More than 130 years after his death, a long-forgotten naval hero has finally received a well-deserved tribute by Canadian and U.S. military leaders in a ceremony in the historic cemetery at Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C.
The bravery of Captain-of-the-Hold Joseph Benjamin Noil, an African-Canadian who served in the United States Navy (USN) and who received the Congressional Medal of Honor for saving a shipmate from drowning in 1872, was largely forgotten for more than 130 years. In 2011, members of the Medal of Honor Historical Society of the United States, working with the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, discovered the grave upon which his name had been misspelled, and his Medal of Honor status omitted.
As a result of their research, Noil was honoured in the U.S. capital on April 29, 2016, by Rear-Admiral William Truelove, Commander of the Canadian Defence Liaison Staff (Washington)/Canadian Defence Attaché, as well as by representatives of the Canadian Embassy, the District of Columbia, members of the U.S. Coast Guard, Navy, Army, Marines, National Guard and veterans. A Medal of Honor headstone was unveiled to appropriately mark his final resting place.
Noil, born between 1839 and 1841 in what would become Liverpool, N.S., enlisted in the USN in New York in 1862. On the morning of December 26, 1872, he was a seaman in United States Ship (USS) Powhattan when, during a sleeting northwest gale, the ship’s boatswain fell overboard. According to the…