Isaac Swartwood Catlin MOH

b. 08/07/1835 Owego, New York. d. 19/01/1916 Brooklyn, New York.

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 29/07/1864 Petersburg, Virginia.

Isaac S Catlin MOH

Catlin was born on July 8, 1835, in Owego, New York, to Nathaniel and Jane (Brodhead) Catlin. After receiving his early education at Owego Academy, he attended Hobart College in Geneva for a single year. In 1856, he moved to New York City to study law and was admitted to the bar the next year. Returning to Owego in 1859, he joined his brother-in-law Benjamin F. Tracy’s law firm, Tracy, Warner & Walker. Tracy, who had married Catlin’s sister Delinda in 1851, would also earn the Medal of Honor in the Civil War and would go on to become United States Secretary of the Navy. Catlin was elected mayor of Owego in 1860 and continued in that role until the outbreak of war. In 1862 in Brooklyn, Catlin married Virginia H.S. Bacon; the couple had one son and one daughter.

Immediately after President Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers at the beginning of the Civil War, Catlin raised a company of infantry and was appointed its captain. The unit, said to be “the first full company which enlisted in the North,” was mustered in on May 14, 1861, as part of Frederick Townsend’s 3rd New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Regarding the regiment’s participation in the Battle of Big Bethel on June 10, 1861, Townsend remarked: “There was no braver officer on that field than Captain Catlin. Following the battle, the unit was stationed at Fort McHenry in Maryland.

Catlin resigned his position in the 3rd New York on March 14, 1862, and rejoined the Army five months later, on August 2, with the 109th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He began his service with the 109th as a first lieutenant but was promoted to lieutenant colonel only weeks later.

Promoted to full colonel on July 29, 1864, he led the 109th New York in the Battle of the Crater at Petersburg, Virginia, the next day. During the battle, he was seriously wounded but returned to the field and continued to lead his regiment until being struck a second time. The second wound necessitated the amputation of his right leg. For this action, he was given a brevet promotion to major general on March 13, 1865, and awarded the Medal of Honor several decades later, on January 13, 1899.

After his military career, he served as assistant United States District Attorney. With this experience, in 1877, he was elected district attorney, in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York. He was reelected to the post in 1880. He was nominated for mayor of Brooklyn, New York, in 1885, but did not win election. In 1893, he was nominated for Congress, but declined the nomination. Three years later, he was offered another nomination, this time for lieutenant governor of New York. Again he declined. He was originally a Republican, then became a Cleveland Democrat. He supported the war policy of William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt during the Spanish-American War.

He later would write a book about his life, “Memoirs of Civil and Military Career” and lived out the rest of his life quietly, dying at his home in Brooklyn.



In a heroic effort to rally the disorganized troops was disabled by a severe wound. While being carried from the field he recovered somewhat and bravely started to return to his command, when he received a second wound, which necessitated amputation of his right leg.