William R. Pelham, Medal of Honor Recipient

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Black and white photographic portrait ofMedal of Honor recipient William R. Pelham, wearing medal, for service during the Civil War. Other badges worn by the sitter include a Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Delegate/Representative badge and a GAR membership lapel pin.
Pelham was awarded the Medal of Honor for his service during the Civil War in the Battle of Mobile Bay.
On August 5, 1864, Rear Admiral David Farragut commanded a Union fleet of fourteen wooden ships and four Monitors past Fort Morgan in Mobile Bay to attack the Confederate fleet positioned there. Farragut famously climbed the mast of the U.S.S. Hartford and had himself secured with ropes to better view the battle. Out of the Union Monitors, only the Tecumseh was lost in the Confederate minefield at the mouth of the bay. Once in position, Farragut’s ships engaged the Confederate flotilla and the formidable ironclad, C.S.S. Tennessee. Farragut was eventually successful in capturing the well-armored Tennessee and subsequently engaged Fort Gaines and Fort Powell through the month of August, eventually forcing Fort Morgan to surrender. The battle was considered an important Union victory, depriving the Confederacy of its last significant Gulf port east of Texas although the city of Mobile itself was not taken.
The inscription on the reverse indicates that Pelham served as a Landsman onboard the Hartford. The inscription narrates that "when the crew of the gun to which he belonged was entirely broken up, owing to the number of its killed and wounded, he assisted in removing the latter below and then immediately returned; and, without any direction to do so, took his place at the adjoining gun, where a vacancy existed, and continued to perform his duties there most faithfully for the remainder of the action."
Official Citation:
Rank and organization: Landsman, U.S. Navy. Born: Halifax, Nova Scotia. Enlisted in: Nova Scotia. G.O. No.: 45, 31 December 1864. Citation: On board the flagship U.S.S. Hartford during successful actions against Fort Morgan, rebel gunboats and the ram Tennessee in Mobile Bay, 5 August 1864. When the other members of his guncrew were killed or wounded under the enemy's terrific shellfire, Pelham calmly assisted the casualties below and voluntarily returned and took his place at an adjoining gun where another man had been struck down. He continued to fight his gun throughout the remainder of the battle which resulted in the capture of the Tennessee.
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
overall: 7 1/4 in x 5 1/8 in; 18.415 cm x 13.0175 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Medal of Honor
related event
Civil War
See more items in
Armed Forces History: Armed Forces History, Naval
Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Portraits
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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