John F Chase MOH

b. 23/04/1843 Chelsea, Maine. d. 28/11/1914 St Petersburg, Florida.

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 03/05/1863 Chancellorsville, Virginia.

John F Chase MOH

Chase joined the Army from Augusta, Maine, and by May 3, 1863, was serving as a private in the 5th Battery, Maine Light Artillery. On that day, during the Battle of Chancellorsville, his unit was ordered to move forward through heavy fire, set up their six cannons, and commence firing on the Confederate forces. Confederate artillery had been established on a ridge 600 feet (180 m) away, and the guns poured heavy fire onto the 5th Maine’s designated position. Within thirty minutes of setting up their own cannons, half of the men in Chase’s battery were dead. Soon, all of the battery’s officers had been killed or wounded and Chase’s cannon was one of only two that were still operational. Lieutenant Edmund Kirby from the 1st U.S. Battery arrived to take command of the 5th Maine. Immediately after reaching Chase’s gun, a Confederate shell exploded nearby and struck Kirby in the hip, leaving him incapacitated. As he lay beside the cannon, Chase asked if he wanted to be taken from the field, and Kirby replied, “No, not as long as a gun can be fired.”

Eventually, Chase and another man, Corporal James Lebroke, were the only members of the battery still standing. Together, they continued to fire their cannon, with Chase sponging and ramming the muzzle, despite sustained fire from the Confederate artillery and approaching infantry. The gun was finally disabled when it was hit directly in the muzzle by a Confederate shell; the damage prevented Chase and Lebroke from reloading the weapon. Chase again asked Lieutenant Kirby if he wanted to be carried from the field, and Kirby replied, “No, not until the guns are taken off.”

Stationed next to the 5th Maine Battery during the battle was the 116th Pennsylvania Infantry of the Irish Brigade. Seeing that their position was about to be overrun, Second Lieutenant Louis J. Sacriste, in command of the 116th Pennsylvania’s Company D, led his men through the smoke and enemy fire to reach the 5th Maine. While Chase and Lebroke lifted the rear of their cannon, Sacriste and his company attached ropes to the front and pulled the gun from the field. The rest of the 116th Pennsylvania and then the whole Irish Brigade joined in, pulling all of the cannons and caissons to safety.

Satisfied that the cannons were out of the Confederates’ reach, Chase returned to the field, picked up Lieutenant Kirby, and carried him to the rear. Before Chase left, Kirby took down his and Lebroke’s names and stated “If ever two men have earned a Medal of Honor, you have, and you shall have it.” Kirby died of his wounds three weeks later. For these actions, Chase was awarded the Medal of Honor several decades later, on February 7, 1888. Louis Sacriste was also awarded the medal, in part for his actions in saving the 5th Maine Battery’s cannons.

After the war, he returned to Maine and worked as an inventor, receiving dozens of patents for his work. His most well-known invention was a collapsible hoop skirt and bustle combination. He married Maria Merrill and had seven children: George Edgar, Lena M, Beulah C, Frank, Maude Elizabeth, Ralph, and Bernette.

In 1895 he moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, where he engaged in a series of business ventures. These included working as a food peddler, owning a steamboat, and trying unsuccessfully to gain permission to build a power station and streetcar. His interest in the electric power industry brought him into contact with F. A. Davis, and he was involved in Davis’ Florida West Coast Company. Using funding provided by Davis, Chase promoted the growth of Veteran City, today known as Gulfport, on St. Petersburg’s southwest side. He encouraged the sale of land in the area and used his connections with veterans’ organizations to arrange buyers from among former soldiers.




Nearly all the officers and men of the battery having been killed or wounded, this soldier with a comrade continued to fire his gun after the guns had ceased. The piece was then dragged off by the two, the horses having been shot, and its capture by the enemy was prevented.