Honoring an Erie Veteran

Please check the PHMC newsletter for updates on site operations and schedules.

Our guest blogger this week is Linda Bolla from the Erie Maritime Museum; photos are by Linda Bolla and John Baker.

The Erie Maritime Museum’s Education Committee celebrated the Veterans Day holiday this year with a special program honoring a sailor better known locally for his long service on the U. S. S. Michigan than for his heroism during the Civil War. Chief Boatswain’s Mate Patrick Murphy received our nation’s highest honor, the Medal of Honor, for his valor during the Battle of Mobile Bay, August 5, 1864, but very few in the community remembered.

In the Summer of 2008, while researching the life and career of Patrick Murphy, volunteers at the Museum discovered that there was no indication of his service in the U.S. Navy, much less his Medal of Honor, at his gravesite. Furthermore, a 100-year-old arbor vitae beside his Trinity Cemetery marker had grown and tilted the marker’s base. The marker was slowly slipping off the base. The Cemetery promptly responded when this was brought to their attention, and reset the marker within two days. Museum volunteers obtained the proper period “GAR” flag holder and placed it that week. With no descendants to apply for the additional honor due to Patrick Murphy, the Museum’s Education Committee, with the help of Don Morfe (Medal of Honor Historical Society of the United States) and Erie Diocesan Cemeteries, applied to the Veterans Administration for the granite Medal of Honor marker which was installed in 2009 and dedicated on November 8, 2009.

US Naval Training Center color guard and Civil War reenactor honor guard

The ceremony included a color guard from the U. S. Naval Training Center in Erie, as well an honor guard of Civil War sailors reenacted. A very moving moment in the service was when Taps was played on a bugle that was used on the U. S. S. Michigan/Wolverine, Murphy’s home vessel. The bugle is a family heirloom, originally played by Frank J. Grucza (U. S. S. Wolverine 1914-17). His grandson, Committee member Tim McLaughlin, made it available for use that day.

Ned Trautman plays Taps on USS Michigan/Wolverine bugle

Patrick Murphy’s personal story is told as part of the “USS Michigan/USS Wolverine: The Iron Steamer” exhibit at the Erie Maritime Museum. You can hear Frank Grucza’s bugle play the calls that are part of a touch screen kiosk in that exhibit. All of Erie County’s Navy Medal of Honor recipients are also honored in the Museum. Next spring, the Education Committee hopes to work with the U. S. Naval Training Center to landscape the gravesite.

Patrick Murphy’s Medal of Honor citation reads:

Served as Boatswain’s Mate on board the U.S.S. Metacomet, during action against rebel forts and gunboats and with the ram Tennessee in Mobile Bay, 5 August 1864. Despite damage to his ship and the loss of several men on board as enemy fired raked her decks, Murphy performed his duties with skill and courage throughout a furious two-hour battle which resulted in the surrender of the rebel ram Tennessee and in damaging and destruction of batteries at Fort Morgan.

The citation does not detail the ferocity of that engagement. U. S. S. Metacomet was hit at least eleven times: a shell penetrated the hull, exploding the storeroom and setting it on fire; the mainsail was cut in two; two shells exploded in the starboard paddle box; the roof was blown off the pilot house; and a shot went through the foremast, cutting two shrouds. Murphy would have spent the entire time exposed on Metacomet’s deck, supervising the deck crew as they cleared wreckage and repaired rigging.


Post a Comment