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After years in obscurity, Medal of Honor recipient to be reburied in San Diego, with military honors

After a near century in obscurity and lack of recognition, the remains of a Medal of Honor recipient will be transferred next week to a place of honor at the Miramar National Cemetery in San Diego.

The ceremony for the reburial of Sgt. Charles Schroeter, set for Thursday, will include an Army band, color guard, 30 soldiers in dress-uniform from Ft. Irwin in San Bernardino County, and Civil War reenactors.

Also, a lieutenant colonel and sergeant major will attend from Ft. Hood, Texas, home to the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division.

A horse-drawn hearse will bring the urn containing Schroeter’s ashes, which have been at Greenwood Memorial Cemetery for decades without any recognition that he received the Medal of Honor.

“It’s important for these brave individuals not to be forgotten,” said Laura Jowdy, an archivist with the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. Jowdy did much of the research into Schroeter’s long and varied military career, and the Battle of Rocky Mesa for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Born on the Fourth of July – in either 1833 or 1837 – Schroeter immigrated to the U.S. from Germany in 1860 and served in the 1st Missouri Volunteer Cavalry Regiment during the Civil War. The regiment fought against the Confederate Army in a series of battles in Arkansas.

After the war, he enlisted in the regular Army and was assigned to the 8th Cavalry, which was engaged in fighting Indian bands in New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona.

In October 1869, Schroeter and other troops tracked and confronted a band of Apaches, led by their chief, Cochise. The Apaches were accused of a deadly ambush on a stagecoach and then attacking cowboys on a cattle drive and stealing their cattle.

The soldiers found the Apaches in a stronghold in the Chiricahua Mountains in southeast Arizona. Men died on both sides during the Battle of Rocky Mesa, for which Schroeter received the Medal of Honor.

Schroeter’s military career continued for two more decades, including battles with the Sioux in the Dakota Territory and then service as a Marine aboard Navy ships in the Mediterranean.

He retired as an Army sergeant in 1894, moving to upstate New York, where he and a business partner operated a candy and tobacco store. He later moved to San Diego, where he died in 1921.

His will called for cremation but, as a lifelong bachelor, there were no survivors to take possession of the urn although the local Masons held a ceremony. The urn was placed with others that were unclaimed at Greenwood.

Schroeter will be the first Medal of Honor recipient buried at Miramar. The Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in Point Loma has 23.

Nationwide there are several hundred recipients of the Medal of Honor for whom records do not exist that indicate their burial sites, according to Jowdy. The Congressional Medal of Honor Society attempts to locate such records although in many cases that proves impossible.

The somewhat uncommon spelling of Schroeter’s name may have helped, Jowdy said. She found records mentioning him in Erie County, New York, where he lived in retirement. Those records were cross-referenced with military records.

The trail led to San Diego and the San Diego History Center. “I love a mystery,’’ said Jane Kenealy, an archivist at the center.

Schroeter’s name was found on the rolls of a San Diego-based fraternal organization, also probate records, his address in Mission Hills and a death certificate.

Bill Heard, public information officer at the Miramar National Cemetery Support Foundation, compiled a detailed history of Schroeter.

John Goodlove, secretary of Masonic Lodge 35 in San Diego, contacted the Masonic Grand Lodge in New York for its records on Schroeter. The Congressional Medal of Honor Historical Society of the United States provided a bronze grave plaque.

“Why do I do it?” said historical society member Don Morfe, who notified Greenwood about Schroeter.  “Because it’s the right thing to do.”

Twitter: @LATsandiego

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