Civil War MOH recipient, buried in pauper’s grave, gets marker
September 11, 2015
LONDON — A U.S. Medal of Honor recipient whose body lay for nearly a century in an unmarked grave has been rescued from obscurity thanks to the efforts of a British amateur historian.
Maurice Wagg, one of thousands of Britons who served in the U.S. Civil War, was buried in a pauper’s grave at the East London Cemetery when he died in 1926. The sailor received the Medal of Honor for helping to rescue the crew of the USS Monitor, an iron-clad vessel that sank during a storm off the North Carolina coast in 1862.
Michael Hammerson identified Wagg’s grave in the course of a project he began several years ago to gather information about Civil War veterans buried in England, Wales and Scotland. The Civil War enthusiast was among nearly a dozen Americans and Britons who gathered Thursday to dedicate a new marker for Wagg’s grave. The marker was provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and arranged for by Hammerson and the Sons of Union Veterans.
“I’ll do my best to try and trace where any of them are and, if possible, to try and get some information about their careers, their lives before the war, their lives after the war and obviously where they are buried,” Hammerson said.
Mike Garrick, a great-great-great-nephew of Wagg, said he knew of his distant uncle but was ignorant of his military service.
“My family and I appreciate the time and effort that has gone into organizing and researching his story,” Garrick said after the dedication.
Hammerson thinks there are many more graves and stories out there to be discovered. He and other researchers have identified about 1,300 Civil War veterans, on both sides, who died in mainland Britain, he said.
Hammerson can use pension records from the U.S. National Archives to track where Civil War veterans lived, but finding their graves can be difficult because of lost records, graves that lack markers and the cost of conducting searches. Wagg’s pension records named of the cemetery in which he was buried and indicated the grave’s precise location.
“As with so many things, it’s a big ongoing project … I’ll certainly never finish it and I think its one of those projects that will probably never be finished in a way,” Hammerson said.
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @AMathisStripes