April 3rd Pony Express Opened for Business

On April 3rd, 1860, the Pony Express opened for business delivering mail from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California.  William H. Russell, William Bradford Waddell and Alexander Majors added a governmental contract to their freight and Drayage business to deliver mail in 10 days or less, 1,800 miles in all.  Their route would take them through Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Nevada ending up at California before starting the return trip.

The company started with 120 riders, 184 stations and 400 horses.  Each rider would make a run of 75-100 miles, each horse 10 to 15 miles.  Riders were paid $25.00 a week, the horses got all the food and water they could eat and drink.  The biggest celebrity to work for the Pony Express was “Buffalo Bill” Cody.

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The fastest trip on record was the deliver of President Lincoln’s inaugural address which made the trip in 8 days.  $5.00 a half-ounce was charged for mail delivered.  Each rider carried 20 pounds of mail, a water sack, a Bible, a horn to tell of the riders approach and a revolver.

Each rider was forced to sign an oath for their pay, $25.00 a week was pretty good pay back then considering the average pay was between 43 cents and $1.00 a day in 1860.  Here is the oath, “I (name) do hereby swear, before the Great and Living God, that during my engagement, and while I am an employee of Russell, Majors and Waddell, I will, under no circumstances, use profane language, that I will drink no intoxicating liquors, that I will not quarrel or fight with any other employee of the firm, and that in every respect I will conduct myself honestly, be faithful to my duties, and so direct all my acts as to win the confidence of my employers, so help me God.”

We have to wonder how many of these rules were forgotten when a rider was on the plains, in the rain and being chased by Indians. They didn’t have long to deal with their oath though as the Pony Express went out of business in October of 1861 when the 1st transcontinental telegraph went into use.

March 25, 2016 National Medal of Honor Day

It is National Medal of Honor Day. A medal created for “personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty.” Created in 1861 for the Navy, the Army soon followed with its version in 1862.  An Air Force Medal of Honor was created during World War I.  To date, over 3,500 Medal of Honors have been awarded to military men serving their country’s needs.

There were few medals offered prior to the American Civil War.  In 1780, the Fidelity Medallion was offered to veterans of the Revolution.  For those who went above the call of duty another medal was awarded in 1782, called the Badge of Military Merit.  In 1847, a Certificate of Merit was awarded veterans of the Mexican-American War.

This is truly a holiday that does not get the recognition in the mainstream that it deserves. Congress declared this day a National Holiday in 1863 when the first Medal of Honor was awarded for Jacob Parrott’s actions during the Andrews Raid. Of the 24 Raiders only 6 members received this honorable distinction for their role in the “Great Locomotive Chase“. Oddly, Andrews could not receive the award since he was a civilian and the award was distinctly meant to be offered only to military personnel. Eventually the The Medal of Valor was created for civilians.

Other Medals of Honor were given out to civilians by mistake.  Buffalo Bill received one that was later taken back, as well as Mary Edwards Walker, though hers was restored by Jimmy Carter in 1971.

The most recent Medal of Honor awarded was on February 29. 2016 to Edward C. Byers Jr., U.S. Navy Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator for his role in the US Navy SEAL operation ENDURING FREEDOM, freeing American hostage Dr. Dilip Joseph.

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Above is the Medal of Honor flag awarded with the Medal of Honor

 

So in honor of this day:

Fly your American flag proudly

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Visit the Great Locomotive Chase Andrew’s Raiders Monuments and Markers in person or virtually

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Thank a service member or vet for all that they do or write a Thank You Letter to a Medal of Honor Recipient

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Watch the Walt Disney Film the Great Locomotive Chase

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