While many questions still remain unanswered, it is known that John Handran and others used various spellings for his surname. Some documents are hard to read and so mis spellings were the order of the day in the mid to late 1800's. Some doing the recording may have misunderstood the name given, could not spell or, like me, had terrible scribbling habits. Others may have simply guessed. And there are no shortage of stories about service men who gave fake names or spellings for an endless list of reasons.
Regardless, I'm sticking with HANDRAN.
The records show Handran, with various spellings, parents and several siblings in the Newburyport area of Massachusetts in the mid 1850's. John's date of birth is listed as being on 29 June 1851 or 1852. Some say he was born in New York. Others claim Massachusetts.
A careful read shows Handran's enlistment at Boston, on 5 December 1873. It does not show any previous service in the navy, a place of birth or occupation prior to enlisting.
The second name listed was cut and pasted from the original document. It shows the enlistment of a Canadian... Edward Madden who was a Medal of Honor recipient and whom I have written about in the past in these blogs. Both men seem to have started their navy careers with this enlistment. On this same document, but not shown above, are several of Madden's fellow Canadians who also signed up for service at that time.
Among its first to then serve would be Newfoundland Medal of Honor hero Edward Madden and the above noted John Handran.
For the next several months the Franklin would sail with the North Atlantic Squadron under command of Rear Admiral William Radford. (A decade earlier this officer was commanding the USS Cumberland when it fell victim in the slaughter caused by the CSS VIrginia in the famous battle of the CSS Virginia, (AKA Merrimack,) and the USS Monitor. Radford was away from the ship on other duties that day.)
The officer left in charge of the Cumberland that day was an officer named SR Franklin. The USS Cumberland (with Canadians on board) and the famous battle have been oft noted in this space.
Jump ahead again to 1873 and SR Franklin is now a naval Captain and commander of the above pictured ship of same name. On her crew were Madden and Handran.
When Atlantic Squadron duties ended, the ship sailed off to Europe and joined the squadron as its new flagship. And it would be while on these duty at Lisbon Portugal when we catch up with Handran again.
It was on a Sunday... the day of rest... and would have become an eternal rest for fellow sailor Henry O'Neil had it not been for Handran, Madden and a third sailor.
The New York Herald told the story about a month later and here it is, word for word...
In June of that year the Boston Humane Society gave Handran an award for his gallantry in saving O'Neil from a horrible drowning. No mention if Madden also got one.
There is much more to tell you about Handran, but other duties take me away now. I will return with more next week,