FRANKLIN M. McDONALD (1850 ~ ?). Medal of Honor recipient Franklin M. McDonald (sometimes spelled McDonnold) was born in 1850, in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He enlisted in Company G of the U.S. 11th Infantry at Fort Griffin, Texas, on June 7, 1871. McDonald was assigned to escort coaches carrying mail, a dangerous job in the early 1870s.
On August 3, 1872, McDonald joined teamster Peter Collins of Westchester County, New York, on a mail coach departing from Jacksboro, Texas, to Fort Griffin. Fifteen miles from Fort Belknap, their planned overnight stop, the two men were attacked by a band of eight to 10 Kiowa Indians. Collins whipped the horses hoping to reach the cover of a grove of trees while the Indians split into two groups, one trailing the coach and one attempting to head it off.
One of the coach's lead horses was killed by the attacking group riding parallel to the road, causing the other three horses to stumble and the coach rolled onto its side. Both men jumped clear of the coach and McDonald fired on the attackers while Collins searched for his rifle. Collins found the rifle just as his attackers approached. McDonald met the oncoming attack by standing in the road and firing into the dust thrown up by the crash, halting the enemy advance. Collins inspected the overturned coach for damage while McDonald watched the Kiowa circling them. He fired at the band's leader, eventually shooting him.
The band paused to retrieve their wounded leader. Collins and McDonald used the time to un-harness a dead horse and connect a rope from the top railing of the coach to the remaining horses to upright the coach. Back on the coach, they rode for a stand of trees with the band of Kiowa in pursuit. McDonald shot two of the attackers' horses, breaking the charge as the coach arrived at the trees. Having their leader wounded and losing several horses, the attackers retreated. After a half an hour, Collins and McDonald left for Fort Belknap.
Mail coaches were regularly attacked on the Texas plains, but two men holding off an attack was a rarity and caused much excitement at the fort. The next morning, Collins and McDonald departed for Clear Fork Station, where the bullet riddled coach again caused a stir. Colonel William H. Wood, the post commander, listened to the men's account of the earlier attack, and sent an account of their action to the headquarters of the Department of Texas.
At the time, the Army was involved in a public relations struggle with the mail service. The mail service claimed that the Army's protection of the mail was inadequate, and news of the successful defense of a mail coach was greatly publicized by the Army. McDonald was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions defending the coach, receiving the medal on September 8, 1872, without a formal ceremony. He was also promoted to Corporal. On December 4, 1873, McDonald deserted the Army and was never heard from again.
In 1875, Collins confessed to faking an Indian attack by shooting a horse and a coach himself. However, this confession does not implicate McDonald and may have been to a similar incident which happened to Collins in 1875, which means he might have faked a later incident out of jealousy of McDonald's Medal of Honor. Also, reports indicate that a hostile Kiowa band was active in the area of the attack, making the incident more likely.
A 1916 Medal of Honor Review Board inspected the circumstances of McDonald's Medal of Honor and chose not to remove his name from the Army and Navy Honor Roll. McDonald disappeared after his desertion and it is likely that while in the Army he used a fake name; Franklin McDonald may have been an under aged enlistee.
Bibliography: "Above and Beyond: The Medal of Honor in Texas." Capitol Visitors Center, State Preservation Board of Texas; Handbook of Texas Online, Texas Sate Historical Association, University of Texas, http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles; Neal, Charles M., Jr. Valor Across the Lone Star: The Congressional Medal of Honor in Frontier Texas. Texas A&M University Press: 2002.