Letter To Lieutenant Ellsworth Price Bertholf
Presenting Him With The Congressional Gold Medal of Honor

Department of the Treasury
United States of America

August 15, 1904.

First Lieutenant E. P. Bertholf,
United States Revenue Cutter Service.


It affords me great pleasure to forward to you herewith the Gold Medal recommended by President William McKinley, and ordered by the unanimous vote of the Congress of the United States in recognition of your heroic services as one of the three officers of the Revenue Cutter Service who composed the Overland Expedition to Point Barrow, Arctic Ocean, for the relief of imperiled whalers.

The conditions with confronted you throughout that four months' march beginning the 16th day of December, 1897, were full of difficulty, discouragement and ever present danger, but you and your gallant comrades, Lieutenant D. H. Jarvis and Surgeon Samuel J. Call, prosecuted your journey and fulfilled your mission undaunted and undeterred.

The estimation and appreciation in which your great services were and are held, cannot be better expressed than in the language of President McKinley in his Special Message to Congress, under the date of January 17, 1899, wherein he said:

"The hardships and perils encountered by the members of the overland expedition in their great journey through the almost uninhabited region, a barren waste of ice and snow, facing death itself every day for nearly four months, over a route never before traveled by white men, with no refuge but at the end of the journey, carrying relief and cheer to 275 distressed citizens of our country, all make another glorious page in the history of American seamen. They reflect by their heroic and gallant struggles the highest credit upon themselves and the Government which they faithfully served. I commend this heroic crew to the grateful consideration of Congress and the American people.

The year just closed has been fruitful of noble achievements in the field of war, and, while I have commended to your consideration the names of heroes who have shed lustre upon the American name in valorous contests and battles by land and sea, it is no less my pleasure to invite your attention to a victory of peace, the results of which cannot well be magnified, and the dauntless courage of the men engaged stamps them as true heroes whose services cannot pass unrecognized."

Upon the brilliant and successful consummation of your perilous mission I congratulate you and the Service in which you were even then distinguished officers, and I congratulate the country that produces such men. Future seekers for the record of heroic Americans will surely note with pleasure what was done by Lieutenant Jarvis, Lieutenant Bertholf and Surgeon Call, within nineteen degrees of the North Pole, in the winter of 1897.

(signed) L. M. Shaw,

The medal of honor struck for and awarded to Lt. Ellsworth P. Bertholf for his work in the Pt. Barrow Overland Relief Expedition 1897-1898, by unanimous order of Congress.

This medal is now at the US Coast Guard Museum, New London, CT.

Bertholf joins the company of such illustrious fellow recipients as George Washington, John Paul Jones, Andrew Jackson and Ulysses S. Grant. Unfortunately, receiving a Congressional Gold Medal of Honor is considered as significant as receiving a "Congressional Medal of Honor". As a result, EP Bertholf is not listed as a medal recipient at Arlington National Cemetery, at the Medal of Honor Memorial, or with the US Coast Guard.

However, the Congressional Record of the 52nd Congress clearly states in Session I, Chapter 1311 (June 28, 1902) "That the Secretary of Treasury is hereby directed to bestow a gold medal of honor... upon First Lieutenant David H. Jarvis, Second Lieutenant Ellsworth P. Bertholf, and Doctor Samuel J. Call, all of the Revenue-Cutter Service... in recognition of the heroic service rendered by them in connection with [the Pt. Barrow Overland Relief] expedition...." And, Commodore Bertholf's headstone at Arlington National Cemetery not only reads "Congressional Medal of Honor", it also has a relief of the obverse of the medal displayed above.

So, one of my projects in the months ahead is contacting the appropriate parties, in and out of Congress, to correct this omission. Stay tuned!

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