John F. Mackie

Posted on Sep 15, 2015

The First Marine to Receive the Medal of Honor

JOHN FREEMAN MACKIE

On 24 April 1861, John F. Mackie, the first U.S. Marine to be awarded the Medal of Honor, enlisted in the Marine Corps for a period of four years. He was twenty-five years of age when he took the oath for enlistment at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York.

Born in New York City, New York, on 1 October 1835, John Freeman Mackie was a silversmith by profession prior to joining the Corps. In 1861 he served aboard the USS Savannah, but on 1 April 1862 he was transferred to the USS Galena as corporal of the Marine Guard. He served aboard that vessel until 10 November 1862, and it was while a member of that detachment that he displayed his gallantry which earned for him the nation?s highest military decoration.

During the attack on the Confederate Fort Darling on the James River at Drurys Bluff (near Richmond, Virginia) on 15 May 1862, Cpl Mackie rallied the Marine Guard after the entire Third Division of the four IX-inch Dahlgren Guns and 100 Pound Rifle was killed or wounded. He cleared the deck and resumed the action without awaiting orders. Capt John Rodgers, commander of the USS Galena recommended Cpl Mackie to the Secretary of the Navy during a visit he made to the ship in November 1862.

Upon recommendation to Marine Headquarters in Washington, D.C., Col John Harris, Commandant of the Marine Corps, authorized Capt Rodgers to advance Cpl Mackie to the rank of sergeant, to rank from 1 November 1862.

He was then transferred to the Norfolk Navy Yard, Virginia, and in June 1863, he was ordered to the USS Seminole as Orderly Sergeant in Charge of the Marine Guard. It was while serving aboard this ship as part of the West Gulf Squadron in the fall of 1863 that he was presented the Medal of Honor by Commander Henry Rolando. During the presentation Commodore Percival Drayton stated, ?Sergeant I would give a stripe off my sleeves to get one of those in the manner as you got that.?

In January 1864, Sgt Mackie narrowly escaped death when helping to suppress a riot at Sabine Pass, Texas, when a rioting fireman hit him in the head with a chain hook and fractured his skill.

Sergeant Mackie was discharged from the Marine Corps, after having served four years and four months, at the Navy Yard in Boston, Massachusetts, on 23 August 1865. He later became active in the Grand Army of the Republic, while residing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He passed away on 18 June 1910 and was buried in Arlington Cemetery in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania.