Medal of Honor: Seaman Martin McHugh Remembered

A recent post told the story of Landsman Thomas E. Corcoran, a Dubliner who received the Congressional Medal of Honor having helped to save the lives of some of his crewmates aboard the stricken USS Cincinnati on 27th May 1863. The vessel had been disabled by fire from the Confederate batteries at Vicksburg, having been repeatedly struck by enemy shells. Corcoran was not the only Irishman to be recognised for his gallantry on the Cincinnati that day. Seaman Martin McHugh was awarded his medal on 10th July 1863, with the following citation: ‘Serving on board the U.S.S.  Cincinnati during the attack on the Vicksburg batteries and at the time of her sinking, 27 May 1863. Engaging the enemy in a fierce battle, the Cincinnati amidst an incessant fire of shot and shell, continued to fire her guns to the last, though so penetrated by shellfire that her fate was sealed. Serving bravely during this action, McHugh was conspicuously cool under the fire of the enemy, never ceasing to fire until this proud ship went down, “her colors nailed to the mast.”‘

The furling of a Civil War era flag at the Martin McHugh Ceremony, April 21, 2012

The furling of a Civil War era flag at the Martin McHugh Ceremony, April 21, 2012 (Photograph: Paula Hurst)

I was recently contacted by a reader of the site, Paula Hurst, to let me know that Martin was going to be remembered in a ceremony at his gravesite in Danville, Illinois on 21st April last. Having lain in an unmarked grave for 117 years, the Irishman was finally to receive a marker befitting his wartime service. Martin’s grave was discovered following an enquiry by Medal of Honor Historical Society researcher Ray Johnston to Machelle Long of the Vermilion County Clerk’s Office. Ray is working to locate as many Medal of Honor burial sites as he can, and together with Machelle their efforts helped to identify Martin and his wife Catherine’s grave in Resurrection Catholic Cemetery. The Federal government supplied a marker for the site, and a ceremony was arranged to mark the occasion by Larry Weatherford. This consisted of a one hour memorial service at the Church, and a dedication at the graveside with speeches from the Mayor, County Board Chairman, State Senator and State Representative. The event drew to a close with a reception at the local war museum.

The Martin McHugh Information Panel (Photograph: Paula Hurst)

The Martin McHugh Information Panel (Photograph: Paula Hurst)

The efforts of individuals like Ray Johnston and Machelle Long, combined with the dedication of the people of Danville, have helped this forgotten Irishman to be appropriately recognised. It is humbling to see such efforts taking place in the United States, particularly when the majority of these men remain little-remembered in the country of their birth. It is to be hoped that over the coming years this will change, and the example of the people of Danville will be followed in Ireland.

The Marker for Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Martin McHugh (Photograph: Paula Hurst)

The Marker for Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Martin McHugh (Photograph: Paula Hurst)

*I am greatly indebted to Paula Hurst for alerting me to this ceremony and for supplying details of the event. Paula also kindly gave permission for her photographs of the dedication to be reproduced here.


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

Proft, R.J.(ed.), 2002. United States of America’s Congressional Medal of Honor Recipients and their Official Citations, Fourth Edition


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Categories: Donegal, Illinois, Medal of Honor, Media

Author:Damian Shiels

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

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5 Comments on “Medal of Honor: Seaman Martin McHugh Remembered”

  1. May 5, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

    What a great post! I am so glad to see Martin McHugh was finally remembered and given a grave marker. It is wonderful that there are people working to make sure these long ago heros are never forgotten.

    • May 7, 2012 at 11:59 am #

      Hi Patty,

      I wholeheartedly agree with you! It is a great achievement for the local community and everyone involved.

      Kind Regards,


  2. Patrick W. O'Connor
    May 5, 2012 at 5:22 pm #

    As a veteran with Irish ancestry,and a proud tradition of service to the USA in my family,I am gratified to see this happen.Since immigrating to this country,the Irish and decendents have served proudly and faithfuly.

    • May 7, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

      Hi Patrick,

      Many thanks for your comment- hopefully more Irishmen like Martin can be identified and similarly honoured in the future, both in the US and Ireland.

      Kind Regards,



  1. Can You Help Find Medal of Honor Recipient Martin McHugh’s Descendants? | Irish in the American Civil War - May 10, 2013

    […] previous post on the site looked at the efforts in 2012 to honour Seaman Martin McHugh in Danville, Illinois. A […]

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