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Guarding the Home Front in WW1 - Cincinnati Home Guard medal


Geoff
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On May 10, 1917 the city of Cincinnati, OH passed a resolution authorizing the raising of a “Home Guard” as an auxiliary police force to be used in emergencies during WW1. The Home Guard was authorized to raise up to 5,000 volunteers. In the end about 2,750 men came forward. They were organized into companies of around 80 men each, located geographically around the city.

 

The Home Guard was commanded by Colonel Charles F. Hake, Jr., a former Army officer who served in the Spanish-American War. Though intended as an auxiliary police force the Home Guard was organized along decidedly military lines. They dressed in military uniforms with Spanish American War era ammo belts and equipment. In addition to companies armed with 1873 and 1884 Springfield trapdoor rifles, the Guard also had a machine gun company, sharp shooters, a depot unit, a signals company, a hospital detachment, and a 60 member band.

 

Cincinnati native Harry Edward Held was one of the men who came forward to serve in the Home Guard. Born on December 14, 1889, Harry was blind in one eye and was unfit for military service during WW1. He had a 7th grade education, could read and write, and in 1917 worked as a clerk at the Cincinnati Bell & Suburban Telephone Company. Harry’s father had been a Cincinnati fireman in his younger days and his example of community service may have encouraged Harry to volunteer in the Home Guard.

 

Though Harry’s blind eye made him a poor candidate for carrying a rifle, his work at the telephone company made him an excellent choice for the Signal Company, called Company N in the Home Guard structure. In addition to his communications work Harry also served as the bugler for Company N.

 

 

 

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The Home Guard was called out four times between 1917 and its official disbanding in 1921. Its first duty came on February 2-4, 1918 when the Ohio River froze and low lying areas of the city flooded. The Home Guard assisted in rescuing trapped people from flooded homes, carrying food, blankets, coal, and other provisions to needy citizens during the emergency, patrolling flooded areas to prevent looting, and other related emergency activities. They were called out again a week later (February 11-14) when more flooding occurred and their services were needed again.

 

They were called out a third time in September, 1918 when the city police went on strike. Between September 13 – 16 the Home Guard patrolled the city with detention and arrest powers. They also assisted the Boy Scouts in traffic duties.

 

The Guard’s last major call out was in April 1919 when Cincinnati’s firemen went on strike for better working conditions after 17 firemen died and hundreds took ill during the great Spanish Flu epidemic. The Held family may have torn by this situation with Harry’s father a former city fireman and Harry called up to replace the strikers. The strike ran from April 12 to April 20 when the firemen returned to work.

 

The Cincinnati Home Guard was officially disbanded in 1921, and a grateful city had medals struck for each member of the Guard. Harry Held’s medal has a clasp with his name on the top of the ribbon. The rear of Harry’s medal is also privately engraved with “Bugler, Harry Held, Co. N” in script. I wonder if Harry’s wife Florence commissioned the engraving as a present to her husband?

 

Harry Held lived in Cincinnati his entire life. He and his wife had three daughters, Beatrice, Mary Rose, and Kathleen. Harry’s wife died prior to 1940, leaving Harry to raise his two youngest daughters alone (the oldest daughter Beatrice was married when her mother died). Harry Held died on July 15, 1963 and is buried on the city’s west side in St. Joseph New Cemetery.

 

I’m proud to be the current caretaker of this medal that commemorates a civilian who volunteered to his community during WW1 despite a disability.

 

 

 

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  • 2 years later...

GEOFF and everyone else on here

 

I would like to hear more on the Home Guard. I am currently doing a research project, looking into the different State Military during the years. Please feel free to reach out to me. Thanks

 

Cliff

 

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suwanneetrader

Cliff:  I just spent an hour looking thru old paper work trying to find the stationary of an early Cincinnati Militia Group and can not find it.  In the 1960's when I worked for The Cincinnati Gas & Electric Co.  I had a service call at the Baldwin Estate (They owned Baldwin Piano Co)  When she found out I collected US Militaria (Primarily CW at that time) she invited me back to look thru 4 or 5 Generations of trunks, etc (Many brought home from the Wars) stored in a huge attic ( As I recall about 5 rooms with finished walls and ceiling)  She gave me some stationary and envelopes with return address for The 2nd. Cav (I think--   as not sure of company I wanted to find stationary before I posted to be accurate).  They had their headquarters on the estate grounds and as of when I was there the stables where still there and good condition.  I do not remember any CW but there were some WWI - WWII uniforms. I guess that is why she gave me the stationary.  Richard

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  • 2 months later...

Hello,  I have an interest in this topic specifically.  I have some historical articles that are from this specific period that i would like to gain more information about.

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ItemCo16527

I've never seen this medal before, so thank you for posting it! I love how the design incorporates the police-style badge they wore on their uniforms. The designer really knew what they were doing.

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