Pierre Leon MOH

b. 23/08/1838 Nice, France. d. 07/12/1915 Riverside, New Jersey.

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 23-27/12/1862 Yazoo River, Mississippi.

Leon was born in Nice on 23 August 1838. At age eleven, he stowed away on a ship bound to Philadelphia. He served on several coastal steamers until 1860, when he became involved in the development of the Alligator, an experimental submarine.

Leon joined the US Navy from Philadelphia in August 1861. He served on no less than 8 different ships, including the USS Baron De Kalb, before his discharge exactly four years later. He was assigned to be part of the crew of the river ironclad “USS St. Louis”, which had its name changed in September 1862 to the “USS Baron De Kalb”, and rose to Captain of the Forecastle, with responsibilities overseeing the ship’s crew quarters, anchors and sails. He was wounded by a bursting gun during the ship’s participation in the operations against the Confederate stronghold on Island No. 10, in the Mississippi River on March 17, 1862. He was later cited for his bravery between December 23 and 27, 1862, and would be awarded the Medal of Honor for that bravery.

His Medal was issued to him on April 3, 1862, and he was one of four “Baron De Kalb” crewmembers to be awarded as such for the Yazoo Expedition (the others being Ordinary Seaman Peter Cotton, Boatswain’s Mate John McDonald, and Boatswain’s Mate Charles Robinson). He lost his Medal, though, on July 13, 1863 when the “Baron De Kalb” struck an underwater Confederate mine and sunk on the Yazoo River just below Yazoo City, Mississippi (in 1940 one of his children would request from the government a replacement for it). He would then serve on the gunboat “USS Romeo” and then the “Passaic”-class ironclad monitor “USS Nahant” until the conclusion of the war and his honorable discharge on August 27, 1865. He resided in Delanco, New Jersey after the war, and was employed at the Philadelphia Watch Case Company. He passed away in 1915.



Served on board the U.S.S. Baron De Kalb, Yazoo River Expedition, 23 to 27 December 1862. Proceeding under orders up the Yazoo River, the U.S.S. Baron De Kalb, with the object of capturing or destroying the enemy’s transports, came upon the steamers John Walsh, R .J. Locklan, Golden Age, and the Scotland sunk on a bar where they were ordered fired. Continuing up the river, she was fired on, but upon returning the fire, caused the enemy’s retreat. Returning down the Yazoo, she destroyed and captured larger quantities of enemy equipment and several prisoners. Serving bravely throughout this action, Leon, as captain of the forecastle, “distinguished himself in the various actions.”