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Item Code: 88-136

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The following historic items were lent to the Melrose Museum in Melrose Mass. which was formerly Grant Post #4 by Mayo Dyer Hersey (August 30, 1886 – September 5, 1978) an American engineer, physicist working for several government agencies, and Professor at Brown University. He received the 1957 ASME medal, and the first Mayo D. Hersey award (1965) of Washington DC. The grouping includes the flag of the warship USS Metacomet, the Civil War service sword of Captain Nehemiah Mayo-Dyer and his Civil war sword belt.

THE SHIP: The second USS Metacomet was a wooden sidewheel steamer in the United States Navy during the American Civil War. The Metacomet was launched on 7 March 1863 and commissioned at New York on 4 January 1864 under the captaincy of Commander James E. Jouett. Metacomet joined the West Gulf Blockading Squadron in the blockade of Mobile Bay and captured British blockade runner Donegal on 6 June. On the 30th, Glasgow forced blockade runner Ivanhoe ashore near Fort Morgan, whose guns protected the ship from destruction by the Union. Unsuccessful in efforts to destroy her by long-range fire from Metacomet and Monongahela, Admiral David Farragut ordered a boat expedition to attempt the task. Under cover of darkness, boats from Metacomet and Kennebec slipped in close to shore and burned the steamer. Metacomet and 17 other ships entered Mobile Bay in a double column on 5 August 1864. In the ensuing battle Metacomet and other Union ships captured Confederate ram CSS Tennessee, a major threat to the blockaders at Mobile. Farragut's ships maintained a heavy fire on Fort Morgan and Confederate gunboats, capturing CSS SelmaMetacomet then rescued survivors from Union monitor Tecumseh, sunk by a Confederate torpedo. Six Metacomet sailors were awarded the Medal of Honor for helping rescue the crew of the Tecumseh. A further two sailors were awarded the medal for their conduct during the battle. Metacomet steamed to the Texas coast and captured blockade runner Susanna off Campeachy Banks on 28 November and took schooner Sea Witch and sloop Lilly off Galveston on 31 December 1864 and 6 January 1865, respectively. Mines, then called "torpedoes", remained a danger to shipping in waters near Mobile, so Metacomet returned there to drag the Bay and Blakely Channel from 9 March-12 April. Returning north after the end of the conflict.

THE MAN: Captain Nehimiah Mayo-Dyer (b.1836 d.1910): At the age of fourteen began the life of a sailor, and from that time on for six years was in the merchant service. During the winter of 1860-61 he joined the Fourth (Massachusetts) Battalion of Rifles garrisoning Fort Independence from May to July 29, 1861, the battalion in the meantime having been recruited to a full regiment, and mustered into the United States service, July 16, 1861, for three years, and designated as the Thirteenth Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteer Militia. Mr. Dyer was a member of Company A of that regiment, and a credit to Melrose, Mass., which town he had for several years made his home. In April 1862, Mr. Dyer was discharged by special order of the War Department, to accept an appointment as acting master's mate in the navy, and on May 2, 1862, he reported at the Charlestown navy-yard for instruction in gunnery.

Ordered to the "R. R. Cuyler" on July 7, 1862, he served in the East and West Gulf Squadrons; and on the night of May 17, 1863, with a boat's crew from that ship, burned the rebel schooner "Isabel," while aground under the walls of Fort Morgan, bringing off her crew and papers. For this he was promoted by Admiral Farragut to Acting Ensign, and appointed to command the "Eugenie," renamed the "Glasgow," engaged in blockade and dispatch duty. Promoted on January 12, 1864, for further faithful and meritorious service to Acting Master. In July he was assigned to the "Metacomet," and took part in August in the passage of the Mobile forts and capture of the rebel fleet, receiving in person the surrender of the " CSS Selma." In October he was ordered to the "Hartford," the flagship of Admiral Farragut. In the winter of 1864 and 1865, as commander of the "Rodolph," he co-operated with the forces under General Grasyer. The "Rodolph" was sunk by a torpedo on April 1, 1865, and on the 22d he was promoted to Acting Volunteer Lieutenant, and, after the surrender of the rebel fleet in the Tombigbee River in May, he commanded successively the "Black Diamond," the "Morgan," the "Elk," and the "Stockdale,".

After brief terms of command on other vessels he was ordered North in April 1866, to special duty in the Bureau of Navigation at Washington, D.C. His commission as Lieutenant in the regular navy was dated March 12, 1868. Joining the "Dacotah," South Pacific Squadron, at Valparaiso, August 27, 1868, he was commissioned December 18 as Lieutenant Commander. In September 1869, he was ordered to command of the "Cyanc," In March 1870, he was ordered to the "Pensacola" at San Francisco, and in July to the "Ossipee" on a cruise to the coast of Lower California and Mexico. It was while on this cruise, on the morning after a hurricane that he leaped into the water and rescued from drowning a man. For this Lieutenant Commander Dyer was specially commended by the Secretary of the Navy and he received the silver medal of the Massachusetts Humane Society. Over the next 27 years he had several commands and promotions. He was commissioned Captain July 13, 1897, and in August 1897, was ordered to the command of the "Philadelphia," flagship of Admiral Miller, on the Pacific Station, then lying at Honolulu. In October 1897, he put the "Philadelphia" out of commission at Mare Island, her officers and crew being transferred to the "Baltimore," which vessel was assigned as the flagship of Admiral Miller in place of the "Philadelphia."

On February 15, 1898, the battleship "Maine," United States Navy, was blown up in Havana Harbor, and on March 25 the official report said the "Maine" was destroyed by a mine. The cruiser "Baltimore," United States Navy, Captain Dyer commanding, then at Honolulu, was ordered, in anticipation of the beginning of hostilities between the United States and Spain, to proceed to Hong-Kong, with a supply of ammunition sent from San Francisco.  On the morning of May Day, at about 5.15, the batteries of Manila opened fire on Admiral Dewey's fleet, which was steaming up the bay, the flagship "Olympia" leading, closely followed by the "Baltimore," the "Raleigh," the "Concord," the "Petrel," and the "Boston." "Five times the fleet ranged up and down before Cavite, each vessel pouring in broadsides upon the Spanish fleet and the batteries of Cavite." The "Baltimore," standing high up out of the water, was the most conspicuous target for the Spanish gunners. One shot took effect, entering at the upper deck line and scattering splinters, which slightly wounded five or six men. At 7.30 signal was given for the fleet to draw off. At 10.45 the attack was renewed, the "Baltimore" leading by order of the Admiral. Nothing in the whole engagement, it is said, showed more nerve than the dash made by the "Baltimore" and the "Olympia" up to the Cavite batteries. Both ships steamed full speed straight for the fort. The firing from the "Baltimore" at close range was incessant for twenty minutes. Then the "Olympia" took her turn. At five minutes past one the white flag was seen flying from Cavite." On March 27, 1899, Captain Dyer was detached from the "Baltimore" and ordered home, being granted three months' sick leave. February 1, 1900, he was ordered to the Charlestown navy-yard."

THE FLAG: This iconic 13-star wool bunting "Boat Flag No.12" once measured 42 inches on the hoist by certainly 79 inches on the fly. It now measures 42 inches by 53 inches since 26 inches of the fly has been lost from "flying". The blue canton bears white cotton 6-inch stars are   in a 3-2-3-2-3 pattern. On the bottom 3 1/2-inch red strip 2 sections have been cut out as souvenirs no doubt by crew members upon the flag's retirement and the Metacomet's decommissioning. The flag is entirely hand sewn and the work was certainly done at a Navy Yard Depot. The heavy canvas sleeve has 2 heavily wiped eyes. Written in age faded black to brown ink on the sleeve in 1 1/4-inch-high stylized letters is "METACOMET". This flag has an ca. 1910 hand done museum tag which reads: "Ship's Flag From the U.S.S METACOMET. Flown at the BATTLE of MOBILE BAY AUGUST 5th, 1864. Entrusted to City of Melrose for Exhibition in her MEMORIAL HALL MELROSE MASSACHUSETTS". The Metacomet was a small vessel, and it is very possible that this was the only flag she hoisted during the battle. However, it is also possible that typically more than one flag was hoisted during the fight. Interestingly a couple of the stars on the obverse it was observed (before mounting on its linen support backing) showed burns suggesting they occurred in combat or from the burning soot of a ship's smokestack. Wear on the fly suggests that it was flying from one of her masts under speed a lot! The flag is amazingly solid and ready to hang framed or unframed.

THE SWORD AND BELT:  Mayo-Dyer's sword is a classic Civil War regulation Navy Model 1852 officer's saber. This higher quality example than usually seen came from Emerson & Silver of Trenton NJ. Both the grips and the scabbard are "fish skin" wrapped. The grips originally white are now a dirty gray and the scabbard was certainly a gray black; both show little loss. All the brass components are ornately engraved with nautical, floral and patriotic motifs. The 31-inch blade is deeply acid etched with patriotic and naval symbols (refer to our detailed photographs). The wonderful condition regulation Civil War era leather sword belt has a beautiful interlocking (male-female or tongue in wreath) naval officer's buckle of the finest manufacture. The original 2 leather hangers and brass clips are intact. Glued inside the belt is a neatly penned, but faded, label which I believe is in Mayo Dyer Hersey's hand which reads: "Sword, Scabbard & Belt of Capt. N. Mayo Dyer, U.S.N. Entrusted to City of Melrose.".

Please find photos of The Metacomet and then master's mate Dyer in 1861; certainly, the sword here offered is on the table.

This grouping (flag, sword and belt) is of the greatest historical importance and worthy of enshrinement in a museum.  [pe] [ph:L]






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