Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Grubb , Alan
Grant , Roger
This thesis, which has encompassed my life for the last several months, began as sort of an afterthought. A graduate course that I was taking in fall 2008 required the students to produce a prospectus for a new biography that should be added to the historical record. Looking to find a subject that I did not mind researching, I chose to write a proposal on my great uncle Furman L. Smith, who was South Carolina's first Congressional Medal of Honor winner in World War II. I had always had an interest in family history, but felt guilty that I knew relatively little about a relative who had achieved the nation's highest military honor.
After researching, I discovered I was not alone in my ignorance. People had nothing but good things to say about Uncle Furman; he was remembered as a brave soldier, hardworking son, and honest individual. Yet despite this praise, few people could tell me what he actually did in the war. A handful knew the basics of what Furman did to receive his Medal of Honor, but a greater number of people had misconceptions about his glorious feat. Furman was remembered fondly by many people, but ironically, few knew many details about his military experience.
This gap in information for someone who seemingly made such an impression on everyone made me realize that Furman deserved more than a passing project in a graduate course. I found myself in a unique position, being in possession of a number of documents that have since been lost in a fire at the National Archives. With people from his generation passing every day, I felt obligated to tell Furman's tale before it is lost. Thus, I have made Furman the subject of my thesis in hopes of providing an accurate narrative for future generations.
In my thesis, I hope to address several military questions that I had about Furman the soldier. What was his entire military experience like? What specifically did he do to earn the Medal of Honor? How did his experience fit into the larger picture of the war? Yet I also had personal questions about Furman the farmboy. What in his background caused him to take his heroic actions? What kind of person was he? What were his concerns on the battlefield? And finally, how did his feat impact his family in following generations?
Portrayed in the first chapter is a detailed account of Furman's military experience, along with how his actions fit into the campaign as a whole. In the second chapter, I address Furman's family background and his younger years to discover what made him into the soldier he became. In the concluding chapters, I address Furman's Medal of Honor feat and how it has affected his family after World War II.
My hope is to give Furman's story justice for it truly is a great one.
Taylor, Charles, "Twenty Miles to Rome: the Story of South Carolina's First Medal of Honor Winner in World War II" (2009). All Theses. 756.