After much investigation the researchers discovered that the deceased was Luke M Griswold of Springfield, and in April of this year a marker was installed. This was no ordinary marker. It was a Medal of Honor marker and was arranged by Don Morfe, a US veteran and one of the most active members of the Medal of Honor Historical Society of the US which I share membership. Don has played a role in arranging no less than 220 of these such markers over many a year and has amassed possible one of the largest privately owned collections of MOH grave marker pictures in the United States.
In order to have one of these MOH markers installed there are a number of hoops that have to be crawled through. First the cemetery must give approval. The family must be located that also give permission. The government bureaucrats have to weave through all their rules to see if the case meets its oft changing rules for qualification. In this case, like so many others, twists made final approval most difficult. No descendants could be found, so government withheld its permission to honor this hero. So Don being the persistent man he is, continued his quest to preserve US history and that of a fellow veteran by going out to get private funds to do it himself. And those funds came from none other than the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation who paid the $500 cost to make and transport the marker to Springfield. When a politician attended the gravesite on Memorial day last week, the story hit the news.
The USS Monitor has been mentioned several times in these blogs and is the Union's first ever Iron Clad and the weapon sent in to do battle with the Confederates' CSS Virginia in the famous battle of 8 March 1862 at Hamptons Road. In that battle there were Canadians serving on many of the supporting ships on both sides, and also as crew on both the Virginia and the Monitor. They were also serving in batteries along the edge of the famous battle.
While the weather was fine when it headed off on 29 December from the area of Newport News, it got rougher en-route and by the time it had reached the Cape Hatteras area (marked with the "A" to the right,) it was under severe gale force winds and waves pounding across its deck. Her own engines were slowing down also because of the water leaking into the vessel, and finally gave out when the water would not allow the engines to work up enough steam.
When she sent a distress signal to the Rhode Island, the later immediately launched three small boats to rescue the crew as she was about to sink. The first got crushed when it became lodged between both ships as a result of wave action. Several men were swept off the deck of the Monitor when attempting, and finally succeeding in cutting the tow lines.
One of the rescue boats had 7 volunteers on board. One of these was swept overboard as they were assisting Monitor men on board, but was rescued right away. After two boatloads were taken off, a third attempt resulted in the rescue boat being blown off course and in danger of heading out to sea. Soon the Rhode Island was lost to view. The boat with the seven crew were then alone... scantily dressed, with no food or water.. and on their own... FOR 18 HOURS before themselves being rescued by a passing ship. By then they were already listed as missing and presumed all drowned... and 50 miles of coarse. Forty Seven of the Monitor crew were rescued. But 12 sailors and 4 officers went down with her. One of these men was a seaman from Buffalo by the name of Jacob Nickless.
On the web is a reference to him writing home after joining the crew of the Monitor and his saying he really did not want to be on the vessel. He only joined apparently because some of his friends from the Buffalo area also signed up on the vessel. And one of these Buffalo men... or boys... was a fellow names Isaac Scott. And he was apparently from somewhere in Canada. Scott survived but Nickless didn't.
The order also included the names of two Canadian sailors who were awarded for other events.
While difficult to read, this medal is the one awarded to Griswold, and is today held by the Navy Department Museum in Washington DC. He died in 1892 and why the medal was not presented to him is unknown.
Inscribed is the fact that it was issued for personal bravery while serving on the USS Rhode Island and has the date of the action also inscribed. It probably notes that it was during the rescue of Monitor men but is most difficult to read.
These 7 medals were the first by date of action, to be issued in the Civil War for actions that did not involve battle in the face of the enemy.
Here is a commemorative coin that was circulated in 1863 that also commemorated the historical importance of the Monitor during the war.