Friday, November 15, 2013

November 15, 1863: Five crewmen on USS Lehigh Each Earn Medal of Honor

This day 150 years ago in Rebel Raiders’ History

-Dedicated to Civil War episodes, battles, people and ships that also appear in my game, GMT’s Rebel Raiders on the High Seas

November 15, 1863: Five crewmen on USS Lehigh Each Earn Medal of Honor

Historical Event:  On this day in 1863, the mighty Federal ironclad USS Lehigh was driven aground off Sullivan’s Island by heavy fire from Confederate batteries at Fort Moultrie in Charleston Harbor.  Thanks to the courage and dedication of her crew, and the aid of the captain and crew of USS Nahant, the ironclad, though battered, was rescued and lived to fight another day.  Five members of her crew received the Medal of Honor for their courage under fire in that action.

Game Connection:     The USS Lehigh is represented in Rebel Raiders on the High Seas by a special counter and card (USN Card 22).  Ironclads play a vital role in Union attacks on fortified ports, engaging both Rebel batteries and Confederate warships.

No ship in U.S. Naval history has had more crew members receive the Medal of Honor for a single action than the ironclad monitor USS Lehigh.  Among the five was one with a name he had – and did – live up to:  Seaman Horatio Nelson Young.

When John Dahlgren (USN Card 31) took over command of the Union the fleet opposite Charleston from Samuel Francis DuPont (USN Card 54) in the summer of 1863, he brought with him an exceptionally powerful new ironclad monitor: the USS Lehigh (USN Card 22).  Mounting a 15-inch Dahlgren smoothbore and an 8-inch (or 150-pound) Parrott Rifle inside a turret protected with 11 inches of armor, USS Lehigh was one of the lead ships in Dahlgren’s repeated attempts to knock out Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie, two of the most important of the man guardians of Charleston Harbor.  

The ironclad engaged with Forts Sumter and Moultrie many times between September 1 and late November, including engaging in an almost daily duel over a three week period.  On November 15 the ship was so badly pounded that she was driven aground – and it was for freeing her while under deadly fire the next morning that Seaman Young and four other crewman were honored with the nation’s highest decoration.  The sailors risked their lives under fire in a small boat that brought hawsers over from USS Nahant – hawsers that were repeatedly cut by Rebel shot and shell.

 Sent back to Port Royal for repairs, the Medal of Honor ship returned to duty off Charleston in January, where she continued to pound away at Rebel batteries and forts until the city succumbed to Sherman’s advancing armies.

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