Charles Melville - U.S. Navy~Medal of Honor Winner

Charles Melville - U.S. Navy~Medal of Honor Winner


The city of Rochester, NH has at least two heroes of the Civil War. The first one being 1st Lieutenant John Sampson and the second is James Ramsbottom aka Charles Melville. James (his given name) Ramsbottom / Charles Melville (the name he used while in the service, and the name under which he received the Congressional Medal of Honor), is the only resident of the city to be so honored. No one knows why he used an alias while in the military

Researched by Richard D. Longo, Historian of the Rochester Historical Society

    James Ramsbottom, while in Warwick, RI enlisted in the Navy under his alias Charles Melville sometime between 1841 and 1849 which was about 2o years before the Civil War. He apparently re-enlisted in the Navy in April 1862 for three more years(John had served in the Navy continously since at least 1850). According to the Navy muster rolls he was listed as 5'3" tall with fair complexion, blue eyes and brown hair. On January 17, 1865 he was discharged from the Navy at the receiving ship in New York. At this point in time, James must have moved to Rochester, NH because he he again re-enlisted in the Navy at Kittery, ME in April 1865. However he never completed his enlistment because of injuries sustained on August 5, 1864, during the battle of Mobile Bay.

    During the Battle of Mobile Bay James was assigned to Admiral Farragut's flag ship the U.S.S. Hartford. While manning his 9 inch cannon as a loader of the gun, a rifle shell burst near his postion killing and wounding 15 men. Mellville was among the severely wounded having been struck by shrapnel. He was taken below for medical help but he had no intention of staying below while the battle was on. Refusing medical help he continued to man his gun the rest of the battle even though he was barely able to stand up. The battle was a Union victory which resulted in the capture of the rebel ram Tennessee among other things. Because of his actions Charles Melville was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, by order number 45 on December 31, 1864.

    It appears that that he initially recovered from his wounds because after recovering he was re-shipped out of Portsmouth, NH, but within two weeks he had a shock of paralysis and was sent home insensible and helpless. He was medically discharged and went to live at his faher's home in Rochester, NH. John was examined by Examing Surgeon James Wheeler. James Wheeler stated that "he is in a much pitable condition. He is unable to speak and has but very imperfectly, if at all his mental facilities. His right arm is totally paralyzed and distorted, and his right leg totally paralyzed. He is totally depedant of his friends for support . He is obliged to lie in his bed at all times". He was a awarded an additional pension of $8.00 per month, for a total of $33.00 per month, payable at Portsmouth, NH. James lived only until January 5, 1867 where he passed away in his father's house

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