the Myth lives on in 2013

This recent article from the Middletown Journal illustrates how current the myth remains embedded among established media in Middletown. The author, Roger Miller continued the tradition began by George Crout by writing a weekly column on Middletown history. Mr. Crout avoided controversy and was certainly a keeper of the Galbraith myth and Mr. Miller is continuing the practice of perpetuating it.

Mr. Crout had a high regard for newspaper material as a fundamental source for his written histories. This article written by Mr. Miller quotes the editor of the local newspaper, John Baker during another 20th century Galbraith commemoration. Mr. Baker’s account quotes Mr. Galbraith just prior to his execution with the condemned man’s  plea for justice. All of this is presented as fact. No one wants to question it even 90 years after a renown Ohio historian detailed different circumstances for the death of Victor Gilbreath.

 

“Middletown man’s pardon received hours after death

Our story begins in a most humble dwelling on North Main Street, the site which is marked by a monument noting it as the home site of Victor Galbraith, and reaches its climax in Monterey, Mexico. Born in 1823 in Middletown, Galbraith lived a quiet, uneventful life. His father became the town’s first school master paid from public funds.

Galbraith was a tailor by trade, but his great love was music, and he learned to play the flute and with war imminent, practiced up on the bugle. In those days, every unit had a live bugler.

He joined a unit that was sent to Mexico during the Mexican War. It was Victor’s love of music that got him into trouble. Among the frequent visitors to the Army camp was a gifted Portuguese musician who played the harp and sang. Victor particularly admired the young woman and spoke often with her. When some war information was leaked to the enemy, an officer jumped to the conclusion that it had been carried by this musician and perhaps given to her by Galbraith. Although the story was in no way true, under the pressure of war, Galbraith was court-martialed and judged guilty of treason, for which he was sentenced to be shot.

A small pamphlet published in the local newspaper and written by its editor John Q. Baker tells more of the story. It reads:

‘The day arrives (December 27, 1847), the sun has not yet reached the horizon and the morning star through the gathering clouds shines dim in the eastern sky. Victor Galbraith is summoned, a score of soldiers, amid gloomy silence emerge from the field of tents and at the word of command, halt behind a knott (knoll, small hill) that hides them from view of the camp. Pale and haggard yet with a steady step the prisoner is led apart by two officers in charge. The fatal hour has come. The clouds lower as if in sympathy with the doomed man, and his agonized mother far away in her desolate home, praying in hope and despair for the preservation of her boy.

Placed in position he was asked if he had any words he wished to say. Galbraith replied,

“My only desire is that posterity will efface the brand of suspected traitor from my name. Knowing no home but my native land, bearing allegiance to none but my country’s flag. I shudder at the false charges of treachery to my country’s cause. And now in this dark hour, as my mind reverts to the scene of my boyhood, to the old home and its surroundings on fair Miami’s shore, to those I know and love and whose confidence I esteem, I ask them to vindicate my honor and refrain from passing judgement until the light of truth reveals the innocence of a soldier deeply wronged.” ‘

Twelve of Galbraith’s comrades in arms sorrowfully executed their mission. Twelve shots rang out. Galbraith fell to the ground, but rose again asking for water, and then begged that the mission be completed. Once again the order was given, the shots rang out, and Victor fell forever.

The soldier had already been buried under a military road near the walls of Monterey.”

Author: Roger Miller, Contributing Writer

Published: Middletown Journal, Feb. 25, 2013, pg. B6

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