LOCKPORT – Michael Huskey of Lockport won the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military decoration, in an obscure Civil War battle in a Mississippi bayou 150 years ago.
And the Congressional Medal of Honor Historical Society now is giving the Navy fireman some of the recognition he’s long been due.
Niagara County Historian Catherine Emerson told the County Legislature on Tuesday that the society has produced a cemetery marker for Huskey.
It is to be installed next to the graves of his parents in a ceremony at 6 p.m. Sept. 19 in St. Patrick’s Cemetery off Glenwood Avenue.
Huskey’s own final resting place is not known. He died of dysentery in October 1864 in a military hospital in Memphis, Tenn., and is believed to have been interred in a mass grave there.
“One of our goals was to get the Medal of Honor for his family or ourselves, since Niagara County is his family,” Emerson said.
But the Navy has declined to release Huskey’s unclaimed medal, because no proven descendant of his has come forward.
The County Historian’s Office believes it has located one, Elizabeth Russett of Ellenville, but Emerson said Russett has not responded to calls and letters urging her to sign the paperwork necessary to claim the award.
Russett is thought to be the granddaughter of the grandson of Huskey’s brother.
The cemetery marker is a gray rectangle of granite, inscribed, “In Memory of Michael Huskey, 1841-1864. Medal of Honor, Civil War, Fireman 1st Class US Navy, USS Carondelet.”
“The stone has a Medal of Honor insignia that you can’t just put on,” Emerson said.
The county paid $400 for the stone, and Lockport’s Navy-Marine Club paid to have a plaque attached, Emerson said. She added that Ronald Laubacker, manager of Glenwood Cemetery and the adjoining St. Patrick’s, waived an installation fee.
Though there are no details in the old reports of exactly what Huskey did in Steele’s Bayou, Miss., in March 1863, it is known that he volunteered for a rescue party that freed the USS Ivy, the flagship of a gunboat flotilla carrying the commanding officer of a detachment of ships that tried to force its way through the narrow waterway.
The boats became stuck, and Confederate infantry on the banks of the bayou riddled the boats with rifle fire until Union infantry arrived and drove them away. Huskey fought “gallantly,” the report said.
The medal was approved in April 1864 but never presented. In August 1864, Huskey fell ill and was hospitalized. He returned to his ship, but a few weeks later went back to the hospital, where he died.
Huskey’s name was included in an 1898 article in the New York Times that listed unclaimed Civil War military decorations. Emerson and her staff have been on the case since 2009.