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b. 24/02/1873 Stuart, Iowa. d. 16/04/1916 Canon City, Colorado.


DATE OF MOH ACTION: 02/06/1898 Santiago, Cuba.


Deignan was born February 24, 1873 (as per first Navy enlistment record dated December 7, 1894) near Stuart, Iowa to John Deignan and his wife. His father had also been a sailor, serving in the Navy during the American Civil War, and afterwards went to work for the Rock Island Railway as a conductor. When Osborn was five years old, a torndado struck his father's train in Grinnel, Iowa, killing him and leaving Osborn, his mother and his brother to survive on their own. His mother remarried and the family, along with two additional children from his new stepfather, moved to North Tremont Street in Stuart. In 1887 he left school and went to sea, serving on ships in the Atlantic, the Arctic and the Caribbean.


Deignan enlisted in the United States Navy from his home state of Iowa, originally on December 7, 1894 (as per first Navy enlistment record). He served on numerous USN vessels between 1894 and 1896 and, having deserted from the USS Newark on May 6, 1896 (as per naval records maintained by the Military Record Center) then re-enlistment in 1898 (as per naval records maintained by the Military Record Center.) He was assigned as a Coxswain to the USS Merrimac (1898) during the Spanish–American War. The Merrimac had frequent problems with the steering and engines, and Deignan referred to it as "cranky". After a short time on the ship, he garnered a reputation as an able helmsman and was preferred when delivering coal to the other ships in the fleet, a task that could be difficult in a ship that was already hard to control.


When Rear Admiral William T. Sampson requested volunteers for an extremely dangerous mission, there were more than enough volunteers, but he chose Osborn as the helmsman. The mission was to sink Merrimac at the entrance to Santiago Harbor, Cuba in an effort to block it and pen the Spanish Navy in the harbor. Seven other members of the crew were also chosen for the assignment. While the crew was attempting to fulfill its mission, Spanish forces fired on the ship and, in the process, disabled the Merrimac's steering controls before the crew could complete their task.


The ship sank without obstructing navigation, but the crew was able to escape the ship before she went under. They were rescued by the Spanish and were taken as prisoners-of-war. A month later the Spanish fleet was destroyed at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba and the crewman were released. For his "extraordinary heroism" during the operation, Deignan was awarded the Medal of Honor.




In connection with the sinking of the U.S.S. Merrimac at the entrance to the harbor of Santiago de Cuba, 2 June 1898. Despite heavy fire from the Spanish batteries, Deignan displayed extraordinary heroism throughout this operation.



Whispering Pines, L-1165












Osborn Warren Deignan