James Ramsbottom (alias Charles Melville)

Ordinary Seaman, USS Hartford

James Ramsbottom was born c1828 in either Dover, New Hampshire or England (enlistments state Dover, pension state England), grew up in Rochester[7] and served in the Navy under the alias of Charles Melville. The earliest mention found of Ramsbottom in Navy records is his appearance on the USS Raritan 1847 muster roll as an Ordinary Seaman with a notation that he enlisted on 1 December 1846. Ramsbottom also appears on the USS Mississippi muster roll from 1852 to 1855, the USS Niagara muster roll in 1858 [1],[2],[3] and at some point was attached to the USS Brooklyn per one rendezvous index card[4]. A rendezvous index card from a previous enlistment notes Ramsbottom was attached to the USS Constitution around 1855.

Ramsbottom then reenlisted on 19 April 1862 and was attached first to the USS Sabine[5] and then the USS Hartford on 2 July 1862 and served aboard her in all engagements through Farragut's departure from the West Gulf Blockading Squadron in November 1864, including the 5 August 1864 in which action Ramsbottom was awarded the Medal of Honor.

On board the flagship U.S.S. Hartford during action against rebel gunboats, the ram Tennessee, and Fort Morgan in Mobile Bay, 5 August 1864. Wounded and taken below to the surgeon when a shell burst between the two forward 9-inch guns, killing and wounding 15 men, Melville promptly returned to his gun on the deck and, although scarcely able to stand, refused to go below and continued to man his post throughout the remainder of the action resulting in the capture of the rebel ram Tennessee.

Ramsbottom was discharged at New York on 17 January 1865 and returned home to Rochester to heal from his injuries. Three months later he re-enlisted in Kittery on 8 April 1865 and was attached to the USS Tioga. Ramsbottom handled being back at sea aboard the Tioga during her summer cruising around New England without any issues. In the fall Tioga received sailing orders to shift her homeport to Pensacola. Ramsbottom was carried off her mentally withdrawn and in a state of paralysis. The medical board recommending his medical discharge attributed Ramsbottom's condition to the two years he spent in the Gulf aboard the Hartford.[6]

Ramsbottom spent 14 months withdrawn into himself, dependent on his father and friends to care for him, until his death at the age of 39 on 5 January 1867. He never applied for his Medal of Honor which is still in the possession of the Navy (note: PDF file).


Ramsbottom Family Cemetery, Rochester, NH.



Awards and Memorials

Medal of Honor


[1] Muster Rolls, USS Raritan, NARA

[2] Muster Rolls, USS Mississippi, NARA

[3] Muster Rolls, USS Niagara, NARA

[4] NARA T1098, Index to Rendezvous Reports Before and After the Civil War (1846–1861, 1865–1884).

[5] NARA T1099. An index to rendezvous reports during the Civil War, 1861-1865.

[6] Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Dependents of Civil War and Later Navy Veterans ("Navy Widows' Certificates"), 1861-1910

[7]McDuffee, Franklin. History of the Town of Rochester, New Hampshire, from 1722 to 1890. John B. Clarke, 1892.