uss raleighPHOTO: Seaman Blume earned the honor of being nominated for a second Medal of Honor. He was stationed aboard the USS Raleigh

muriel j smith 120Everyone in Highlands should take special pride in the fact it was once the home of a Medal of Honor recipient. Everyone in the Bayshore should be proud of each Medal of Honor recipient we have honored in every war since it was first awarded during the Revolution. But Blume stands out for several reasons.

Highlands’ recipient, Robert Blume, has a few singular honors. In addition to that medal for heroism during the Spanish American War, he made headlines in the next two centuries as well. But he could have made more headlines had he received the second Medal of Honor he earned, which would have made him one of only 13 American military members who have earned two Medals of Honor.

Blame it on Seaman Blume’s penchant for alcohol.

The Pennsylvania native held the position of third lighthouse keeper at the Twin Lights from 1906 to 1910, serving under that well known and respected lighthouse keeper, Ole Anderson, who was principal keeper from 1906 to 1928 and had been at the lighthouse as assistant for three years previous.

It was just before coming to Highlands as a civilian that Seaman Blume earned the honor of being nominated for a second Medal of Honor. He was stationed aboard the USS Raleigh, a Cincinnati class protected cruiser built in the latter part of the 19th century. One of his shipmates Robert Klein, had also served in the 1898 war, and was chief carpenter’s mate on the Raleigh. The two of them, Chief Klein and Seaman Blume, crawled into what was described as inaccessible compartments in the double bottom compartment of the ship to rescue two other sailors who had become overcome from turpentine fumes and lack of air when a fuse burned out and the safety blower shut down. A big man, and strong, Blume “with the utmost fearlessness” succeeded in getting into the compartment and attaching a line to the unconscious seamen, enabling them to be pulled to safety by Chief Klein and others.

LT. W.J. Terhune, executive officer of the Raleigh, recommended both men for Medals of Honor because of their heroism. Klein received his on Jan. 25, 1904.

But Blume was a seaman, the lowest rank in the Navy. He had been a Chief, the highest enlisted rank. But his records through all his years in the Navy were pretty dismal other than his heroism and clear thinking in times of danger. His records from all ships on which he served showed he spent time in the brig, received demotions, was the subject of courts martial, and was restricted, all for violations of alcohol regulations…either he smuggled alcohol on board ship, was caught drinking on ship, was later returning from liberty, was involved in fights while under the influence, and more. It certainly wasn’t a pretty picture.

But Blume’s records were cleared after he served his time or when he earned that first Medal. Still, he’d be found guilty of the same infractions in later years, one resulting in his being demoted from Chief to the Seaman status he was in at the time of the heroic actions aboard the Raleigh.

And that is why, instead of earning that second Medal of Honor in 1904, Seaman Blume was restored in rank to Chief Master at Arms just before arriving in Highlands. Chief Klein earned the Medal for the actions he and Blume had taken. His medal reads “for heroism in rescuing shipmates overcome in double bottoms by fumes of turpentine, 25 January 1904.

Whether he yearned to once more be on the sea or whether he had more to prove to himself about ship board life, Chief Blume decided to leave lighthouse work towards the end of 1909 and applied to the Chief of the Bureau of Navigation to grant him permission to reenlist in the US Navy saying in his letter of request, what he had said man y times before, “I would like very much to reenter the service and promise faithfully to live up to rules and regulations.” This time he added, “I am a medal of honor man and have a few lives to my credit.”

His request was granted..