Union sailor George H Bell a Medal of Honor recipient, joined the Union Navy May 12th 1861 while the ship he was serving on, was docked in New York City.
George H Bell was born March 12th 1839 in Sunderland, England. His family moved to Newcastle, England in the 1840’s and at the age of 14, Bell began a maritime career. Over the next several years he would sail on vessels in most of the world’s oceans.
A ship Bell was sailing on docked in New York City at the beginning of the Civil War, and on May 12th 1861 he enlisted in the Union Navy. By July 1861 Bell was an able seaman on the USS Santee, but past naval experience found him quickly promoted to coxswain. On November 7th 1861 in an early naval action in Galveston Bay, Texas, Bell distinguished himself in the destruction of the Confederate CSS Royal Yacht. He would be awarded the Medal of Honor for this action in 1863.
Bell returned to England after the war. He died September 26th 1917, and is buried in Newcastle, England.
Bell's Medal of Honor citation reads: “Served as pilot of the U.S.S. Santee when that vessel was engaged in cutting out the rebel armed schooner Royal Yacht from Galveston Bay, 7 November 1861, and evinced more coolness, in passing the 4 forts and the rebel steamer General Rusk, than was ever before witnessed by his commanding officer. "Although severely wounded in the encounter, he displayed extraordinary courage under the most painful and trying circumstances."