated and left behind.
At this point, Sgt. Williams and Lieutenant George Burnett, along with Pvt. Augustus Walley, held off the Warriors and were able to rescue the trapped troopers. For their heroic action, all three men were awarded the Medal of Honor. First Sgt. Moses Williams was also cited for bravery during this action for rallying his detachment for a running fight over a three or four-hour period.
In 1886, 1st Sgt. Williams became the Ordinance Sergeant at Ft. Buford, North Dakota, then in 1895, he and other were assigned to Ft. Stevens, Oregon, where he was in charge of the coastal defense guns at the mouth of the Columbia River.
It was not until his tour of duty Ft. Stevens on the 12th of November 1896, that First Sgt. Moses Williams finally received the Medal of Honor for his bravery 15 years earlier at the Battle of Cuchillo Negro Mountains, NM.
HIS CITATION READS
“The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to First Sergeant Moses Williams, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism on 16 August 1881, while serving with Company I, 9th US Cavalry, in action at Cuchillo Negro Mountains, New Mexico. First Sergeant Williams rallied a detachment, skillfully conducted a running fight of three or four hours, and by his coolness, bravery, and unflinching to duty in standing by his commanding officer in an exposed position under heavy fire from a large party of Indians saved the lives of at least three of his comrades”.
Sgt. Williams retired on the 12th of November, 1898 after 32 years of service, to a small cabin outside of Vancouver and died there of heart failure on the 23rd of August 1899 at the age of 53.
It was during a search of his belongings that the Medal of Honor and accompanying citation was found.
He was buried with Military Honors in the Vancouver Barracks Post Cemetery