Captain William Harcourt


Saturday, February 18, 1888

                                  CAPT HARCOURT DEAD

                       THE RECORD OF FAITHFUL SERVICE


His Service in the Navy

    Captain William Harcourt, for many years an employee of the Post Office, died at Mount Hope Retreat Friday afternoon at 3:30.  Captain Harcourt had been in delicate health for some years, due to wounds and disease contracted in the naval services, and having developed symptoms of acute mania, it became necessary to commit him in February, 1886 to an asylum where he remained until his death.  He was a native of Staten Island, N.Y., and entering the naval service in 1836, when a boy, he served in the Brazilian squadron on the frigate Hudson, and the Washington and Jersey, exploring and surveying.  Entering the Texas navy, he served on the brig Austin during the war for independence, and subsequently re-enlisting in the United States navy, he served on the Vandalia, Lexington and Porpoise in which vessel he served throughout the Mexican War, being twice wounded during its progress.  During a second cruise of the Porpoise he served three years on the coast of Africa in expeditions to suppress the slave trade and to punish acts of piracy, and in 1850 was appointed an acting gunner, receiving his gunner's warrant in 1851.  After several cruises on the Plymouth, in South American waters, and on the Decauter, he was transferred to the Dale, to take part in Commodore Perry's expedition to Japan.  While on the Dale, during a cruise off Newfoundland to protect American fishery rights, he was one of the volunteers who, on a stormy night in the mid-winter of 1853, rescued the passengers and crew of the British bark Cleopatra.  A year later, during the Dale's cruise on the west coast of Africa, he took part in an expedition to punish a tribe for plundering an American merchant vessel wrecked on the coast.  Pursing the natives too far into the interior, they were themselves surrounded, but, decoying the Africans to the coast, they captured their king and made their escape to the fleet.  He resigned from the navy in 1856, and, coming to Baltimore, engaged in business unsuccessfully, and then became a reporter on the Clipper and Argus.  He was also a member of Deptford No. 4 Fire Company, and identified with the Know-Nothing Party.  In 1858, on the establishment of the fire alarm telegraph, he was appointed an operator, in which position he remained until removal by Major Brown.  Soon after the breaking out of the war he was employed by the War Department, and was present at the first battle of Manassas.  In January 1862, he was appointed Acting master's mate in the navy, and was twice promoted on the recommendation of Admiral Farragut for gallantry in action.  On the gunboat Albatross he participated in the early operations on the Carolina coast, the bombardment of St. Andrew's, Florida, and in the engagements on the Mississippi River and Mobile Bay.  After the failure of the fleet to pass the batteries at Port Hudson, the Hartford and Albatross being the only vessels that made the "run-by", he was entrusted with valuable dispatches from Admiral Farragut to the rest of the fleet, for which service he received a commendatory letter from the Admiral, and was assigned the command of the steamer Arizona.  That vessel becoming to badly crippled in an engagement to go north by sea for repairs, she was sent to Mound City, Ill.  And caused a sensation to the people on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, to whom it was a great novelty to see a "vessel with masts".  Rejoining Admiral Farragut's fleet, the Arizona took part in the Sabine Pass expedition and did blockade on the coast of Texas.  While in this command Captain Harcourt received the thanks of the Grand Lodge of Mason of Louisiana, and a letter from Grand Master J.Q.A. Fellows, for restoring valuable Masonic jewels and other property that had been despoiled from a lodge at Point Coupee, La.; and for restoring the plate and altar vestments pillaged from a Catholic Church at the same place, he also received a letter of thanks from the priest in charge.  After spending about a month in the Naval Hospital in New Orleans, he was transferred to the sloop-of-war Richmond, and took part in the operations that resulted in the surrender of Mobile.  After the capture of that city, he was given the command of the steamer Narcissus, and at the time of the great magazine explosion, which wrecked a large portion of the city, he promptly organized his crew as firemen, and actively assisted in subduing the conflagration and saving the lives of citizens.  At the close of the war he returned to Baltimore, and tendering his resignation, was honorably discharged with the thanks of the Navy Department.  In December, 1865 he was appointed by Mayor Chapman an operator in the Police and Fire Alarm Telegraph, and being removed in 1867, he was for a short time a reporter on the press.  In 1869 General Shriver appointed him a clerk and subsequently a local mail agent at the Post Office.  During General Denison's administration of the Post Office, he was in the registered letter division until the latter part of 1876, when on account of mental ill-health, he was compelled to resign.  After convalescing from his illness, which then threatened serious results, he was reappointed a clerk in the Post Office by General R.R. Veazey.  Captain Harcourt took great interest in soldiers and sailors' organizations, and was an earnest, efficient worker in the cause of temperance.  He was a charter member of Ditnam Post, and was annually made chairman of the flower committee for Decoration Day.  When the Fifth Regiment returned from Boston in 1875, Captain Harcourt was marshal of the soldiers and G.A.R. that escorted regiment to its armory.  Out of this incident originated Wilson Post No. 1 of which the deceased was also a charter member.  He was also a member of the Mexican Veteran's Association, the Maryland Line Association, Union Lodge No. 60, A.F.A.M. Protection Conclave, I.O.H.  His wife, a daughter of the late Captain Wm. M. Betts, of Norfolk, a son and two daughters survive him.  The son, Wm. M. Harcourt, is a proofreader of The American, which paper he has been connected for over twenty years.

Captain Harcourt was a man of high character, and all who knew him recognized his true worth.  He was a kind and generous husband and father, an upright and patriotic citizen, and a thoroughly manly man.





Buried by their Comrades


    The funeral of Capt. William Harcourt, late master in the United States Navy, took place yesterday afternoon at two-o'clock from his residence, 205 North Exeter Street.  The body was clad in the uniform of a naval officer, and was encased in a handsome cloth-covered casket from the undertaking establishment of Spence & Evans.  The head of the casket was covered with the American Flag and at the foot was silver anchor, resting on a coil of rope and mounted on a gold plate.  Among the many numerous floral tributes were the following; A mound, from Mrs. Busch and Mrs.  Kavanaugh; a pillow, from Miss Maggie Cosley.  The services were conducted by Rev. J.O. Elderidge, of Exeter M.E. Church.  In his address Mr. Elderidge spoke freeingly of Captain Harcourt's faithful service to his country, and his long career as a employee in the Baltimore Post Office.  The pall-bearers were members of the G.A.R. and of the Protection Conclave No. 3, L.O.H.  The officers and members of Wilson's Post, G.A.R. accompanied the remains to the cemetery, which was Loudon Park.

     Immediately after this funeral, the officers and members of Wilson Post conducted the burial services of the G.A.R. over the remains of Paul F. Hazel, late of Eighty-Second Pennsylvania Volunteers, and a member of Post No. 5, Philadelphia, who died at the Soldiers' Home, Washington, D.C.  The interment was in the National Cemetery, Loudon Park.

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