Civil War Medal of Honor Recipients

The following text and images were provided by Linda Bolla, Erie Maritime Museum. They are not the complete exhibit but provide additional information on the Medal of Honor recipients featured in the temporary exhibit.

Patrick Murphy

Served as Boatswain’s Mate on board the U.S.S. Metacomet, during action against rebel forts and gunboats 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 fire 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.

Born in Waterford, Ireland, on January 15, 1823, Patrick Murphy came to Erie in 1842 when he enlisted as part of the first crew of the U.S.S. Michigan. He claimed to have raised the flag when the ship was commissioned, and served on that vessel until, and again after, the Civil War. His own personal history is a history of the Michigan’s first four decades.

Murphy was serving as the Gun Captain during the firing of a ceremonial salute in honor of Vice-President Millard Fillmore in August, 1849. The gun discharged prematurely, killing the two boatswain’s mates serving the gun and wounding Murphy when the vent stopper blew out. At the beginning of the Civil War, Patrick Murphy served in Admiral David Porter’s fleet. He later joined former Michigan officer James Jouett on U.S.S. Metacomet.

Returning to Erie after the War, he reenlisted on Michigan, and remained there until he retired in 1885. Those years serving as a pilot earned him the respect of Great Lakes mariners along with his crewmates, as his knowledge of the lakes and weather was unmatched.

Like so many of Michigan’s crew, Murphy found his heart and made his home in Erie. He married Miss Bridget Calligee in 1845, and they had two sons, James and William. He died on December 1, 1896, and rests in Trinity Cemetery. He has no further descendants. The Medal of Honor marker at his gravesite was researched and application facilitated by the Erie Maritime Museum and Erie Diocesan Cemeteries. The Museum hosted the formal ceremonies dedicating the marker on November 8, 2009, as pictured here.

William Young

On board the U.S.S. Cayuga during the capture of Forts St. Philip and Jackson and the taking of New Orleans, 24 and 25 April 1862. As his ship led the advance column toward the barrier and both forts opened fire simultaneously, striking the vessel from stem to stern, Young calmly manned a Parrot gun throughout the action in which attempts by three rebel steamers to butt and board were thwarted and the ships driven off or captured. Eleven gunboats were successfully engaged and garrisons forced to surrender. During the battle, the Cayuga sustained 46 hits.

William Young began his career enlisting on “Old Ironsides”, the U.S.S. Constitution, in 1852 at the age of 17. He saw service on a number of vessels prior to the Civil War, most notably on U.S.S. Portsmouth, cruising off the coast of Africa to suppress traffic in the slave trade. On 21 September 1859 Portsmouth seized the slave ship Emily. By the time he served on Cayuga, he had achieved the rating of Boatswain’s Mate.

His final years were served on the Navy’s first Iron Steamer, U.S.S. Michigan, 1872—76, as Bugler. Never married, he retired to the Erie Soldiers & Sailors Home, where he died on December 26, 1878, at age 42. His funeral was attended by fellow Civil War veterans, Post 67, G.A.R. and he was buried at Erie Cemetery, with the headstone-style marker in this picture provided by the U.S. Navy.

For years Young’s gravesite was listed as “unknown” in official publications. In 2010, the Erie Maritime Museum and the Erie Cemetery researched, then facilitated the formal request to the Department of Veterans Affairs for a new grave marker for William Young. Time has taken its toll on his marker, and Young’s Medal of Honor was not indicated on the first stone. This application is currently suspended. The reason given is a moratorium on providing markers for veterans from this era made by parties other than family.

Cornelius Cronin

On board the U.S.S. Richmond in action at Mobile Bay on 5 August 1864. Cool and vigilant at his station throughout the prolonged action, Cronin watched for signals and skillfully steered the ship as she trained her guns on Fort Morgan and on ships of the Confederacy despite extremely heavy return fire. He participated in the actions at Forts Jackson and St. Philip, with the Chalmette batteries, at the surrender of New Orleans, and in the attacks on batteries below Vicksburg.

Cornelius Cronin was born 10 March 1838 in Detroit, Michigan, (also said to be born in Ireland), and enlisted in the Navy 17 September 1858. He served almost fifty years. During the Civil War, he was one of 31 men awarded the Medal of Honor while serving on U.S.S. Richmond. Following the Civil War, he served on Michigan and a number of other vessels until transferred to the Retired List 16 August 1898. Since this official retirement came during the Spanish-American War, he continued to serve on Vermont. He later served on Columbia, and at the New York Navy Yard until 3 February 1908, when he was relieved of active duty.

While on Michigan in Erie, (1866—1875), he was ordered by Commander James H. Gillis to take charge of new recruits in Buffalo, New York, and return to Erie with them.

Cronin has the distinction of having two U.S. Navy vessels named for him: USS Cronin (DE-107), a Cannon-class destroyer escort (launched 1943) and USS Cronin (DE-704), a Buckley-class destroyer escort (launched 1944, sponsored by his daughter-in-law, Mrs. E. B. Cronin).

He died 18 August 1912 in Brooklyn, New York, and rests in Calvary Cemetery, Queenside. His son, Major Gerald E. Cronin, U.S. Army, applied for his marker, placed with this family monument.

George Washington McWilliams

Served on board the U.S.S. Pontoosuc during the capture of Fort Fisher and Wilmington, 24 December 1864, to 22 February 1865. Carrying out his duties faithfully throughout this period, McWilliams was so severely wounded in the assault upon Fort Fisher that he was sent to the hospital at Portsmouth, Virginia. McWilliams was recommended for his gallantry, skill and coolness in action while under the fire of the enemy.

By the end of the year 1864, Wilmington was the South’s last open seaport on the Atlantic coast, protected by Fort Fisher in North Carolina. Mc Williams was one of seven men on the U.S.S. Pontoosuc who were awarded the Medal of Honor.

Born in 1842 in Waterford, Pennsylvania, McWilliams was not a career Navy man. 1870 census records list his post-war occupation as “farmhand,” living in his parents’ household in Waterford. An 1885 census finds him in Ida Grove, Iowa, where he made his home until he died in 1900. While we do not yet have his service record to confirm it, it is most likely that when he enlisted, it was on the U.S.S. Michigan in Erie.