This garden honors the heroism of Korean War Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Sergeant Cornelius H. Charlton (1929-1951).
Charlton was born in East Gulf, West Virginia, and later moved to the Bronx, where he enlisted in the Army at the onset of the Korean War (1950-1953). Although originally assigned to a desk position, Charlton volunteered for combat duty with Company C in the 24th Infantry Regiment of the 25th Army Infantry division. On June 2, 1951, Charlton’s platoon commander was seriously wounded during an assault on Hill 543 in Korea. Charlton assumed command of the platoon, rallied the men, and re-launched the attack. He personally destroyed two enemy positions and killed six enemy soldiers with rifle fire and grenades. The platoon suffered heavy casualties and faltered, but Charlton regrouped the men and launched a second attack. He received a severe chest wound but refused medical attention and led a third charge, which advanced his men to the crest of a hill. Seeing the remaining strongpoint on the opposite hill, he charged it alone. Charlton was hit by another grenade, but lived long enough to destroy the enemy position.
Although in 1952 Sergeant Cornelius H. Charlton received the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Purple Heart posthumously for his valorous courage, superb leadership, and the extraordinary sacrifice he made in service of his country, the brave sergeant was not buried in Arlington National Cemetery, the military cemetery in Arlington, Virginia that was established during the American Civil War on the grounds of what had been the family estate of Robert E. Lee's wife Mary. Instead, at the time of his death Charlton was buried in his family cemetery in his native West Virginia. In 1989, the Medal of Honor Society located and exhumed Charlton’s grave and subsequently re-interred his remains in the American Legion Cemetery in Beckley, West Virginia. In 2008, thanks to the dedicated efforts of Charlton’s descendents, the sergeant finally received full honors and his remains were interred in front of friends and family at Arlington, 56 years after his combat death in Korea.
The City of New York acquired this property, bounded by East 164th Street, Teasdale Place, Boston Road, and Cauldwell Avenue, on December 30, 1916. Parks & Recreation assumed jurisdiction on March 5, 1930, and the park opened on October 14, 1935. During February 1945, the City purchased a small addition to Charlton Park for $5,000. In 1952, the City Council passed a local law that named the property in honor of Sergeant Cornelius H. Charlton.