The Highlands Historical Society voted unanimously last week to take the first steps in bringing a Congressional Medal of Honor to its museum at the Twin Lights so proper honor can be paid to the borough’s only recipient of Congress’ highest award for military valor, Chief Robert Blume.
Society President Russell Card...who was the first one to bring attention and urge more research on this Spanish-American War figure, will be meeting with representatives of the Friends of the Twin Lights to keep them informed and invite them to join in the effort to establish a fitting setting for this most prestigious award.
As was reported in History and Happenings back in May, Robert Blume was a third lighthouse keeper at the Twin Lights in the early years of the 20th century, some six to eight years after he had proven his mettle as a true hero at Cienfuegos, Cuba. While serving aboard the USS Nashville as a seaman, Blume was one of the 26 Sailors and Marines from that ship who joined another 26 volunteers from the USS Marblehead and sailed into the Cienfuegos harbor under intense fire from both friendly and enemy weapons during the Spanish American War. Their mission, which they accomplished successfully, was to cut the underwater cable and end the Spanish ability to keep in contact with their own military leaders and allies and keep control of the Cuban island against the will of the Cuban people.
It was for this brave action that Blume earned the honor.
But there is so much to the story of this former Highlands resident who was married and had three daughters while living here and working at the lighthouse.
Admittedly, he was a bit of a tippler and loved a good time. More than once, actually, many times more than once, he was busted in rank for smuggling booze aboard ship, drinking on duty, overstaying his leave, and occasionally fighting while under the influence. He had attained the rank of Chief over the years, and lost it because of his other than perfect conduct. But he was ever the hero.
It happened that a couple of years after Cienfuegos, and a couple of years before coming to Highlands, Blume proved his valor once again. He was on another ship when two sailors were working in the depths of the ship, electronics broke down, and they were smothered and knocked unconscious by the poisonous fumes. Our Highlands hero and another sailor went down into that gas-filled hold, wrapped ropes around the unconscious men, and pulled them to safety. The other seaman was put up for the Medal because of his role in the rescue; our Seaman Blume was recommended for return to his rightful rank of Chief. Think of that! Had it not been for his penchant for partying, Chief Blume would be one of only 20 men in the entire world who earned not one, but TWO Congressional Medals.
And still the story doesn’t end. Though Chief Blume died in 1937, his Medal was up for sale on E-Bay in 2003, a strict violation of federal law. Our sensational FBI, working together with Canada’s fine police, investigated, worked hard, set up a sting, recovered the Medal and saw the seller serve time in prison. Then they sought living relatives of Blume, and finding none, ceremoniously brought that Medal back to the MOH Museum in South Carolina.
It’s that medal, with all its history, with all the valor it represents, with its connection to Highlands, that should come back to the Twin Lights Museum for New Jersey to rightfully recognize a Highlands hero in the true sense of the word!
Russell will be at the County’s Archives Day on Oct. 8 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Monmouth County Library in Manalapan. Stop in and see his pride in Highlands and hear his stories about Chief Blume!