Otway Henry Berryman was born in 1812 in Virginia and entered the Navy as a midshipman on 2 February 1829, being appointed from Washington DC.
Berryman was promoted to his final rank of lieutenant on 8 September 1841 and commanded the following vessels over the next two decades: USS Onkahye (1846), USS Dolphin (1852), USS Crawford (1854), USS Varina (1854), USS Vixen (1856), USS Arctic (1856), USS Falmouth (1860) and finally the USS Wyandott in 1860.
In December of 1860 the Wyandott entered the drydock at the Pensacola Navy Yard to have her bottom scraped of marine life fouling it. On 9 January 1861, she was refloated and ordered by the CO of the Pensacola Navy Yard, CAPT James Armstrong, to assist in transporting troops from Fort Barrancas to Fort Pickens. Three days later 12 January, around 400 armed troops from Alabama and Florida approached the North gate of the Navy Yard, and two officers from the company demanded its surrender to the State of Florida. CAPT Armstrong, having no means of defending the yard with only 38 Marines and a saluting battery at his disposal and his XO and a large number of the civilian shipyard workers being secessionists, acceded to their demands. Armstrong, in his court martial, pretty much stated he didn't want the yard to become a flash point for a war to break out if he fought back with what little he had. Berryman and the CO of the USS Supply refused to surrender their vessels as demanded by the Confederates and shoved off for Fort Pickens.
Berryman and the Wyandott took up the post of patrolling off of Santa Rosa Island and Fort Pickens while one by one his subordinate officers resigned and joined the Confederacy, leaving only the Chief Engineer and Berryman remaining. Berryman, with the additional duties imposed upon him by the loss of his officers and constantly in fear of his ship being attacked by Confederates, was reported to have been on duty 20 hours a day for the final few weeks of his life and did not sleep at all for the last three.
On 2 April, Berryman, twelve hours after the surgeon of the Sabine was called to attend to him, died of "brain fever". After permission was given by the Confederates, he was buried the next day with honors in the Warrington Cemetery. From the 13 April 1861 Evening Star of Washington DC describing the funeral:
April 4 - On yesterday, at about 3 o'clock p.m., the remains of Capt. O. H. Berryman were conveyed from the steamer Wyandotte to the centre wharf at the Navy Yard, where the procession was formed as follows:
United States Marines, numbering about 30, with arms, a band of music, the hearse containing the remains, the coffin shrouded with the United States flag, and the cap and sword of the deceased laid thereon: on each side of the hearse were five pall-bearers, among them I only recognized Col. Clayton, C.S.A., Dr. Garnet, U.S.N., and Capt. Brent, C.S.N.; the Rev. Dr. Scott in surplice, followed by about 100 United States sailors from the Brooklyn, St. Louis, Sabine and Wyandotte; the Naval and Marine officers, from the U.S. war vessels off the harbor, among whom was Lieutenant A. J. Slemmer, of Fort Pickens; the military officers belonging to the Confederate States Army stationed here; Commodore Ingraham, C.S.N., and General Bragg, C.S.A., bringing up the rear, then followed a large concourse of citizens, the whole forming a pageant solemn and imposing. The funeral service was read by Dr. Scott, of St. John's Episcopal Church, and the remains of Capt. Berryman were laid in the vault to await the action of his family. Every respect due to his station was paid to the remains by the officers attached to both Governments.
His obituary published in the 9 April 1861 New York Herald:
OBITUARY LIEUTENANT OTWAY H. BERRYMAN, U.S.N.
The telegraph conveys to us the mournful intelligence of the death of Lieutenant Otway H. Berryman, commanding the United States steamer Wyandott, off Pensacola on the 2d instant.
This death of this highly generous, gentlemanly and efficient officer will not only bring deep sorrow to his family and friends at home, but will be unfeignedly lamented by his associates in the service. This sad departure from among them - never to be seen again on earth - will be sadly and deeply felt by all those who have sailed with him, either as messmates or shipmates. His joyous merry laugh and happy disposition; his fine officer like bearing and self-possession under all circumstances will long be pleasantly remembered by those who were ever associated with him.
Lieutenant Berryman entered the Navy in 1829, and had performed much service at sea. He had longer his command than any other one of his grade in the service. Since the year 1847, he has been almost continually in command, having commanded seven different vessels up to the time of his death. The commanded the United States brig Dolphin on two different successful sounding expeditions in the Atlantic Ocean previous to the laying down of the telegraphic cable, and verified by his soundings the great plateau, which had been asserted to exist by Commander Maury, and upon which the cable was laid.
For the three months previous to his death he had been actively employed with the Wyandott off Pensacola and Fort Pickens, rendering the most important service. Two lieutenants and the master having resigned, left him with but one lieutenant. In consequence of this much additional duty devolved upon him, and officers lately arriving from their state that he was frequently on duty twenty hours out of the twenty four. His death was caused by brain fever, produced by exposure and constant arduous duties, which he ever performed with marked zeal and fidelity.
Being thus cut of while yet in the vigor of his days, the navy has lost an officer who performed his duty faithfully and whose professional attainments were those of usefulness to his country, and conferred distinction upon himself.
Berryman's wife, Sarah, was the first recipient of a Naval pension to a Civil War widow.
Berryman's remains were never repatriated by his wife and they remained at Warrington until the grave was moved in the early 1930s to its present location at Barrancas National Cemetery during the air station expansion.
Sarah Frances Berryman (wife, married 10 July 1836, died 1865)
Columbia Berryman (daughter)
Alice Berryman (daughter
Calvert Berryman (son)
William Marsden Berryman (son)
Awards and Memorials