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Gaujot brothers had Tamaqua roots, and both won the MOH

Published March 24. 2012 09:01AM

A century ago, Antoine and Julien E. Gaujot, two brothers with Tamaqua family roots, were as competitive a brother tandem in the U.S. military as the Manning brothers Payton and Eli have been in professional football today.

The Gaujot's are two of the eight sets of brothers to receive the Medal of Honor the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government and the only pair to receive the medal for actions in different wars. A total of 3,475 individual medals have been awarded to 3,456 individuals in U.S. history.

The brothers' Tamaqua connection begins with their father, Ernest R. Gaujot, a French-born mining engineer who emigrated to this area. In Tamaqua, he met and married Susan Ellen (Nellie) McGalgan, daughter of the town postmistress.

The couple lived in Michigan, where the boys were born, and also Ontario, Canada, before moving to Lynchburg, Va. Both boys were born in Eagle Harbor Township, Mich. Julien on Oct. 22, 1874, and Antoine on Dec. 12, 1878.

In 1894, the family moved to Mingo County, W. Va., where coal mining operations were booming. As an engineer, Ernest quickly climbed the ranks of his company to become general superintendent.

When the family moved to Lynchburg, both boys enrolled in the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Virginia Tech) for a time before directing their interest to military careers.

Antoine won his Medal of Honor in battle on Dec. 19, 1899 while he was serving as an Army corporal during the Philippine-American War.

According to a report, "He made persistent effort under heavy enemy rifle fire to locate a ford in order to help his unit cross the swollen river to attack. Unable to accomplish this he swam with a companion, again under fire and against a dangerous current, across the river to the enemy side. There, he secured an enemy canoe and returned with it to the friendly side of the river."

Antoine was later commissioned in the National Guard and saw service during the Mexican Border Crisis and in France during World War I.

Much like today's Manning brothers, the Gaujots were competitive siblings.

Julien, a regular army officer, appeared obsessed when his brother was awarded the Medal of Honor.

"He wears it for a watch fob, the damn civilian," Julien jabbed after Antoine's award was issued on Feb. 15, 1911. "I got to get me one of them things for myself if I bust."

It didn't take long for that opportunity to occur. From the beginning of the Mexican revolution in 1910, American soldiers were stationed in force along the border and on several occasions fought with Mexican rebels or federals. Unlike today, however, the source of tension wasn't with illegal immigration or drug trafficking.

In April 1911, Julien was captain of 45 cavalry troops in Douglas, Ariz. Frustrated by the border fighting, he angrily mounted his horse Old Dick, and rode into the middle of the conflict. Although under heavy fire, he managed to secure the safe passage of 25 Mexican government soldiers and five Americans who had been taken prisoner. His action thus averted further danger to those on the U.S. side of the border.

Gen. Leonard Wood later said Julien's action warranted "either a court martial or a Medal of Honor."

It turned out to be the latter.

His Medal of Honor was approved Nov. 23, 1912, and then awarded by President William Howard Taft in a White House ceremony the following month. It was one of the earliest White House presentations of the Medal of Honor in history.

Julien also became the only soldier ever awarded the Medal for actions of a peacekeeping nature.

During Julien's service in the Army from 1897 to 1934, he participated in five major engagements: the Spanish-American War, Philippine - American War, Cuban Pacification, Mexican Border, and World War I. In addition to the MOH, he received two bronze leaves on his service ribbon for action in two major World War I offensives.

Julien died on April 7, 1938, at the age of 63 in Williamson, West Virginia and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Antoine died on April 14, 1936 at the age of 57, in Williamson, W. Va. and was buried in Fairview Cemetery in Williamson.

Antoine's military record was clouded by an incident that resulted in the death of a soldier at Camp Wetherhill, S.C. It was alleged that on Nov. 29, 1898, Antoine went to the tent of Pvt. Frank Scurlock and in attempting to arrest him, Scurlock was shot in the neck and died.

Antoine was cleared of the murder charge in a General Court Martial trial at Camp Wetherhill. After his acquittal, he was allowed to return to his ailing mother, Nellie, the Tamaqua native, who became ill over the military charges brought against her son.

"The killing of Private Scurlock has greatly worried the mother of Sergeant Gaujot who is in very delicate health. She has written me a number of times asking me to procure him a furlough as soon as he was released," one senior officer who was close to the case stated.

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