You’ve Heard of the Irish Fighting in America’s Civil War, But What About the Brits?
Learning there are more than 520 Civil War veterans interred in mostly unmarked graves in the United Kingdom, the Monuments for UK Veterans of the American Civil War Association formed in Essex, England, in January 2022. Gina Denham, who co-founded the association with Darren Rawlings, discovered that her great-great-grandfather, George Denham, had served during the war on the Union ironclad Chickasaw and later in the 111th Pennsylvania Infantry before returning to his homeland. With aid from the U.S. government, Gina secured a headstone for her ancestor’s previously unmarked gravesite.
Through their research efforts, Denham and Rawlings were able to confirm the identify of another somewhat forgotten British Civil War veteran once interred in an unmarked grave in his homeland: Maurice Wagg (pictured above), a Medal of Honor recipient from Christchurch in southern England. Born July 23, 1840, Wagg was coxswain on USS Rhode Island , involved in the rescue of crewmembers on the famed USS Monitor as it foundered off the North Carolina coast on December 31, 1862.
Credited with saving the lives of four of Monitor ’s officers and 12 crewmen, Wagg would be promoted to the rank of acting master’s mate. He and six other Rhode Island sailors were the first individuals to receive the Medal of Honor for a non-combat action.
Wagg returned to England after the war and helped form the London Branch of American Civil War Veterans, attending its inaugural meeting on September 20, 1910. On June 22, 1926, Wagg died at his home in Poplar, East London. With the help of author/researcher Michael Hammerson, an official headstone for his grave was obtained in 2015. (Hammerson has helped uncover the identity of a number of other Civil War veterans and their final resting places.)
In its first year of operation, the association raised $3,500 for construction of a monument that will recognize the contributions of these Civil War vets from the United Kingdom—many, like Wagg and Denham, all but forgotten to history. To help, visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/themonumentalproject.