He was born in 1829, but history so far has revealed no clues of life till July of 1861 when James was 32 years old, though claiming to be only 28. He had enlisted with the US Navy at New Bedford Massachusetts and stated at the time that he worked in the lumber industry. James was given the rank of Ordinary Seaman and enlisted for a 2 year stint. ( If a raw recruit, he should have been enlisted as a landsman, not a seaman, and thus may have had even earlier naval service.) A short stationing on the USS Ohio would end when James' adventure was about to really begin. He'd be assigned to the USS Cumberland and within 8 months was almost killed in one of the most famous battles in Civil War, and indeed US and world history.
Past blogs have told readers about the battle between the Monitor and the Merrimac. And in those it was explained that the Merrimac, ought to have been spelt Merrimack, as that was the name of the ship that was raised after being sunk and rebuilt, but some still call it by its old name. Further complication comes from the fact that it was renamed and called the CSS Virginia before the battle mentioned here. She is pictured above to the left.
On the day before the famous battle... the Virginia took on the all wooden hulled USS Cumberland who would shoot cannon shot at the Virginia that would just bounce off for a few reasons. There was not enough power to the load on the shells, and they were bounced off the angled sides of the Southern vessel. Which happened to be an iron clad... meaning it was made from iron, from the water line up. Actually the medal was from a railway line ripped up just to build this vessel.
If that was not enough to sway things in its favour it had a giant ram sticking out of the front of the vessel that was under the water line and most difficult to see.
On the day before the famous battle with a third vessel...the Monitor, the Virginia rammed the Cumberland and it sank within 15 minutes with most of the crew going down with it. The hole left in the side of the Union vessel was said to be big enough to drive a horse and carriage though. A few managed to escape, and 2 of these were Canadians who went on to earn Medals of Honor, James being one of these. (At least one Canadian also served on the Virginia at the time.)
James would serve on several more ships in his career and would rise in rank to be the Captain of the Top on one and Captain of the Afterguard on another. He would fight in many actions during the Civil War but it would be for his actions against Fort Morgan in Mobile Bay Alabama that his bravery would be recognized later, and a Medal of Honor awarded to him.
They traveled westerly to the end of this point and then northbound through very dangerous waters off the point and right in front of Fort Morgan.
The admiral had the smaller vessels lashed to larger ones in the hopes that each could protect the other and if need be one could reverse its direction while the other still went forward and thus being able to swing around in quick order.
The USS Richmond, on which James McIntosh and many other Canadians was serving, can be seen here in the line up of 14 ships at bottom of page and heading north. The Richmond is on the right and lashed to the USS Port Royal of the left. Both are 5th from the bottom of the page.
As these vessels passed Fort Morgan under heavy cannon fire, the first in the line... the USS Brooklyn and the USS Octorara lashed on its left had to slow down. This was caused by the Union's USS Tecumseh coming in on her left and veering off to her left when she discovered the Confederate vessel CSS Tennessee, one of the most powerful vessels afloat in those days, off to its left. But by being distracted it ran into the torpedoe (underground mine) field and instantly was sunk. Thus the USS Brooklyn had to back off to re-assess the situation. In so doing it slowed down all the rest of the vessels still coming up to its rear. And the next in line was the flag ship with Admiral Farragut who was in no mood for delays that would result in his ships being exposed for longer periods under the heavy guns of the enemy.
The smoke of cannon fire was so thick that Farragut climbed up one of the masts and had lashed himself to it. He needed to rise above the smoke to see what was going on. It was at this point that he hollered out to one of the lead vessels asking what was going on and learned about the torpedoes, It was also at this point that history records his alleged statement...Damb the torpedoes... full speed ahead..
By the end of the battle the Confederates CSS Tecumseh would surrender and the Fort taken.
Later the President would authorize 28 medals for the USS Richmond for this battle alone, and another five for the vessel in other actions. The ship would therefore earn more medals in the Civil War than any other vessel in the war.
Unfortunately I have yet to discover exactly what McIntosh did to earn his medal. His citation simply reads... performed his duties with skill and courage.
After the war James McIntosh lived in the St Louis Missouri area for about a year and then took up work with the North Missouri Railway. By 1882 he was still with the railway business, now as a labourer and living in Rat Portage, in the southwest corner of Ontario and about 150 miles east of Winnipeg. He was then working with the Canadian Pacific Railroad. By 1893 he had left the job due to poor health but still lived there. By 1898 he was applying for a pension based on a invalid status and received one at $10 per month. A few years later he was back in the US and then living in a State Soldiers Home at Kearny New Jersey... where he passed away, still a single man end never having married, in 1908.
But there is a strange story attached to this marker. One day it wasn't there and a few months later it was. A researcher from the Kearny area told me a few days ago that he was out for his usual walks and had wandered past this old marker for years without noticing it. Then one day he was doing some research into MOH recipients for the state and learned that McIntosh was a recipient and buried somewhere on this site. He then went looking for it and with the help of several groups narrowed it down to this location. He then made enquiries and he says he thought that officialdom would take over and place it. The next time he wandered past... there it was.
I asked the folks at the cemetery for some information about when it was done and if there were any ceremonies conducted at the time. The cemetery could not say. They added that the markers has to be approved by another off site agency and gave me contact info. Following up on this, I learned that they too were puzzled and was assured they would look into it.
Continuing on my own research I then found the answer. It seems the new marker was moved there during the times of the researcher's walks through the area. And that came about as a result in another fellow doing almost the same research, discovering that McIntosh was at the cemetery and even seeing pictures of the old and new markers on the net and heading off to see both. But he was startled to note that at the grave where the new marker was located... there was another James McIntosh. This fellow was not even born till after the Civil War came to an end. Paperwork had somehow got messed up. And dates have yet to be determined re the installation at the wrong grave location. But by July of 2007 the new MOH marker was moved to its correct position at the foot of the James McIntosh grave.
The right one!
But the question remains... was there every a ceremony.
Time will tell. And in time something else may happen that will bring the story of James McIntosh back into the news of the day.
For many many years the communities of Kearny and Jersey City have been separated by the Hackensake River. A bridge spanning the river along Route 7 (aka the Belleville Turnpike) and known as the Otto Wittpenn Bridge has been in place since the early 1900's. It is the namesake of a several term Jersey City Mayor of the time. The bridge is a lift bridge that rises some 35 feet to allow vessels to pass under, but with each event there are traffic problems caused by delays. In 2011 a plan was put in place that would see a major construction job with the building of a newer bridge about 200 ft. north of the current bridge. This one will rise about 70 ft. and thus drastically reduced the current traffic problems when it is lifted. It is a 5 year job.
A move is afoot to name the bridge after a war hero from both sides and on the Kearney side the town is apparently contemplating the name of none other than James McIntosh. It is not yet a done deal and as I hear more I will bring you the story.
Wouldn't that be most uplifting, pardon the pun!
By the way, James McIntosh earned his medal for bravery on the 28th of May 1864... and that was 149 years ago yesterday.
stone was movedsort of.