From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

James Wight '71

Date of birth: July 31, 1851

Date of death: November 24, 1877

Age: 26

Lucky Bag

The Lucky Bag was first published in 1894.

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.


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.

Class of 1871

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