From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

James Wight '71

Date of birth: July 31, 1851

Date of death: November 24, 1877

Age: 26

Naval Academy Register

James Marshall Wight was admitted to the Naval Academy from Chicago, Illinois on June 29, 1867 at age 15 years 10 months.


James was lost on November 24, 1877 when USS Huron (1875) went aground and then wrecked in heavy weather off Nags Head, North Carolina. Ninety-seven other officers and men were also lost.


From Army & Navy Journal on December 15, 1877:

James M. Wight, Master, U.S.N, who perished in the Huron, was the third son of Rev. J. Ambrose Wight, D.D., pastor for twelve and more years, of the Presbyterian Church, of Bay City, Michigan. He was born in Chicago, Ill., July 31, 1851; and remained there till the removal of the family to Bay City, April, 1865. His early education was in the excellent Public Schools of Chicago; and he was prepared for the High School at the time of his removal. After a year in Wisconsin, he joined his family in Bay City, and attended school there till June, 1867, when he was recommended to the Naval Academy, at Annapolis, by Hon. John F. Driggs, M.C., after a competitive examination, by which he was unanimously selected. His appearance before this committee was as a stranger and alone. He made his way also alone to Annapolis, where he was accepted. The Navy was his own choice, and the way into it was singularly and unexpectedly opened to him.

He graduated in 1871, and was assigned to the Iroquois, while that vessel was acting as convoy to the Grand Duke Alexis into New York. From the Iroquois he went to the Canandaigua, and served the season with the Gulf Squadron. The following year he was sent to Chinese waters, on the Hartford; and was there about two years, first on the Lackawanna and then on the Palon. He returned in 1874 for examination and promotion, and became an ensign, his commission dating back one year. He spent the '75 in the coast survey on the schooner Bache, in a survey of the Savannah River and up the coast of Maine. His eyes being weak for that service, he was detached to the monitor Saugus, upon which he made the passage from Pensacola to Port Royal around the Florida Capes. He became master in 1875.

The summer and autumn of '76 were spent at home "waiting orders;" but in Feb., '77, he was ordered to the Receiving ship Colorado, and from that to the Supply, upon which summer was spent. His assignment to the Huron was in September. He was 26 years and four months of age, and his service to the Government, counting time at the Academy, about ten years.

Officers associated with him in the Navy know of his official standing and value better than anybody else. His friends at home know him as a young man of rare integrity of character; free from the vices which beset young men; self-governing and conscientious, and devoted to duty. His attachment to the naval service was intense. He knew the dangers of it as well as anybody, for he had been several times near to death; and notedly at the Isle of Socotra, on the voyage of the Hartford, where going ashore with a party, on their return they found the surf high, and the boat waiting outside it, unable to get in. They were forced to swim, and young Wight was caught and tumbled about among the rocks; and, after going to the vessel, came near dying from the effects. His friends would bear the loss now with more content, did they feel that it was a necessity.

He has Find A Grave entries here and here.


From the Naval History and Heritage Command:

Midshipman, 1 July, 1867. Graduated 6 June, 1871. Ensign, 14 July, 1872. Master, 30 June, 1873. Lost on Huron, 24 November, 1877.

Related Articles

George Ryan '61, Sydney Simons '67, Lambert Palmer '68, Walter French '71, Frederick Danner '74, and Edmund Loomis '75 were also lost when Huron was wrecked.

Navy Directories & Officer Registers

The "Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps" was published annually from 1815 through at least the 1970s; it provided rank, command or station, and occasionally billet until the beginning of World War II when command/station was no longer included. Scanned copies were reviewed and data entered from the mid-1840s through 1922, when more-frequent Navy Directories were available.

The Navy Directory was a publication that provided information on the command, billet, and rank of every active and retired naval officer. Single editions have been found online from January 1915 and March 1918, and then from three to six editions per year from 1923 through 1940; the final edition is from April 1941.

The entries in both series of documents are sometimes cryptic and confusing. They are often inconsistent, even within an edition, with the name of commands; this is especially true for aviation squadrons in the 1920s and early 1930s.

Alumni listed at the same command may or may not have had significant interactions; they could have shared a stateroom or workspace, stood many hours of watch together… or, especially at the larger commands, they might not have known each other at all. The information provides the opportunity to draw connections that are otherwise invisible, though, and gives a fuller view of the professional experiences of these alumni in Memorial Hall.

January 1871

Cadet Midshipman, First Class, Naval Academy

Others at this command: LCDR George Ryan '61 and Cadet MIDN Walter French '71.

January 1872

Midshipman, Canandaigua

January 1873

Midshipman, Hartford

January 1874

Midshipman, Palos

July 1877

Master, Supply

Others at this command: ENS Jesse Roper '72.

Class of 1871

James is one of 3 members of the Class of 1871 on Virtual Memorial Hall.

The "category" links below lead to lists of related Honorees; use them to explore further the service and sacrifice of the alumni in Memorial Hall.