George W. Leland was born in Savannah, Georgia in 1834 and joined the Union Navy when the Civil War broke out. This in itself would have made him unusual as the Confederate sentiment would have run high in Savannah at the outbreak of hostilities.
After the end of the War he moved to Maine. The image to the left has been identified as him from a group photo of the crew of the Lehigh and is the only known image.
Serving on board the U.S.S. Lehigh, Charleston Harbor, 16 November 1863, during the hazardous task, of freeing the Lehigh, which had grounded, and was under heavy enemy fire from Fort Moultrie. Rowing the small boat which was used in the hazardous task of transferring hawsers from the Lehigh to the Nahant, Leland twice succeeded in making the trip, only to find that each had been in vain when the hawsers were cut by enemy fire and chaffing.
Rank: Gunner’s Mate
Organization: U.S. Navy
Born 1834, Savannah, Georgia March 18, 1880
Buried: Lewiston, Maine
Accredited To: Georgia
Place / Date: November 16, 1863, Charleston, South Carolina
From Military Wiki additional details were given on the Medal of Honor event.
“On November 16, 1863, Lehigh was in Charleston Harbor providing support for Union troops on shore when the ship ran aground on a sand bar and came under heavy fire from Fort Moultrie. Despite intense Confederate artillery fire, Leland and fellow sailor Coxswain Thomas Irving rowed a small boat trailing a hawser from Lehigh to another Union ironclad, the USS Nahant. Both times, the cable snapped due to friction and hostile fire. Officers were about to give an “abandon ship” order when three more sailors, Landsman Frank S. Gile, Landsman William Williams, and Seaman Horatio Nelson Young, volunteered to make one more attempt. This last effort was successful, and Nahant was able to tow Lehigh off the sandbar to safety. For this action, all five sailors involved in the operation were awarded the Medal of Honor on April 16, 1864.”
Shown here are the medals Gunner’s Mate George W. Leland earned during his career. They include:
He is buried in Lewiston, Maine with a simple standard military marble marker. The marker does denote his Medal of Honor status.