From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

William Gwin '53

Date of birth: December 6, 1832

Date of death: January 3, 1863

Age: 30

Lucky Bag

The Lucky Bag was first published in 1894.

Biography & Loss

"Engraved portrait by J.C. Buttre, New York, featuring a facsimile of Gwin's signature below the figure. Lieutenant Commander Gwin lost his life as a result of injuries suffered in combat on the Yazoo River on 27 December 1862, while he was in command of USS Benton."

From Wikipedia:

Born in Columbus, Indiana, Gwin was appointed a Midshipman on 7 April 1847. Gwin subsequently served in the frigate Brandywine on the Brazil Squadron until late in 1850. During the next five years he was assigned to the sloop of war Germantown, flagship of the African Squadron, the steamer Princeton and the brig Bainbridge. In September 1855, while serving in the latter, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant. From late 1857 until after the outbreak of the American Civil War in the spring of 1861, Gwin was an officer of the steamer Saranac and sloop of war Vandalia, both in the Pacific, and of the steam frigate Susquehanna in the Mediterranean.

Returning to the United States in mid-1861, Lieutenant Gwin began Civil War combat service in the newly acquired cruiser Cambridge and, later in the year, was assigned to the brig Perry.

He commanded several ships of the Mississippi Squadron and was one of Flag Officer Andrew Hull Foote's "can do" officers, displaying outstanding initiative, energy and dash. After the fall of Fort Henry he swept with his wooden gunboats up the Tennessee River all the way to regions of Alabama. This action was a major factor in the collapse of the Confederate lines far behind him in Kentucky. Fire support from two of his gunboats, Tyler and Lexington, helped save Union troops from disaster in the Battle of Shiloh, bringing high praise from General Ulysses S. Grant. He was wounded in action 27 December 1862, while commanding the gunboat Benton in the Battle of Haines Bluff on the Yazoo River.

He died from these injuries on 3 January 1863, on board a hospital ship in the Mississippi River. In reporting his death to the Navy Department, Gwin's squadron commander, Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter, remarked: "The country has lost one of its bravest officers."

He is listed on the killed in action panel in the front of Memorial Hall and is buried in New Jersey.


1853 Gwin 2.jpg

From the Naval History and Heritage Command:

Midshipman, 7 April, 1847. Passed Midshipman, 19 June, 1853. Master, 15 September, 1855. Lieutenant, 16 September, 1855. Lieutenant Commander, 16 July, 1862. Killed in battle, 3 January, 1863.


Four ships in the United States Navy have been named in his honor:

  • USS Gwin (Torpedo Boat No. 16) was commissioned in 1898 and decommissioned in 1914. She was renamed Cyane and reclassified YFB-4 in 1920, and finally sold in 1925
  • USS Gwin (DD 71) was a Caldwell-class destroyer commissioned in 1920, and decommissioned in 1922.
  • USS Gwin (DD 433) was a Gleaves-class destroyer, commissioned in 1941, served in World War II and sank in battle in July 1943.
  • USS Gwin (DM 33) was a Robert H. Smith-class destroyer-minelayer, commissioned in 1944 and decommissioned in 1958. She was transferred to Turkey in 1971 and renamed TCG Muavenet (DM-357). She was scrapped in 1992.

Class of 1853

William is one of 9 members of the Class of 1853 on Virtual Memorial Hall.