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