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The United States Navy Memorial

Navy Memorial Honoring the Men & Women of the Sea Services

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LAWSON-JOHN

JOHN  HENRY LAWSON

Rate/Rank
LANDSMAN
Service Branch
USN 12/1863 - 00/1865
Born
06/16/1837
PHILADELPHIA, PA
SIGNIFICANT DUTY STATIONS
USS HARTFORD (SLOOP)
SIGNIFICANT AWARDS
MEDAL OF HONOR
CIVIL WAR CAMPAIGN MEDAL
SERVICE MEMORIES

John Henry Lawson, an African-American, was born a free man on June 16, 1837, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a region where Quaker Abolitionist philosophies had a strong influence.  Little is known of his formative years but as a young adult he volunteered for the Union Navy once the call for soldiers was made.  He was one of the first Black Pennsylvanians to volunteer and was given the entry rank of Landsman.  Though without seafaring experience, he was assigned aboard the USS HARTFORD.  Aboard the HARTFORD, Landsman Lawson was assigned to the shell whip on the deck just below the main gun station.  From this position he assisted with the successful battle for the city of New Orleans and participated in the offensive against Vicksburg, Mississippi, that led to the joining of Union forces to take the Confederate stronghold at Port Hudson, Louisiana.  However, it was the battle against Confederate Fort Morgan at Mobile Bay, Alabama, on August 5, 1864, that earned Landsman Lawson a Medal of Honor for service to his country. 

The battle was a fierce one with HARTFORD leading a battery of fourteen ships past three enemy forts.  It was attacked directly by the Confederate ship, CSS TENNESSEE.  Enemy gun shells bombarded the ship instantly killing four men and knocking Lawson unconscious.  When medical assistance tried to help, Lawson refused to go below deck for treatment saying, "The guns must be served first!"  Thus, with a severely wounded leg, he went back to his duty of supplying the gunmen with shells.

MEDAL  OF  HONOR  CITATION

‚ÄúLandsman John Henry Lawson, Landsman, U.S. Navy: On board the flagship USS HARTFORD during successful attacks against Fort Morgan, rebel gun points and the raid on Mobile Bay, Tennessee, on August 5, 1864.  Wounded in the leg and thrown violently against the side of the ship when an enemy shell hit the deck, Landsman Lawson, upon regaining his composure, promptly returned to his station and although urged to go below for treatment, continued his duties throughout the remainder of the action."

Lawson returned to Philadelphia after the war and died there on May 3, 1919.  He is buried at Mount Peace Cemetery in Lawnside, New Jersey.

Submitted by CDR Roy A. Mosteller, USNR (Ret)