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William H. Thompkins

William H. Thompkins (October 3, 1872 – September 24, 1916) was a Buffalo Soldier in the United States Army and a recipient of America's highest military decoration—the Medal of Honor—for his actions in the Spanish–American War.

William H. Thompkins
Born(1872-10-03)October 3, 1872
Paterson, New Jersey
DiedSeptember 24, 1916(1916-09-24) (aged 43)
San Francisco, California
Place of burial
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
RankArmy-USA-OR-05.svg Sergeant
UnitTroop G, 10th Cavalry Regiment
Battles/warsSpanish–American War
 • Battle of Tayacoba
AwardsMedal of Honor ribbon.svg Medal of Honor


Thompkins joined the army from Cleveland, Ohio in August 1889, claiming to be 21 years old.[1] By June 30, 1898 was serving as a Private in Troop G of the 10th Cavalry Regiment. On that day, American forces aboard the USS Florida near Trinidad, Cuba dispatched a landing party to provide reconnaissance on Spanish outposts in the area. The party was discovered by Spanish scouts and came under heavy fire; their boats were sunk by enemy cannon fire, leaving them stranded on shore.

The men aboard the Florida launched several rescue attempts; the first four were forced to retreat under heavy fire. The fifth attempt, manned by Thompkins and three other Privates of the 10th Cavalry (Dennis Bell, Fitz Lee, and George H. Wanton) under the command of Lieutenant Ahern, launched at night and successfully found and rescued the surviving members of the landing party. One year later, on June 23, 1899, four of the rescuers were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions in what had come to be known as the Battle of Tayacoba.

William Thompkins died in 1916 and was buried in San Francisco National Cemetery, San Francisco, California.

Medal of Honor citationEdit

Private Thompkins's official Medal of Honor citation reads:

Voluntarily went ashore in the face of the enemy and aided in the rescue of his wounded comrades; this after several previous attempts at rescue had been frustrated.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Register of Enlistments in the US Army, 1798-1914
  This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Army Center of Military History.
  • "William H. Thompkins". Claim to Fame: Medal of Honor recipients. Find a Grave. Retrieved 2007-01-22.
  • "War with Spain Medal of Honor recipients". Medal of Honor citations. United States Army Center of Military History. 2004-09-01. Retrieved 2007-01-22.