Thomas English MOH

b. 1819 New York. d. 11/04/1868 at sea.

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 24/25/12/1864 Fort Fisher, North Carolina.

Thomas English was a free black man, who at the age of 43, joined the Navy at age 43, for a 3-year enlistment, and was assigned to the Union ironclad USS New Ironsides (1862). His enlistment is credited to the state of New York. Having long served the Navy before the Ft Fisher action ,English had risen to the rank of Signal Quartermaster aboard the most powerful Ironclad warship of the Navy,perhaps the highest ranked African American enlisted man in the US Navy at that time. His heroic deed involved repeatedly and with coolness leaving the safety of the armored pilot house to change the signal flags vital to communications amidst the storm of shot and shell. His Medal of Honor was never given to him and remains unclaimed in a drawer of the Navy Museum, Washington Navy Yard , Washington DC.

On January 15, 1865, the North Carolina Confederate stronghold of Fort Fisher was taken by a combined Union storming party of sailors, marines, and soldiers under the command of Admiral David Dixon Porter and General Alfred Terry. In 1867, Thomas English signed on to the screw steamer USS Piscataqua (1866) which was bound for service in the Asiatic Station at the port of Singapore. On April 11, 1868, English died on board and was buried at sea.



The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Signal Quartermaster Thomas English, United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism in action while serving on board the U.S.S. New Iron sides during action in several attacks on Fort Fisher, North Carolina, 24 and 25 December 1864; and 13, 14, and 15 January 1865. The ship steamed in and took the lead in the ironclad division close inshore and immediately opened its starboard battery in a barrage of well-directed fire to cause several fires and explosions and dismount several guns during the first two days of fighting. Taken under fire as she steamed into position on 13 January, the New Ironsides fought all day and took on ammunition at night despite severe weather conditions. When the enemy came out of his bombproofs to defend the fort against the storming party, the ship’s battery disabled nearly every gun on the fort facing the shore before the cease-fire orders were given by the flagship.