In a late June Globe and Mail story of his latest recognition the article stated that... "at age 15 he joined a merchant marine ship and moved on to the Royal Navy at 22." Thus said, service to two countries was simpy errased. Hmmm!
I of course am referring to the great Nova Scotia born man of colour... Petty Officer William Hall, born at Horton's Bluff, some 80 km NW of Halifax. Hall's story has been oft mentioned in this space. He was the son of escaped slaves, the mother having escaped slavery as the DC capital was burning, and the father enroute to America from Africa as part of a slave cargo, when the Brits seized it during the war of 1812.
Born in 1827, his early teens took William to the sea in mechant ships but by early 20's he left that career at Boston and joined the US Navy. He would serve for two years on three war vessels, the USS Franklin, The USS Savannah (the Admiral's flag ship) and the USS Ohio.
On this later ship William served with Lt John Taylor Wood. During the Civil War of a few years later, Wood served as a lieutenant on the Confederate Merrimack, faimed for its battles with the Monitor and other Union vessels in 1862 that resulted in navies around the world changing the way they built navy war ships.There are many Canadian connections to that battle, including the Medal of Honor. Wood was also a relative of a Confederate President and his decendants made excellents names for themselves in the RCMP. A son was the first Canadian killed in the Boar War, despite an erroneous date on a monument at the NS Legislature. Wood also became a legend in Halifax during the chase of the Confederate Tallahassee. In later years he retired at Halifax and today rests at its well known Camp Hill Cemetery.
After his US service William Hall went back into merchant trading and soon found himself leaving one of these vessels in England and joining up with the Royal Navy. But William was not the only black Canadian who served with the American Navy.
Some say that thousands took the Underground Railway in reverse to fight causes including the end of slavery. The US National Park's Service alone has a list of over 70 blacks serving in the US Navy in that war. And that is just the navy, and just from NS. Many more no doubt also took up the cause, in both the army and navy, and from other provinces also.
The story of Nova Scotia's Ben Jackson has surfaced over the years, and noted elsewhere at this site. As is the story of Nova Scotian Joseph Noil, who went on to earn the Medal of Honor but is very little known in his own province, let alone the rest of Canada, or even with Black History historians. He rests in a grave at Washington DC on the very land that now houses the US Coast Guard Headquarters. A base named after Vancouver BC born Douglas Munro KIA at Guadalcanal, and a posthumous MOH recipient. His was the ONLY Medal of Honor awarded to a coast guard serving member. Though this blog has recently discovered a former coast guard member that went on to earn the MOH in the army.
I was most priviledged to have seen and actally hold this Victoria Cross many years ago when living in Halifax and visiting the Nova Scotia Museum where the medal is held.
Hall left the Royal Navy for two years with other RN men to man a gunboat of the Imperial Emperor of China. Their durties were to help curtail the pirates and smugglers along the nations river system.
He would then return to the RN for continued service and retired in 1876 to return to Nova Scotia and a farm life after sailing with the British alone for over 20 years.
The RN's HMS Shannon is in the background. This was one of 11 Royal Navy vessels he served on, and in which he served in the Shannon Brigade to free the men, women and children under siege at Lucknow, and where he earned his VC.
Notice his Victoria Cross is without the blue ribbon he, and
about half a dozen others from Canada were entitled to wear up until the Royal Air Force was created. The ribbon was then taken out of service and all then went to the standard crimson colour of today.
The ribbon, in his words, was "borrowed by a relic hunter." He also is wearing the Indian Mutiny Medal, the Turkish Crimea Medal and the Crimea Medal.
This image is an artist's concept of what the Halifax Shipyards will build. There will be between 6 and 8 constructed and will be known as the Harry DeWolf class, named after Bedford (just north of Halifax) born Harry DeWolf who served for over 42 years in the Cdn Navy and retired with the rank of Rear Admiral.
He would no doubt be thrilled to learn that his name was affixed to this class of vessel and that his name would also appear on the first one to be built, as will Hall's from Nova Scotia on another from the same class of ships.
More news next week