John McGowan MOH

b. 1831 Ireland. d. ?

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 24/04/1862 Forts Jackson & St Philip, Louisiana.

Born in 1831 in Ireland, McGowan immigrated to the United States and was living in New York when he joined the U.S. Navy. He served during the Civil War as a quartermaster on the USS Varuna. At the Battle of Forts Jackson and St. Philip near New Orleans on April 24, 1862, Varuna was rammed twice by the Confederate steamer CSS Governor Moore (formerly known as the Charles Morgan) and eventually sunk. McGowan was stationed at the ship’s wheel and showed “the greatest courage and skill” throughout the close-range fight. For this action, he was awarded the Medal of Honor a year later, on April 3, 1863.



McGowan occupied one of the most responsible positions in the U.S.S. Varuna, during the attacks on Forts Jackson and St. Philip and in action against the rebel ship Morgan, 24 April 1862. Although guns were raking the decks from behind him, McGowan remained steadfast at the wheel throughout the thickest of the fight, continuing at his station and rendering service with the greatest courage and skill until his ship, repeatedly holed and twice rammed by the enemy, was beached and sunk.