Under a ledger stone in the center of Block 2 at Fairmount lies Major General Orlando Ward, reputed to be the most highly decorated veteran in the cemetery. His military career spanned over 40 years and included duty in 3 separate wars or campaigns.
Orlando Ward was born in Macon, Missouri on November 4, 1891, but moved to Denver at an early age. In 1914 he graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point, and was commissioned in the cavalry. In 1915 he accompanied General John Pershing on his campaign into Mexico to try to capture the bandit Pancho Villa, who had been raiding towns along the Arizona-Mexico border.
Seeing the end of horses in warfare he switched to the artillery, and during the First World War at the second battle of The Marne in France he took charge of a battalion of Field Artillery, and was instrumental in helping to stem a German attack. For his action he was awarded the Silver Star.
Between the wars he had various postings, including a stint as an instructor at the US Field artillery school at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where he developed many innovations in gunnery, including a technique to concentrate battalion fire very quickly, which made the US artillery much more effective during WWII. Immediately before the war he served as secretary to the Army Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshal.
After the outbreak of the World War II he skipped a rank to be promoted to Major General, and became commander of the army’s First Armored Division, known as “Old Ironsides”. He led them as part of Operation Torch, the American invasion of North Africa. At the Battle of Kasserine Pass, the first time the US Army had encountered the Germans, the First Armored was sent reeling by sudden attacks from the Germans. Ward felt one reason was that his division had been split up into smaller units which weakened their ability to repulse strong concentrations of German troops. Headquarters believed this was the result of planning by the Corps commander, General Lloyd Fredendall, who was replaced with General George Patton. As the campaign along North Africa slowly progressed, Patton felt that Ward was not aggressive enough, eventually relieving him of his command, although Ward had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his action in Tunisia during an assault at Meknessy Heights in 1943, as well as another Silver Star and the Purple Heart.
Ward returned to the States and became Commandant of the Tank Destroyer Center at Camp Hood, Texas, and later Commander of the Artillery School at Fort Sill. In 1944 he took command of the US 20th Armored Division in central Europe, and it was his troops that seized the German city of Munich in April 1945. In his book, “An Army at Dawn”, author Rick Atkinson stated, “In the American Army few relieved commanders got a second chance to lead men in combat; Ward was an exception because he was exceptional”.
In 1946 following World War II General Ward was given command of the Sixth Infantry Division in South Korea. In 1949 before hostilities in Korea began, he returned to the US and became the Chief of the Office of Military History, Department of the Army, where he supervised the production of the official US Army Military history of World War II.
Orlando Ward retired from the army in 1953 and returned to Denver, where he died on February 4, 1972.
By Tom Morton
Peter Joseph was born in New Orleans La. in 1842. The son of a slave, Margaret Syphax, and an Austrian merchant, Spaero Narravitch. His mother, Margaret Syphax, was a descendent of the prominent Washington, D.C. Syphax clan. Margaret had seen to it that the merchant paid her owner for the baby boy in order to secure Peter’s freedom at his birth.
Military pension records from the National Archives show that Joseph was drafted into the 92nd in 1865. However, family lore indicates Peter had also participated in the unsuccessful 1864 Red River Campaign that was designed to capture Mobile, AL. His involvement in this campaign was possibly as a civilian teamster. Soon after joining the army he was placed on detached duty as a teamster to aid in the mustering out of union soldiers at the wars end.
After separation from the Army, Peter became a passionate advocate for military training in the colored colleges to prepare colored men for possible careers in the military. He organized and led three independent military companies in New Orleans. In 1888 he was a Colonel in the First Battalion of Colored Troops in Louisiana. The Orleans Light Guard, with Peter Joseph as Captain, marched in the 1889 inaugural parade of Benjamin Harrison.
In 1875 he was a Captain in the New Orleans Metropolitan Police force. From 1881-1892 he was the Captain of the night inspectors of the U.S. Customs, Port of New Orleans, where he was described as “one of the most efficient officers in the employment of the U.S. Government at this port.” He later became very successful as a mason.
Peter Joseph was also active socially and politically. He was Grand Master of the Masonic Stringer Lodge and a member of the Grand United Order of the Odd Fellows. He served as President of the Grand Council of the Colored Men’s Protective Union which had considerable political influence. In 1876 Joseph was elected to serve as a Presidential Elector from the First Congressional District of New Orleans in what turned out to be a highly contested race between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel J. Tilden. He was allegedly offered a bribe of $100,000 to vote for Tilden, which he turned down.
Upon passage of Louisiana segregation laws and the increased intimidation of colored people, Peter moved his wife Cora and 4 children to Denver in 1892. Three older daughters who remained behind were teachers at the Southern University of New Orleans. Denver’s laws prohibiting construction of frame buildings was the ideal location for practicing his masonry trade. He became prominent in the Bricklayer’s Union and was vice president of the Denver Trades and Labor Assembly from 1893 to 1894.
Peter Joseph was a proud man who valued education and hard work. He passed these traits on to his children. His daughter Zipporah was the valedictorian at Manual Training High School in 1901. Initially she had been denied the opportunity to speak at commencement because of her color. Peter was able to finally convince the school board to reverse themselves and allow his daughter to speak. Peter’s military pension records shows that he worked as long as possible. He did not apply for a veteran’s pension until the year of his death. Peter Joseph was buried in a GAR lot in block 27 on July 17, 1905. Other family members, including my mother and grandmother both named Zipporah, are buried nearby.
By Stephen E Hammond (Great-great grandson)