From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

Thomas Buchanan '55

Date of birth: September 18, 1837

Date of death: January 14, 1863

Age: 25

Lucky Bag

The Lucky Bag was first published in 1894.

Biography & Loss

1855 Buchanan 1.jpg

From McKean Genealogies:

Thomas McKean Buchanan, Lieut. Commander U.S.N, born in Bellefonte, Center county, Pa., September 18, 1837. He was appointed an acting midshipman, October 1, 1851, entering the Naval Academy. He stood well in his class and graduated June 9, 1855, becoming a midshipman, and cruised in the Constellation and the Congress in the Mediterranean, July, '55-January, '58. Passed midshipman April 15, 1858; Master, November 4, '58; ordered to take passage to join the steam frigate Merrimac, then in the Pacific.

Lieutenant, July 18, 1860; ordered to the steam frigate Mississippi, April, 1861, in the West Gulf Squadron.

Promoted to be a lieutenant commander, July 16, 1862. He was for a time in command of the steam frigate Mississippi, the gunboat New London, and subsequently commanded the gunboat Calhoun.

Admiral Farragut writes from Pensacola about September, 1862: "Lieutenant Commander McKean Buchanan, with light draft steamers, had been operating successfully in Berwick Bay and Atchafalaya River." And again, from New Orleans, November 14, 1862, to the Secretary of the Navy, he encloses Lieutenant Commander Buchanan's report, saying, "He is commanding the naval forces co-operating with the army in Opelousas, and had already two fights with the enemy's steamers and land forces."

Commodore Buchanan (as he was called by courtesy, on account of his commanding a squadron of vessels), while ascending Bayon Teche, January 14, 1863, on board the Calhoun, he went forward in an exposed position and was at once and object for sharpshooters on the bank. He was soon struck in the head, and fell dead on the deck. He was a brave officer. His daring courage and activity while in command of these light draft steamers made his name widely known throughout that part of the country. Lieutenant Commander died unmarried, and his remains were subsequently sent to Bellefonte, Pa. Admiral Farragut, writing home, mentions his death as follows, January 15th: "Yesterday was a sad day for me. I went to see Banks; he handed me a dispatch from the bar, announcing the loss of the Hatteras. When I came on board I received another, telling me of the death of one of my bravest and most dashing officers, Lieutenant Commander Buchanan."

He is listed on the killed in action panel in the front of Memorial Hall and in the Register of Alumni, though the latter has no date associated with this action. He is buried in Pennsylvania.

One of his brothers was an Army Captain who was killed in action during the war.


From the Naval History and Heritage Command:

Acting Midshipman, 1 October, 1851. Midshipman, 9 June, 1855. Passed Midshipman, 15 April, 1858. Master, 4 November, 1858. Lieutenant, 18 July, 1860. Lieutenant Commander, 5 August, 1862. Died 14 January, 1863.

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 1852

Acting Midshipman, Naval Academy

Others at this command:

January 1856

Midshipman, Sloop Constellation

January 1857

Midshipman, Sloop Constellation

January 1858

Midshipman, Sloop Constellation

January 1860

Master, Sloop St. Mary's

September 1861

Lieutenant, Steam Sloop Mississippi

Others at this command:

September 1862

Lieutenant Commander, Steam Sloop Mississippi

January 1863

Lieutenant Commander, commanding officer, Steamer Calhoun

Class of 1855

Thomas is one of 7 members of the Class of 1855 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.