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Naval History: Honoring Landsman John Lawson, USN, (1837-1919)

National African American History Month in February celebrates the contributions that African Americans have made to American history in their struggles for freedom and equality and deepens our understanding of our Nation””s history.  This February, we””ve selected a few African Americans who served in the U.S. Navy to feature here on the blog.  For more on the African American Experience in the Navy over the years, visit the Naval History & Heritage Command””s website or the award-winning African Americans and the U.S. Navy presentation.

John Lawson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 16 June 1837. In 1864, he was a member of USS Hartford””s crew. During the Battle of Mobile Bay, 5 August 1864, while serving as a member of the ship””s berth deck ammunition party, he was seriously wounded but remained at his post and continued to supply Hartford””s guns. For his heroism in this action, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. John Lawson died on 3 May 1919 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and is buried at Mount Peace Cemetary, Camden, New Jersey.

Medal of Honor citation of Landsman John Lawson (as printed in the official publication “Medal of Honor, 1861-1949, The Navy”, pages 34-35):  “On board the flagship U.S.S. Hartford during successful attacks against Fort Morgan, rebel gunboats and the ram Tennessee in Mobile Bay on 5 August 1864. Wounded in the leg and thrown violently against the side of the ship when an enemy shell killed or wounded the six-man crew at the shell whip on the berth deck, LAWSON, upon regaining his composure, promptly returned to his station and, although urged to go below for treatment, steadfastly continued his duties throughout the remainder of the action.”

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