Title: Navy Quartermaster, Civil War Medal of Honor
Birthdate: March 3, 1825
Death Date: July 4, 1902
Plot Location: Naval 3, Row 3, Grave 3, Yeadon, PA. GPS: 39.93644* N, 075.75.24106* W

Nicholas Lear headstone at Mount Moriah Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“A seaman for 35 years” describes Nicholas Lear’s lengthy career, but it accounts for less than half his life. Born in Providence, Rhode Island on March 3, 1825, his first 30 years are a mystery. Perhaps those years living close to the ocean is what drew him to the Navy in 1855. The record shows that all but six of the next 41 years were spent in that branch of his country’s service.

Toward the end of the Civil War Nicholas was a quartermaster on the USS New Ironsides, one of the first three ironclad steamships launched by the Navy. She was used mainly for bombarding and blockading the port of Charleston, South Carolina in 1863. At the end of 1864 she participated in a major assault on Fort Fisher, North Carolina in an effort to stop blockade runners from getting into the port of Wilmington. Nicholas was one of eight crew members presented with the Medal of Honor, along with this lengthy citation:

“The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Quartermaster Nicholas Lear, United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism in action while serving on board the U.S.S. New Ironsides during action in several attacks on Fort Fisher, North Carolina, 24 and 25 December 1864; and 13, 14, and 15 January 1865. The ship steamed in and took the lead in the ironclad division close inshore and immediately opened its starboard battery in a barrage of well-directed fire to cause several fires and explosions and dismount several guns during the first two days of fighting. Taken under fire as she steamed into position on 13 January, the New Ironsides fought all day and took on ammunition at night despite severe weather conditions. When the enemy came out of his bombproofs to defend the fort against the storming party, the ship’s battery disabled nearly every gun on the fort facing the shore before the cease-fire order was given by the flagship.” (War Department, General Orders No. 59, June 22, 1865)

Nicholas served through most of the rest of the century until his final discharge on Christmas Eve, 1896. He lived in the US Naval Home in Philadelphia until his death on July 4, 1902.

Japanese maple tree in front of a monument at Mount Moriah Cemetery

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