Memorial Day Weekend

Information on which Trails of History sites are open on Memorial Day can be found here and the May program preview, where you’ll find events scheduled for this weekend, is here. Photos from the Pennsylvania National Guard’s Celebration of Service, held on the grounds at the Pennsylvania Military Museum on May 19, are here.

Prow of the USS Michigan/Wolverine and model of USS Michigan
photo by Linda Bolla

For this year’s Charter Day (back in March), the Erie Maritime Museum mounted a small exhibit on Civil War Medal of Honor recipients who also served on U.S.S. Michigan (which was based in Erie and is the focus of an exhibit at the museum--it was later renamed the USS Wolverine). With the approach of Memorial Day, it seems like an appropriate time to take a quick look (thanks to information and photos supplied by Linda Bolla). You can go here to see additional text from the exhibit.

Patrick Murphy (1823-1896), William Young (1835?-1878), Cornelius Cronin (1838-1912), and George Washington McWilliams (1842-1900) all served in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War. Murphy and Cronin were recognized for their actions during a battle in Mobile Bay in August 1864; Murphy served on board the U.S.S. Metacomet and Cronin was aboard the U.S.S. Richmond. Young was aboard the U.S.S. Cayuga as it engaged Confederate gunboats during the April 1862 capture of Forts Jackson and St. Philip and the city of New Orleans. McWilliams served on the U.S.S. Pontoosuc during the capture of Fort Fisher and Wilmington, North Carolina, December 1864-February 1865.

Irish-born Murphy enlisted in 1842 and was a member of the first crew aboard U.S.S. Michigan and then served aboard the ship again after the Civil War until his retirement in 1885. Young’s naval career started in 1852 on the U.S.S. Constitution and included a number of other ships. He finished his service as Michigan’s bugler, retiring in 1876. Cronin served in the U.S. Navy for 50 years, from 1858 to 1908; he spent the decade after the Civil War (1866-75) on board Michigan. McWilliams was born in Waterford, not far from Erie, and was living there after the Civil War, according to the 1870 census; his service on the U.S.S. Michigan has not been confirmed, but it is likely that was his first naval assignment.

Erie Maritime Museum worked with Erie Diocesan Cemeteries to research and apply for a Medal of Honor marker for Patrick Murphy’s gravesite. A dedication ceremony for the marker was held on November 8, 2009, and guest blogger Linda Bolla wrote about it (here) for Trailheads.

Best wishes for a safe and meaningful Memorial Day.


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