Captain William Harcourt
February 18, 1888
CAPT HARCOURT DEAD
THE RECORD OF FAITHFUL SERVICE
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.
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
FEBRUARY 21, 1888
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
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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