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George W. Biegler (May 31, 1869 – April 2, 1929) was a United States Army Captain who received the Medal of Honor for actions during the Philippine-American War on October 21, 1900.
George Biegler was born May 31, 1869 in Terre Haute, Indiana and also entered the United States Army from the same location.
He was serving as a Captain with the 28th Infantry (U.S. Volunteers) near Loac, Luzon, Philippines on October 21, 1900, the date of his Medal of Honor action. His citation was issued on March 11, 1902. However, some accounts indicate that the award was not presented to Biegler until October 17, 1927 by then-Secretary of War Dwight F. Davis.
Biegler also served on the Mexican border in the search for Pancho Villa and in World War I and eventually obtaining the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
Biegler died at Letterman Hospital in San Francisco, California and was buried in Hollywood, California. His funeral service was held on April 7, 1929 at the post Chapel, The Presidio, San Francisco. His grave can be found in Section 6, Lot 170.
Medal of Honor citation
Rank and Organization: Captain, 28th Infantry, U.S. Volunteers. Place and Date: Near Loac, Luzon, Philippine Islands, October 21, 1900. Entered Service At: Terre Haute, Ind. Birth: Terre Haute, Ind. Date of Issue: March 11, 1902.
Citation: With but 19 men resisted and at close quarters defeated 300 of the enemy.
HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE: Congressional Medal of Honor recipient
George W. Biegler
By Mike McCormick
The Tribune Star, Terre Haute, Indiana, Sat Apr 25, 2009
TERRE HAUTE — Few military men from Vigo County were more revered during their lifetime than Col. George Wesley Biegler.
Deservedly so. His achievements, punctuated by a Congressional Medial of Honor, command considerable respect. Unfortunately, he is virtually forgotten.
Born in Terre Haute on May 31, 1868, he was the third son of George L. and Rosanna (Harsch) Biegler. Both parents were born in Germany. His father, a native of Bavaria, was a gardener and commission merchant, growing produce and selling it from his stall in City Market House at Fourth and Walnut streets.
The Biegler family resided at 527 N. 14th St. George’s siblings included William, Anna, Mary, August, Martha and Rosa. Not all survived childhood. Rosanna Biegler, 43, died April 20, 1873, when George was only four years old.
After Rosanna died, oldest daughter Anna was responsible for most household chores and William went to work at the Terre Haute Elevator Co. at 10th and Wabash.
By 1880, Mary Biegler was working as a dressmaker and, within a few years, Martha, also known as “Mattie,” went to work as a typesetter for the Terre Haute Gazette.
Congenial and ambitious, George sold newspapers as a teen and, at 18 years old, landed a job as a reporter with the Gazette published by William Creighton Ball and Spencer Fairfax Ball.
The Ball brothers recognized young talent. For a brief time, George worked at the Gazette with Edward Price Bell, later the first journalist to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Following amendments to Indiana’s militia laws in March 1889 establishing 48 new Indiana National Guard companies, Biegler joined Company B of the First Indiana Infantry, a Terre Haute-based unit under Capt. John W. Ebel, a prominent sign painter.
He was promoted to second lieutenant on May 14, 1891, first lieutenant on Dec. 18, 1891 and captain July 14, 1892.
About the same time, George married Susanna Rubsch and the two set up housekeeping at 213 S. 15th St. in Terre Haute The couple had three children, Robert, Florence Marguerite and Thelma. Robert and Florence were born in Terre Haute.
George was active in community affairs, too, serving for a while as secretary of the Terre Haute Baseball Club, a minor league team.
In 1896, Biegler and former Terre Haute Mayor Jacob C. Kolsem purchased the Terre Haute Journal, a pro-Republican German language newspaper, from Jacob E. Wolff, who had owned it for 12 years.
On April 25, 1898, Indiana Gov. James Mount received instructions from the U.S. War Department for provide four infantry regiments and two batteries of light artillery to support American forces during the Spanish-American War.
Gov. Mount promptly issued a proclamation instructing all Indiana National Guard units to report to the Indiana State Board of Agriculture fairgrounds near Indianapolis. Capt. Biegler was commanding officer of Company B so he sold his interest in the Journal to join the ranks. The first lieutenant of Company B was James E. Thomas and second lieutenant was Alvin W. Dudley, both of Terre Haute.
When mustered into service on May 12, 1898, the First Indiana became the 159th Indiana Volunteer Infantry. It was the third Indiana National Guard unit to enter service during the war with Spain.
The regiment trained at Camp R.A. Alger at Dunn Loring, Va., and at Fort Meade, Md., but returned to Indiana in September and was mustered out Nov. 23. Company B lost two privates to illness: Charles B. Caton and Sherman Stultz, both of Terre Haute.
Shortly thereafter, an insurrection erupted in the Philippines when revolutionary forces under Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed sovereignty and independence for the Philippine Islands from Spain after years of colonial rule. President William McKinley authorized the formation of 20 volunteer regiments to protect U.S. interests.
Capt. Biegler volunteered and was assigned to command Company G of the 28th U.S. Volunteer Infantry. In late 1900, Gen. Aguinaldo virtually abandoned conventional warfare and used guerrilla bands, many dressed as peaceful citizens. On Oct. 19, 1900, Biegler launched a scouting mission from Balayan in the province of Batangas with a mounted detachment of 18 men and one Hospital Corps private.
On Oct. 21, Biegler’s detachment was surrounded and attacked by insurgents. Halting his platoon in a ravine, Capt. Biegler opened well-directed fire upon the enemy, which had the effect of keeping it on the defensive. The American detachment then resumed its march, firing from its rear guard when the enemy presented a good target.
One half-mile later Capt. Biegler’s group encountered at least 200 guerrillas entrenched in a dense thicket. The first volley from the enemy killed one soldier and four horses and severely wounded Biegler and three other Americans.
Ignoring his injuries, Capt. Biegler sent a sergeant and four men to cover each flank while the remaining men raked enemy trenches with rapid fire. The barrage killed two senior guerrilla officers and caused other severe injuries. While the Filipinos assessed their losses, the Americans dressed the wounds of their disabled men.
However, the revitalized enemy — with additional men from the Batangas and Cavite battalions, well-armed and uniformed — soon reappeared and opened fire. The opposing forces battled for nearly an hour before the Filipino troops withdrew with an estimated 75 casualties. By that time, Biegler’s ammunition was nearly exhausted.
Biegler was promoted to second lieutenant in 1901 and, on Feb. 14, 1902, Gen. Arthur MacArthur Jr. announced that President Theodore Roosevelt had approved his recommendation to award Capt. Biegler the congressional medal of honor for gallantry.
Eventually reaching the rank of colonel, Biegler remained in the service until his death from influenza, at age 60, at the Presidio in San Francisco on April 2, 1929.
At the time of his death, Col. Biegler was the executive officer of the U.S. Army at Fort Mason, Calif.