William Williams (Medal of Honor)
|Service/branch||United States Navy|
|Battles/wars||American Civil War|
|Awards||Medal of Honor|
William Williams (born 1840, date of death unknown) was a Union Navy sailor in the American Civil War and a recipient of the U.S. military's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, for helping to free his grounded ship.
A native of Ireland born in 1840, Williams immigrated to the U.S. and joined the Navy from Pennsylvania. He served during the Civil War as a landsman on the USS Lehigh. On November 16, 1863, Lehigh was in Charleston Harbor providing support for Union troops on shore when the ship ran aground on a sand bar and came under heavy fire from Fort Moultrie. Several attempts were made to pass a hawser to another Union ironclad, the USS Nahant, but each time the cable snapped due to friction and hostile fire. Officers were about to give an "abandon ship" order when Williams and two other sailors, Landsman Frank S. Gile and Seaman Horatio Nelson Young, volunteered to make one more attempt. Despite intense Confederate artillery fire, the men rowed a small boat from Lehigh to Nahant, trailing a line attached to a hawser. This operation successfully completed, Nahant was able to tow Lehigh off the sandbar to safety. For this action, Williams, Gile, and Young were each awarded the Medal of Honor five months later, on April 16, 1864. Two sailors involved in the earlier attempts to save Lehigh, Coxswain Thomas Irving and Gunner's Mate George W. Leland, also received the medal at the same time.
Williams' official Medal of Honor citation reads:
On board the U.S.S. Lehigh, Charleston Harbor, 16 November 1863, during the hazardous task of freeing the Lehigh, which had been grounded, and was under heavy enemy fire from Fort Moultrie. After several previous attempts had been made, Williams succeeded in passing in a small boat from the Lehigh to the Nahant with a line bent on a hawser. This courageous action while under severe enemy fire enabled the Lehigh to be freed from her helpless position.
- "William Williams". Hall of Valor. Military Times. Retrieved February 17, 2012.
- "Civil War Medal of Honor Recipients (M–Z)". Medal of Honor Citations. United States Army Center of Military History. June 26, 2011. Retrieved February 17, 2012.
- "Civil War Medal of Honor Recipients (A–L)". Medal of Honor Citations. United States Army Center of Military History. June 26, 2011. Retrieved February 17, 2012.
- Bloom, Alex (July 12, 2011). "North Andover man won medal for Civil War heroism". The Eagle-Tribune (North Andover, Massachusetts). Archived from the original on February 17, 2012.