I’ve seen recent calls to improve education in Manx schools on the issue of slavery. I hope that such educational challenges will include educating young people about the pride that the British and Manx people can take in their predecessor’s early efforts to abolish slavery. Slavery was a curse across almost every civilization in human history, and the people of these Isles led the drive to reduce it from our planet.

More specifically, however, we should educate our community about a true Manx hero – a man who literally won America’s highest honour, the Medal of Honor, for his service in the American war against slavery.

William Garrett

William Garrett was born in Braddan on the Isle of Man. There is some doubt about when he was born, with some sites claiming he was born on 6 February 1820 and other sites saying he was born in 1842. Either way, there is no doubt about what he won the Medal of Honor for – his bravery and heroism in the US Civil War.

His 1865 Medal of Honor citation reads:

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Sergeant William Garrett, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism on 16 December 1864, while serving with Company G, 41st Ohio Infantry, in action at Nashville, Tennessee. With several companions Sergeant Garrett dashed forward, the first to enter the enemy’s works, taking possession of four pieces of artillery and captured the flag of the 13th Mississippi Infantry (Confederate States of America).

Medal of Honor Citation for William Garrett

He died on 29 December 1916, and is now buried at Leavenworth National Cemetery in Kansas, with five other Medal of Honor recipients buried at the cemetery.

This Manx-born man was literally awarded America’s highest honour by Abraham Lincoln for his service in the literal war against slavery. We should honour his service – and educate our children that their predecessors served nobly in the battle against human slavery.

William Garrett should be a Manx-American hero. Let us celebrate his service and educate our children about his heroism.

Grave photos by Joyce Nance-Woodcock

Research Notes

The Manx William Garrett appears to have moved from the Isle of Man to Ohio. Another man with a similar name, William Garrett Whitney, also won the Medal of Honor in the US Civil War. WG Whitney, however, was from Michigan, and did not receive his medal until 1895.

There is a Lt General William Garrett III who served as Deputy Commander of U.S. European Command until recently. Being the third William Garrett might indicate a connection to the Medal of Honor William Garrett, and is worth investigating further.

Update 17 August 2021: Clarified that he Garrett was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1865 for events that took place in December 1864. Also corrected some spelling: “Honor” is used in the medal name, and in quotes from the citation. “Honour” is used elsewhere.