At least two other Medal of Honor recipients are buried in northwest Kansas, and there isn’t much known about either one.
Thomas McGraw is buried in the La Crosse City Cemetery, and Patrick James Leonard is buried in St. Joseph Cemetery in New Almelo.
Born in Ireland, McGraw was a sergeant in Company B, 23rd Illinois Infantry during the Civil War. He was awarded the Medal of Honor, recognized for bravery April 2, 1865, as “one of the three soldiers most conspicuous for gallantry in the final assault at Petersburg, Va.,” according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
Also born in Ireland, Leonard was a sergeant in Company C of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry. He was honored for gallantry in action during the Indian wars May 17, 1870, at Little Blue, Neb.
Carl Brandt, a retired electrician in the La Crosse area who served in the military during the time of the Korean War, remembers when McGraw’s white-with-gold-trim headstone arrived in La Crosse.
Brandt said he heard McGraw was 14 or 16 at the time, “carrying the colors.”
“He got way out in front of the firing line,” he said, and the commander had to call him back. “He was just a kid carrying the colors during the Civil War. There’s not too much known about him.”
Brandt said the white headstone arrived in La Crosse in 1975.
“When it came in, nobody knew it was coming,” he said.
Two headstones already were in place for McGraw.
Brandt, as an active member of the American Legion, often helped set headstones for veterans, but McGraw’s was set by city crews.