1837 – 1894
Medal of Honor – Civil War
Amos Bradley was born in 1837 in Dansville, New York, to John Chester and Elizabeth “Eliza” Bradley. He was the sixth of their ten children.
Amos enlisted in the U.S. Navy on July 13, 1861, in Boston, Massachusetts, as a “landsman,” the lowest naval rank indicating he had never served in the Navy before. By the spring of 1862, he was stationed aboard the USS Varuna, a 1300-ton, steam-powered vessel outfitted with powerful 8-inch guns and assigned to the Union blockade of Confederate ports.
The Civil War had been going on for a year, and the Navy was a vital element that contributed to the final victory of the Union, mostly by disrupting commerce to and from Confederate cities. The blockade of New Orleans, which was by far the largest city in the south, was an enormous asset in preventing Southern cotton and other goods from being sent to Europe. However, the Union needed control of the entire Mississippi River, and that meant occupying New Orleans.
Under the command of David G. Farragut, the Union fleet of forty-three ships, including the USS Varuna, waged an important battle against Forts Jackson and St. Philip on the lower Mississippi in an attempt to gain control of the city of New Orleans upriver. On April 24, 1862, Union ships entered the mouth of the Mississippi and began bombarding the forts. Leading the attack, the USS Varuna was struck by guns and rammed twice by the Confederate ship Morgan (renamed the Governor Moore). Landsman Bradley was at the helm of the Varuna during the battle and was instrumental in saving himself and many of his shipmates by maneuvering his ship close to the bank, where the crew continued firing until they had to abandon ship before it finally sank.
The Union Navy prevailed and New Orleans was taken and held throughout the rest of the Civil War. After the defeat of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863, the Mississippi River was permanently in Union hands. For his actions during the battle, Amos Bradley received one of the first Medals of Honor awarded by the United States.
His Medal of Honor citation reads:
Served on board the USS Varuna in one of the most responsible positions, during the attacks on Forts Jackson and St. Philip, Louisiana, and while in action against the rebel ship Morgan, 24 April 1862. Although guns were raking the decks from behind him, Landsman Bradley remained steadfast at the wheel throughout the thickest of the fight, continuing at his station and rendering service with the greatest courage until his ship, repeatedly holed and twice rammed by the rebel ship Morgan, was beached and sunk.
According to Civil War records, Bradley served in the U.S. Navy for three years and two months and was discharged as a “Seaman” on September 12, 1864. He later moved west, taking a job as a stage driver in Helena and Deer Lodge, Montana Territory. By 1880, he was living in Shasta County, California, age 45, a stage driver and married to a woman named Mary, age 37.
The couple is found in Spokane in 1885. The City Directories of 1889 to 1892 indicate that Amos and Mary were living in the Ross Park area, and he was working as a clerk for the A. P. Hotaling Co. in downtown Spokane. He died from emphysema on June 9, 1894. About two years later, Mary married Adolph Selheim. She died in 1903 and is buried in an unmarked grave next to Amos.