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Pawling News Chronicle: Civil War hero honored with Medal of Honor headstone

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Posted by GET NJ on November 17, 2004 at 19:08:59:

Civil War hero honored with Medal of Honor headstone

Pawling News Chronicle
By: John M. Benson 11/17/2004

Medal of Honor winner John J. Toffey was born in Pawling on June 1, 1844, and was buried in Pawling after his death in 1911. The American Legion has honored Toffey at his gravesite for years, gathering at the footstone for the Civil War veteran in the Toffey family plot.

As a result of the efforts of Pawling residents Dr. George Coulter, John Thomes, Fred Feindel and John Brockway, the Department of Veterans Affairs recently approved and issued a formal Medal of Honor headstone for Toffey.

Boy Scouts and the American Legion color guard led a company of local dignitaries and residents last Thursday on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, in a ceremony to mark the installation of the headstone.

Toffey received the Medal of Honor in September of 1897 during the presidency of William McKinley. He was provided with a certificate that announced the award and described his actions during the Civil War that prompted the issuance of the medal:

"The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to John J. Toffey.

"Rank and Organization: First Lieutenant, Company G, 33rd New Jersey Infantry. Place and Date: At Chattanooga, Tenn., 23 November, 1863. Entered Service at: Hudson, N.B. Birth: Duchess (sic), N.Y. Date of Issue: 10 September, 1897.

"Citation: Although excused from duty on account of sickness, went to the front in command of a storming party and with conspicuous gallantry participated in the assault of Missionary Ridge; was here wounded and permanently disabled."

While the American Legion had honored Toffey for years, it was not known that he had been awarded the Medal of Honor.

John Thomes was reading an article in the Poughkeepsie Journal on or about Veterans Day of 2002, when he discovered Toffey's name among those given as Dutchess County residents who had received the Medal of Honor.

Thomes shared the information with John Brockway, who was able to do the research on Toffey, and bring out the information concerning this Pawling honoree.
Dr. George Coulter and Fred Feindel took the information and began a communication with the Department of Veterans Affairs, seeking to secure the issuance of the official Medal of Honor headstone to which Toffey was entitled. The effort required nearly two years of persistent correspondence, but at last, they prevailed.

The stone was sent to funeral director John Thomes, and the Pawling Cemetery Association installed the stone at the head of the Toffey grave. He is buried next to his wife, Mary O. Toffey. The headstone rests immediately adjacent to the stone of their son Herbert, who died on March 29, 1863 at the age of four years, two months, 24 days.

Coulter, director of the Pawling Cemetery Association, conducted the ceremony, which was attended by Woodrow and Evelyn Devine, John Brockway, Ed Hauser, John Daniels, Mark Daniels, Jean and Ivan Hicks, Rob Liffland, Fred Feindel, Nada Davis, Nancy Tanner and many others.

Boy Scouts Cameron Kemmer, Hunter Esposito, Rocco Esposito, Kurt Preiser and Corey Mort joined the Legion Color guard, along with their Scout Leader, Doug Mort.
The Legion Color Guard was manned by Roy Calderaro, Lou Grogan, Herb Davison and Wayne Giggey, with Richard Ryan carrying the POW MIA flag. Ivan Hicks, Paul Drensek and Joe Johnston formed the rifle guard, and gave the rifle salute in honor of Toffey.

Coulter read aloud Toffey's biography, which includes an extensive record of public service in the state of New Jersey, where he spent much of his life. He served two terms as sheriff of Hudson County, and was state treasurer of New Jersey from 1875 to 1891. He was an alderman of Jersey City, and served as an elected member of the New Jersey Assembly.

Toffey was born in Pawling on June 1, 1844, the son of George A. and Mary D. Toffey.

The family moved to Jersey City in Hudson County in 1854, where Toffey was educated in the public schools.

Toffey enlisted in the 21st Regiment of the New Jersey Volunteers on Aug. 21, 1862. He served with that unit for nine months before being mustered out of the service. He re-enlisted immediately in the 33rd Regiment of the N. J. Volunteers, and was commissioned First Lieutenant of Company G. He was severely wounded at the battle of Missionary Ridge, and was disabled from further service. President Abraham Lincoln commissioned him a Lieutenant of the Veteran Reserve Corps, and he performed duty until June, 1866, when he was honorably discharged from service.
He was awarded the Medal of Honor on Sept. 10, 1897, for his actions during the battle of Missionary Ridge.

Toffey's grave is easy to locate, situated in the Toffey family plot behind the monument to Admiral John L. Worden. Worden was the commanding officer of the Monitor in the battle with the Merrimack, and Toffey's brother Daniel was an officer aboard the Monitor.

Worden was the first commandant of the U. S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md.

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