Title: Navy Captain of the Forecastle, Civil War Medal of Honor
Death Date: September 10, 1889
Plot Location: Naval 2, Row 22, Grave 1
Born in 1804 in Baltimore, Maryland, Henry was an experienced mariner when the Civil War began. The earliest enlistment record found was from 1858, showing he had 22 years of prior experience. During the war he was a gunner’s mate on the USS Don and later as a captain of the forecastle on the USS Wissahickon. (The forecastle was the upper forward deck where sailors slept.)
This is a photo of some crew members aboard the Wissahickon, and one of them could be Henry. He saw action at Forts Jackson and St. Philip near New Orleans on April 24, 1862. During the first Battle of Fort McAllister, Georgia, on February 27, 1863, he helped save his ship from sinking, for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor. At the time of the engagement he was about 58, making him the oldest Medal of Honor recipient of the Civil War.
His citation reads: “Going on board the USS Wissahickon from the USS Don where his seamen-like qualities as gunner’s mate were outstanding, Shutes performed his duties with skill and courage. Showing a presence of mind and prompt action when a shot from Fort McAllister penetrated the Wissahickon below the water line and entered the powder magazine, Shutes contributed materially to the preservation of the powder and safety of the ship.” His award was presented January 15, 1866.
His date of final discharge is unknown, but there is a register of employees at the Naval Academy in Annapolis in 1865 that shows Henry as a civilian watchman. Sometime in the mid-1870s he moved to the Naval Asylum in Philadelphia.
He broke his leg in August, 1889, but refused to keep his splint in place and grew increasingly belligerent about eating. The record stated “he cannot be induced to take [any nourishment] in sufficient quantity to do much good. This old man is partly insane and has been so for a long time previous to the accident.” Henry died “from general failure of will power” on September 10, 1889.
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