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Photo # NH 79954:  Merrimac Operation Crew, 3 June 1898

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Boatswain Osborn W. Deignan, USN, (1873-1916)

Osborn Warren Deignan was born on 24 February 1873 in Stuart, Iowa. He enlisted in the US Navy from that state in December 1894 and served as a Coal Passer on the collier USS Albatross. In July 1895, he reenlisted as a Fireman Second Class on board the receiving ship USS Wabash, which lead to a series of transfers on board USS Vermont, USS Lancaster, and USS Newark. Deignan reenlisted in April 1898 on board USS Vermont, where he transferred to Merrimac during the Spanish-American War.

Deignan served as one of the eight volunteer crew members when Rear Admiral William T. Sampson ordered her sunk to block the entrance of Santiago Harbor, Cuba. On the night of 2-3 June 1898, during the courageous attempt to execute this mission, Merrimac's steering gear was disabled by enemy gunfire, and she sank without obstructing navigation. Her crewmen were rescued by the Spanish and made prisoners-of-war. After the Battle of Santiago de Cuba destroyed the Spanish fleet a month later, Deignan and his shipmates were released. For his "extraordinary heroism" during this operation, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. Following his release, he transferred to Resolute, then to USS Castine, which was followed by a transfer back to USS Vermont. Deignan declined an appointment as a Naval Cadet to the Naval Academy in the summer of 1899 and was ordered to USS Marietta.

Deignan was promoted to the warrant officer rank of Boatswain on 28 May 1900. As an officer, his initial assignments were in the Philippines, first at Manila, then at the Naval Station, Cavite. In June 1902, he reported for duty on board USS Oregon and later in that year transferred to the receiving ship Independence, at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California. Boatswain Deignan was stationed at Navy Yard, Pensacola, Florida, in 1903-1904. Next assigned to the receiving ship Franklin, at Norfolk, Virginia, he remained there for less than a year before reporting for his last tour of duty on the monitor Amphitrite in April 1905. Boatswain Deignan retired on 21 April 1906 and thereafter resided in the Los Angeles, California area. Osborn W. Deignan died on 16 April 1916 in Cannon City, Colorado and is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California.

This page features the only image we have concerning Osborn W. Deignan.

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Photo #: NH 79954

USS Merrimac Operation, 3 June 1898

Halftone reproduction of a photograph, published in "Deeds of Valor," Volume II, page 370, by the Perrien-Keydel Company, Detroit, 1907. This image shows an artistic interpretation of the scuttling of USS Merrimac across the entrance of Santiago Harbor, Cuba, with portraits of her crew on this mission. The crew members from upper left to right are Lieutenant Richmond P. Hobson, Coxswain Claus K. R. Clausen (note: official sources state Clausen's first name to be Claus, not Randolph), Coxswain Osborn W. Deignan, Watertender Francis Kelly. The crew members from lower left to right are Coxswain John E. Murphy, Chief Master-At-Arms Daniel Montague, Machinist First Class George F. Phillips, and Gunner's Mate First Class George Charette. All the crew members received the Medal of Honor for this operation.

NHHC Collection Photograph.

Online Image: 87KB; 585 x 765 pixels


Medal of Honor citation of Coxswain Osborn Deignan (as printed in the official publication "Medal of Honor, 1861-1949, The Navy", page 74):

"In connection with the sinking of the U.S.S. Merrimac at the entrance to the harbor of Santiago de Cuba, 2 June 1898. Despite heavy fire from the Spanish batteries, DEIGNAN displayed extraordinary heroism throughout this operation."

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