The month of December held a certain significance for the Gaujot brothers. That meaning didn’t come from holiday fervor in their native Eagle Harbor, Michigan, or because the younger Gaujot’s birthday was Dec. 12. It came from history.
Antoine August Michel Gaujot and Julien Edward Victor Gaujot are one of eight sets of brothers who have been awarded the Medal of Honor, and they are also the only siblings to receive the nation’s highest military honor for actions in separate wars. Julien Gaujot also holds the distinction of being the only Soldier to be awarded the medal for actions of a peacekeeping nature.
During a skirmish April 13, 1911, along the Southwestern U.S. border between Mexican government troops and rebel forces, stray bullets caused American casualties in Douglas, Arizona. Julien Gaujot, at the time a captain with K Troop, 1st U.S. Cavalry, bravely rode through the field of fire into Agua Prieta in the Mexican state of Sonora. He was to obtain permission from the rebel commander to receive the surrender of the surrounded federal forces, together with five American prisoners, and escort them to the American border. Gaujot succeeded and was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Howard Taft during a ceremony at the White House in December 1912.
The honor came 13 years after Antoine Gaujot’s gallantry while an NCO during the Philippine-American War. The younger Gaujot was a corporal in M Company, 27th Infantry, U.S. Volunteers. On Dec. 18, 1899, the unit joined with others to follow Maj. Gen. Harry W. Lawton along the Marikina River toward San Mateo in the present-day province of Rizal. The American forces were on a punitive expedition, hunting for Brig. Gen. Pio del Pilar’s force of 1,000 troops, who had attacked the Marikina waterworks and the Manila wagon road to the north.
The following day, the forces made for San Mateo, approaching the Filipinos in the early morning hours as rain fell in torrents. As they neared San Mateo, they came under enemy fire from the Morong Command battalion led by Gen. Licerio Geronimo. The Filipinos forced Lawton’s Soldiers — Antoine Gaujot among them — to scramble for cover in the surrounding rice fields. Lawton walked up and down the line, rallying his men as they regrouped when he was shot by a sniper. He became the highest-ranking American commander to die in the Philippine conflict.
With their leader gone and unrelenting enemy fire peppering the paddies around them, the situation seemed bleak. The Americans also had to deal with the monsoon conditions that quickly made the river they were walking along nearly impassable. That’s when Gaujot leaped into action. According to his citation, “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.”
Gaujot was unable to locate a safe passage. So he and another NCO, Sgt. Edward H. Gibson, made the fateful decision to swim across the rapidly rising river “under fire and against a dangerous current.” Upon reaching the northern shore of the Marikina, the two men located a canoe that belonged to the enemy and returned with it to the friendly side of the river. The seemingly innocuous effort to keep enemy forces from reaching their position would prove fruitful.
As rifle fire from the Filipino side subsided intermittently, American forces were able to use the canoe to move north. Eventually, the entire American contingent materialized on the enemy side of the river nearly six hours after first encountering resistance. Filipino forces, weary from inflicting minimal casualties after seemingly having the upper hand in the fight, retreated. They were eventually driven from San Mateo by the galvanized American force.
Antoine Gaujot and Edward Gibson were both awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions. Gaujot received his medal in February 1911 via registered mail. The hardware drew the admiration of his older brother.
“He wears it for watch fob, the damn civilian,” Julien Gaujot jabbed at his brother after the medal was issued. “I got to get me one them things for myself if I bust.”
Two months later, Julien was involved in the action that would earn him his medal during another celebratory December nearly two years later.
After his time in the Philippines, Antoine Gaujot was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel in the National Guard and saw service during the Mexican Border Crisis and in France during World War I. He died April 14, 1936, at age 57 in Williamson, West Virginia. He was buried in the city’s Fairview Cemetery.
Julien Gaujot retired from the Army in 1934 with the rank of colonel. He worked as a firefighter and a civil engineer. He died April 7, 1938, in Williamson. He was 63. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
The brothers both attended Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia. A cenotaph at the university’s War Memorial Court bears their names along with the five other alumni who were awarded the Medal of Honor.
— Compiled by Pablo Villa