By Matthew Urtz
(Madison, NY) Continuing with our series on Medal of Honor recipients with roots in Madison County, the second Medal of Honor recipient discussion focuses on Noble Preston. According to census records in 1850, Noble was living with his maternal grandfather, Portright Blakeslee in the town of Madison.
By the 1855 census, he had moved to Fulton in Oswego County. It was in Fulton in 1861 that Noble entered the 10th NY Cavalry, originally as a Corporal, rising all the way to Regimental Commissary by February 1863.
It was in June of 1864 that Preston would earn his medal.
Rather than keep his traditional position at the back of the regiment, Preston moved forward with Company A. On June 11, the company moved out, heading for Trevillion Station, Va. Upon arrival at Trevillion Station, Preston took control of the company in the midst of a heated battle when Captain John Ordner was killed.
An officer in Company G described Preston’s actions:
“The bullets cut the [fence] rails with a death dealing savagery that is terrorizing. FORWARD! COME ON! Comes the order; the advance following quickly the brave, plucky little officer giving it as he scaled the fence defiantly, yes eagerly. We felt a sense of pride and manliness in our leadership. It was our commissary, Lieutenant Preston, who would have been thought doing full duty if back with the [wagon] train, out of harm’s way. Ye who set a price on liberty and the war, tell me why he’s there? A volley half checked our advance when I heard that indescribable sound of bullet striking human flesh and bones! Our gallant leader had received a gall, swinging him around almost into my arms. Never shall I forget the mingled look of pain and disappointment his colorless face revealed. It was an inspiration to ‘go on!’ which we did until the enemy broke again…”
Preston had been shot in the hip, struck by a Minié ball, and subsequently was removed from the field to a wooded area until he was able to be rescued later that evening. Preston was promoted to captain on that day, June 14, 1864. In November 1864, he was discharged due to the injuries he received in battle.
For his actions at Trevillion Station, Preston was awarded the Medal of Honor in November 1889. The citation reads:
“Voluntarily led a charge in which he was severely wounded.”
After the war, Preston returned to Volney, Oswego County, where he lived with his wife Anna and two children, Charles and Helen. In 1880, Preston and his family were living in Bradford, Pa., and in 1890 he was in Philadelphia, Pa., working for the Atlantic Refining Company.
In 1892, Preston wrote the history of the 10th Cavalry, which was published under the title History of the Tenth Regiment of Cavalry New York State Volunteers, August, 1861, to August, 1865. Today the book is a very expensive collector’s item. He lived in Philadelphia until his death in 1919.
Over the next few months, I will feature the remaining two Medal of Honor recipients who have roots in Madison County.
Matthew Urtz is Madison County historian. He can be reached at 315.366.2453 or email email@example.com. Like “Madison County, NY History” on Facebook and visit www.madisoncountynyhistory.com. Sources Cited: Annual report of the Adjutant-General of the State of New York for the Year 1891: Registers of the 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th Regiments of Cavalry, N.Y. Vols, in the War of the Rebellion, vol. III, Albany, James B. Lyon: 1895. Evening Public Ledger (Philadelphia, PA) 29 December 1919, page 3 & 19. 10th NY Cavalry. 2006. 10thnycavalry.org/notables.html. cmohs.org.