Thomas Burke (Medal of Honor)

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Thomas Burke
Born 1833
Gallaway, Ireland
Died April 23, 1883
Pensacola, Florida
Place of burial St Michaels, Pensacola Florida
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Rank Seaman, at time of award
Unit USS De Soto
Awards Medal of Honor

Thomas Burke (1833 – 27 October 1883) was a United States Navy sailor and a recipient of the United States military's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor.

A native of Gallaway, Ireland, Burke immigrated to the U.S. and joined the Navy from the state of New York on 21 Jan 1862. By May 10, 1866, he was serving as a seaman on the USS De Soto. On that day, while the De Soto was off the coast of Eastport, Maine, he and two shipmates rescued two sailors from the USS Winooski from drowning. For this action, he and his shipmates, Seaman Richard Bates and Captain of the Afterguard John Brown, were awarded the Medal of Honor three months later, on August 1.[1][2]

Burke's official Medal of Honor citation reads:

For heroic conduct, with 2 comrades, in rescuing from drowning James Rose and John Russell, seamen, of the U.S.S. Winooski, off Eastport, Maine, 10 May 1866.[1]

Burke died at age 51 (per pension file) and was buried at St Michaels in town of Pensacola, county of Escambia, Florida in 1883, as evidenced in his pension file. St Elizabeths in DC and the National Cemeteries Admin have recently acknowledged that he was never buried at DC though the mistake is listed on many website to this day. There are vets of the same name at this cemetery in DC but NOT the Medal of Honor recipient. An erroneous MOH marker at DC is in the process (Jan 2016) of being replaced by a non_MOH marker. Many officials and others have played a role in solving this riddle over the past few years including the dedicated staff at St Elizabeths, and the Medal of Honor Historical Society of the US, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, National Cemeteries Admin and others.

St Michaels in Pensacola have several burial grounds, and are trying currently to determine at which one this honourable veteran lies at rest.

With irony, the grave for Joseph Noil at St Elizabeth's in DC does not have a MOH marker, though he was a recipient for naval actions just after the Civil War. Many of the above played a role in helping to correct this and having a proper marker erected. Steps are well underway for this to happen in the months to come. He is Canada's ONLY coloured man to earn the Medal of Honor, though at least two others of colour were thought to, but later verified, as not having a Canadian connection. Though still so listed on may websites.

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