William Lowell Hill

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William Lowell Hill
Born (1855-10-17)October 17, 1855
Auburn, Iowa
Died August 17, 1922(1922-08-17) (aged 66)
Kittery, Maine
Place of burial Lindenwood Cemetery, Stoneham, Massachusetts
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1873 - 1904
Rank Lieutenant
Commands held USS Southery (IX-26), USS Topeka (PG-35)
Battles/wars Spanish–American War
 • Battle of Santiago de Cuba
Awards Medal of Honor

William Lowell Hill (October 17, 1855 – August 2, 1922) was a United States Navy officer and a recipient of the United States military's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor. He was awarded the medal as an enlisted sailor for rescuing a drowning shipmate in 1881. Hill went on to serve in the Spanish–American War and reached the warrant officer rank of chief boatswain. His lifelong Navy career finished with his command of two prison ships at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.


Hill was born on October 17, 1855, in Auburn, Iowa, the son of Henry Clay and Margaret (Cater) Hill.[1] He enlisted in the Navy from New York on November 18, 1873.[2][3]

By June 22, 1881, he was serving as a captain of the top on the training ship USS Minnesota. On that day, while Minnesota was at Newport, Rhode Island, Third Class Boy William Mulcahy fell overboard. Hill jumped into the water and kept the sailor afloat until they were picked up by a launch.

For this action, he was promoted to the warrant officer rank of boatswain on 19 September 1881. He was awarded the Medal of Honor three years later, on October 18, 1884.[2]

Hill's official Medal of Honor citation reads:

Serving on board the U.S. Training Ship Minnesota at Newport, R.I., 22 June 1881, Hill jumped overboard and sustained William Mulcahy, third class boy, who had fallen overboard, until picked up by a steam launch.[2]

Hill was then assigned to a series of ships: USS Alaska (1881–1883), USS Galatea (1885–1886), USS Jamestown (1889–1891), USS Brooklyn (CA-3) (1886–1899), and USS Prairie (AD-5) (1901–1904).

During the Spanish–American War, he served on Brooklyn at the warrant officer rank of boatswain and received a commendation from Rear Admiral Winfield Scott Schley for his actions at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba. A year later, in 1899, he was promoted to chief warrant officer. In 1901 he testified before a court of inquiry regarding Admiral Schley's conduct in the war.[1][3]

In 1904, Hill was placed in command of the prison ships USS Southery (IX-26) and USS Topeka (PG-35) at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard near Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He became known for his prison reform measures, such as discontinuing the use of leg irons, which were adopted at other institutions.[1]

Hill's first wife was F. Blanche Hedden of Troy, New York, whom he married in 1881. After Blanche's death, he married Katherine Sweetser on February 3, 1917; she had been his first wife's best friend. He was an active freemason while living in Portsmouth, joining a lodge there in 1905.[1]

During the First World War, Hill was returned to active duty with the temporary rank of lieutenant on July 1, 1918. He was assigned to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. [4]

Hill committed suicide at age 66 on August 2, 1922, at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.[1] He was buried at Lindenwood Cemetery in Stoneham, Massachusetts.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "William L. Hill, 1855-1922". University of New Hampshire. September 4, 2010. Retrieved September 4, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c "Medal of Honor recipients - Interim Awards, 1871–1898". Medal of Honor citations. United States Army Center of Military History. August 5, 2010. Retrieved September 4, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b "William L. Hill". Iowa Medal of Honor Heroes. State Historical Society of Iowa. 2006. Retrieved September 4, 2010. 
  4. ^ U.S. Navy Register. 1919. pg. 86-87.
  5. ^ "William Lowell Hill". Claim to Fame: Medal of Honor recipients. Find a Grave. December 22, 2003. Retrieved September 4, 2010. 

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