Medal of Honor: Private Thomas T. Fallon, 37th New York Infantry

Thomas T. Fallon was born in Co. Galway on 12th August 1837. He emigrated to the United States in 1859, and just two years later found himself in the midst of the American Civil War. In 1861 he enlisted in Company K of the 37th New York ‘Irish Rifles’, beginning a wartime service that would span over 20 engagements and see him listed on the muster rolls of three different units. His continued bravery throughout the war would eventually lead to him being awarded the Medal of Honor. (1)

Thomas Fallon began his service during the 1861 campaign that led to the first Battle of Bull Run. However it was to be in the Peninsula the following year that he first marked himself out as a soldier of note. He fought on the skirmish line at the Battle of Williamsburg on 5th May 1862, an action for which he would eventually be awarded the Medal of Honor. A 1905 issue of the Freehold Transcript reported that the reason for his citation was that the Irishman was one of ten men sent forward in a skirmish line, only four of whom made it back. Major-General Philip Kearney witnessed the event and made sure the men’s names were taken so their bravery could be recorded. (2)

It is difficult to know if Fallon’s actions at Williamsburg alone would have led to the bestowal of the Medal of Honor, but as the war progressed he would time and again demonstrate bravery above and beyond the call of duty. At the Battle of Fair Oaks on 31st May 1862 he was on the sick list, but insisted on joining his regiment to take part in the fighting. General Kearney clearly thought highly of the Galwegian, as he sent him out to spy on the movements of Confederate artillery at Charles City Crossroads, following which his name was again recorded for meritorious conduct. (3)

Having fought with the ‘Irish Rifles’ during the Peninsula Campaign, Fallon embarked on a career as an artilleryman when he was transferred by order of General Kearny to Battery K of the 4th U.S. Artillery. He served through battles such as Second Bull Run and Fredericksburg with the unit, before being discharged at United States Ford on 1st May 1863 following the expiration of his term. Not content with his two year’s service, Fallon would delay only a few of months before re-entering the fray. (4)

The Irishman signed up to become a Sergeant in the 35th New Jersey Infantry on 17th September 1863, mustering in on 24th September. Rather than returning to the Eastern Theater of war, this time Thomas headed West as his regiment joined the Army of the Tennessee. Fighting through the Atlanta Campaign, Fallon once again proved his worth at Big Shanty, Georgia in June 1864. At this engagement he was ordered to lead the left wing of his company in a charge against Confederate works; he led the way as he and his men took one officer and 28 men prisoner. Thomas captured the officer himself, knocking the southerner down with his musket before dragging him out the Rebel defences. His meritorious conduct earned him a 30 day furlough, which the Irishman characteristically refused as he was eager to continue the campaign. (5)

Sgt. Thomas Fallon captures a Confederate Officer at Big Shanty, Georgia in 1864

Sgt. Thomas Fallon captures a Confederate Officer at Big Shanty, Georgia in 1864 (Story of American Heroism)

Thomas T. Fallon served on as Atlanta fell, and participated in the March to the Sea before his last engagement at Savannah in December 1864. In the end it was illness that brought a halt to his time in the frontline. He later remembered: ‘It was my last battle, and I was up to the neck in water in the Savannah canal. I was furloughed from the hospital at Savannah, May 6, 1865, and returned to my regiment at Crystal Springs, Washington D. C., June 9. Discharged from service of the United States, July 20, 1865, by reason of provision of Special Order No. 160.’ (6)

Thomas Fallon returned home to live in Freehold, New Jersey after the war. He spent his post war years working as a tailor, and married Mary Garrity, with whom he had a daughter. On 13th February 1891 his gallantry was acknowledged, when he was awarded his Medal of Honor. His citation read: ‘At Williamsburg, Va., assisted in driving rebel skirmishers to their main line. Participated in action, at Fair Oaks, Va., though excused from duty because of disability. In a charge with his company at Big Shanty, Ga., was the first man to the enemy’s works.’ (7)

He periodically resurfaces in papers such as the Red Bank Register during the post war years, offering tantalising glimpses of his later life: in April 1899 he was drawn to serve as a juror in the May term of court, while in July of the same year he was the victim of a crime, when ‘six fine heads of cabbage’ were stolen from his garden. His Civil War record remained newsworthy, as his attendance at a Medal of Honor Legion reunion in Brooklyn in 1900 was mentioned, and his martial exploits were recounted on the occasion of his 68th birthday in 1905. (8)

Thomas T. Fallon died at the age of 79 in August 1916. He is buried in Saint Rose of Lima Cemetery, Freehold, New Jersey, the town the Galwayman had called home for the majority of his life. His dedication to the Union cause during the war had remained a defining moment throughout his later years. He is reported to have said about his time in the army: I donned the blues in ’61, marched with the boys until ’65, which was the proudest act of my life.’ (9)

(1) Jones 1897: 114, Red Bank Register Wednesday August 16th 1905; (2) Jones 1897: 114, Tri-Town News December 29th 2005; (3) Jones 1897: 114-115; (4) Ibid: 115; (5) Ibid: 115; (6) Ibid: 115-116; (7) Broadwater 2007: 71, Congressional Medal of Honor Society; (8) Jones 1897: 115, Red Bank Register 12th April 1899, Red Bank Register 12th July 1899, Red Bank Register 12th September 1900, Red Bank Register 16th August 1905, Tri Town News December 29th 2005; (9) Red Bank Register 30th August 1916, Tri-Town News December 29th 2005;

References & Further Reading

Broadwater, Robert P. 2007. Civil War Medal of Honor Recipients

Congressional Medal of Honor Society

Jones, J. W. 1897. The Story of American Heroism: Thrilling Narratives of Personal Adventures During the Civil War

Red Bank Register 12th April 1899: ‘Petty Jurors: Men Who Will Decide Cases at the May Term of Court’

Red Bank Register 12th July 1899: ‘Petty Thieves at Freehold’  

Red Bank Register 12th September 1900: ‘In and Out of Town. Short and Interesting Items From All Over the County’

Red Bank Register 16th August 1905. ‘A Good War Record. It is Held by Thomas T. Fallon of Freehold’

Red Bank Register 30th August 1916: ‘Death of War Veteran. Holder of Medal for Bravery Dies at Freehold’

Tri-Town News 29th December 2005: ‘Immigrant Served with Honor during Civil War’

Civil War Trust Battle of Williamsburg Page

Thomas Timothy Fallon Find A Grave Record

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Categories: 37th New York, Galway, Medal of Honor, New Jersey

Author:Damian Shiels

I am an archaeologist based in Ireland, specialising in conflict archaeology.

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13 Comments on “Medal of Honor: Private Thomas T. Fallon, 37th New York Infantry”

  1. October 14, 2011 at 6:30 pm #

    Timothy Fallon is an interesting character. He worked as a laborer before he enlisted in the Irish Rifles. His medal of honor was gained by leading an effort to clear the “fallen trees” in front of Fort Magruder of Confederate sharpshooters. He performed a similar action at Seven Pines. He apparently served in the 4th U.S. Artillery and two other regiments at Big Shanty.

    • October 16, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

      Hi William,

      I would love to get more info on him- particularly detail regarding his actions on the Peninsula- do you have any references that are worth having a look at?

      Kind Regards,

      Damian.

  2. John
    November 3, 2011 at 7:04 pm #

    His Medal of Honor was given to Major Horatio Collins King by the War Department in the post-war years. The medal is currently in the collection of Dickinson College.

    • November 4, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

      Hi John,

      Many thanks for sharing that information! I would love to see it at some point.

      Kind Regards,

      Damian;

  3. March 29, 2012 at 11:46 pm #

    My Ma’s uncle, Uncle Bill, passed away awhile back and I helped clean out his house. He was doing his own research in our family’s past, ya see my Grandfather is a Fallon and Uncle Bill his brother. Well, in his front room he had a framed certificate, a replica, of Thomas Fallon’s Medal of Honor paperwork. Do not know what happened to that framed certificate but I believe my brother has all the paper work Uncle Bill had in his research, but, I do not believe he would have hung this in his house had he not traced our blood back to Thomas. Recently my cousin, Mike Fallon, and his girlfriend had a son which they named Thomas, never knowing about Thomas T. Fallon before I told him.

    • March 30, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

      Hi Ian,

      Thanks for getting in touch- what a great story! He is an amazing man to be related to! If you do find out anymore about the paperwork your brother has I would be really interested to discover the information he found out!

      Kind Regards,

      Damian.

  4. Maria
    July 13, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

    Can anyone tell me if Thomas T. Fallon is related to the Fallon’s of Roscommon? I’m trying to find any records of him, as he may be related to my GrandFather.

    • July 17, 2012 at 8:46 am #

      Hi Maria,

      Many thanks for getting in touch. He was born in Co. Galway but that does not necessarily mean he did not have connections to Roscommon. Your best bet if you think he is related is to get his file and see what information it has regarding him in it- if I can be of any assistance don’t hesitate to let me know.

      Kind Regards,

      Damian.

  5. Maria
    July 18, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

    Hi Damian,

    I’m in the US, so it’s hard for me to get any files from Ireland. Do they have a main Court House in Co. Galway that might have records on Thomas?

    • July 19, 2012 at 9:38 am #

      Hi Maria,

      There can be information re births etc. in local parishes but rather disastrously from a 19th century genealogical point of view many of our records were destroyed during the Irish Civil War when the Four Courts in Dublin was destroyed. We do have things like census substitutes such as Griffith’s Valuation which can help track people down, but normally you would need to have an idea of a locality where your ancestor might have come from within a county. Are you able to narrow it down to any particular part of Galway? Also if you have any idea when they went to the States it might be possible to get them on passenger lists from websites such as Ancestry which is very good for that type of documentation.

      Kind Regards,

      Damian.

  6. Maria
    July 26, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

    Hi Damian,

    Thank you for the info, sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you. I’ll ask my family and see if any of them know aobut the Galway section of the family, then start on the passenger lists.
    Thank you again for your help, I’ll keep you updated on how I get along.
    Maria

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Irish-Born Civil War Medal of Honor Recipients: The Complete List? | Irish in the American Civil War - January 26, 2012

    [...] Fallon, Thomas T. [...]

  2. Irish-Born Medal of Honor Project | Irish in the American Civil War - December 30, 2012

    [...] Fallon, Thomas T. [...]

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