Isaac N. Frye

Garretson Civil War Hero

The following article is compiled from information and articles provided by Randy Megard. We thank and credit him for this extensive research on an early Garretson pioneer and Civil War Hero. Isaac was one of the first of only 17 individuals to receive the highest military award possible ‘The President’s Congressional Medal of Honor’. Had Garretson American Legion Post 23 existed back then, Isaac certainly would have been a leading founding member. Therefore it is appropriate to include Sgt. Fry in this book recognizing him along with some other members who have made our post one of the top posts in the country. It would have been amazing to sit down and listen to him tell his story. Fortunately from what Randy uncovered, someone did and recorded what he and others with him had to say. Unfortunately we have no photos. Hope you enjoy!

In an all but forgotten grave in a small, equally all but forgotten cemetery, near Garretson SD lies one of Minnehaha’s most distinguished and highly honored early pioneers, Isaac N. Fry. Isaac N. Fry was born in 1839 in Lancaster Pennsylvania and enlisted in the US Army Marine Corp in September 1862. He served on board USS TICONDEROGA, an ironclad union gunboat throughout the Civil War. Marine detachments routinely served as ship’s guards and when engaged with the enemy were employed on deck as sharpshooters. By January of 1865 Isaac had advanced through the enlisted grades to orderly sergeant (equivalent of today’s 1st Sgt.).

Fortunately some of his deeds were recorded and available to us. Because of his rank he would have had a detail of men under him. Orders were to destroy and capture Ft. Fisher NC. Initially an attack was organized and carried out in December 1864. After two days the Union force withdrew. The second assault began Jan 12th 1865. Confederate forces numbered around 2,500. Sgt. Fry’s gun crew efficiency was above and beyond other crews. Sgt. Fry volunteered for a landing force to go ashore before the main invasion. Sgt. Fry and others volunteered to go forward to assault as sharp shooter and continue the assault when it was feasible for them to go in. Their aim was pinpoint and devastating His force was under continuous fire and they had to find cover where they could and remained under fire from one o’clock until dark. Sgt. Fry’s force gave the confederates the impression they were the main assault and while behind them the main Army caught them by surprise. The Main Fort was taken after 5 hours of furious hand to hand combat. His official citation reads in part “Orderly Sergeant Fry performed his duties with skill and courage as TICONDEROGA maintained a well-placed fire upon the batteries during a three day battle”.

Fry was honorably discharged on September 20 1866 in St. Louis MO and moved to Minnesota. In April of 1881 he moved to Palisades where he remained until moving to Edison where he farmed sections 15 & 22. He was a prominent early settler and held the office of ‘Justice of the Peace’ in Edison. He was the town clerk from 1881-1890. Neighbors described him as a conservative good citizen and a good neighbor. Isaac was married to Charlotte McKinney. He and Lottie had 3 children, Emyenetta, Walter and Arthur. Lottie died in 1889 at the young age of 35. Fry is said to have mourned her death for the remaining years of his life. In 1900 he was buried by her side in Summit Hill (one mile west of Garretson) Cemetery Block 1, Lot 2, grave 6 (near center-SE of directory).

His wartime valor was forgotten for almost 100 years. Thanks to Randy, Bill Hoskins and others a headstone for Medal of Honor Awardees was obtained and placed at his grave. Garretson American Legion Post 23 Color Guard along with Civil War Members of 13th US Infantry Company D dully recognized Sgt. Fry in a ceremony on May 15, 2004.