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William Sanderson was born around 1840 in South Shields, Durham, England to parents Thomas Crisp and Isabel Mason Sanderson. William Sanderson by profession was a mason prior to his service in the Civil War, also becoming a mariner by trade and when the War Between the States broke out William enlisted in the U.S. Navy aboard the Union Ship “North Carolina” on May 7, 1861; serving through July 12, 1861.  From July 12, 1861 through May 6, 1862, William served aboard two Union ships, the “Resolute” and the “Jacob Bell”, in the Potomac Flotilla.   In June the Potomac Flotilla, consisting of the U.S.S. “Resolute”, the U.S.S. “Thomas Freeborn” and the U.S.S. “Anacostia”, engaged Confederate batteries at Aquia Creek, Virginia. The Confederate Aquia Creek Batteries were shelled and all but one gun of the battery were  silenced. The U.S.S. “Resolute” also captured the schooner “Somerset”, at Breton's Bay, towed her close to the Virginia shore and burned her.  Then on July 7, 1861 the “Resolute” was responsible for picking up two mines in the Potomac River; meant for Union ships. William’s Pension Records reveal he at one time also served aboard the USS “Herbert”. William was discharged on May 6th, 1862.

On August 7, 1865 William took a wife, marrying 1865 married Isabella Jane Young in County Durham, England; which resulted in the birth of eight children. In 1876 William migrated to New Zealand with his wife and 4 sons aboard the “Jessie Osborne” where  further children were born in New Zealand. After arriving in New Zealand, William farmed at Mata, New Zealand,  near Mangapai. William continually suffered from an injury to his hip and leg, which he had had received as result of his service in the United States Navy.

As of 1898, William’s three youngest children were still at home and Sanderson submitted a pension claim for compensation during the month of June 1895, under claim number 27173, and as a result of that injury, a pension claim was first issued to him in 1896, while he was a resident of Mangapai, New Zealand. The Justice of the Peace signing his pension papers was Mr. J. M. Killen.  In 1903 the American Consul in Auckland, New Zealand wrote on his behalf to the Assistant Secretary of State in Washington D.C. seeking an exemption for him not to have to make the long trip from Mangapai to Whangarei in his frail condition, to collect his pension vouchers. In it he stated:-



Under the  date  of  April  7th,  I  have  a  letter  from William Sanderson, a United States Pensioner  whom  I  have  known for over five years as being in very feeble health. He says ‘Can you do anything for me that I might be spared the labour and  expense getting my voucher done;  I am not in  a  fit state to make such trips now. I am getting too shaky on my legs, and often suffer for some days after. I have only the one way I can do these trips, that  is  with  a  small  boat,  which takes at least  twelve  hours, and it might  prove much longer,  was  the weather to become stormy,  for it  gets too rough for a  small boat  to face it. My son  has  to pull me there and home again, that is if we cannot sail.


William Sanderson, Post Office, Mangapai


He may  state  that  he   goes  to  Whangarei  to  have  his  pension vouchers properly  properly prepared  by Mr. J.P. Killion,  a  Justice of the Peace  at  that  place. He  then  forwards  the  papers  to  me  and  I  mail  them  to  the  Pension  Agent   at  Washington.  I  am  perfectly   familiar  with   Mr.  Sanderson’s  signature and  as before remarked,  know him personally. He is an old United States war veteran, a very  nice man,  but  old  and  infirm,  and  if  some arrangement could be made to  relieve  him of the  long, laborious and  expensive  trip  that  he  is obliged to make four  times  a  year  in order  to  execute  his papers, I should consider it a humane  act.”


Due largely to the letter written on his behalf his pension, under number 24093, was was confirmed and increased and he continued to receive his pension vouchers without having to make the long trip, until his death on February 28, 1909. William Sanderson was buried in the Mangapai Cemetery and was survived by five sons, three daughters and his wife. His widow then successfully filed a claim which she received from the American government until her death on April 13, 1928 at Te Papapa, Auckland, New Zealand. Their daughter Kate married into the Carter family of Springfield, Mangapai, Whangarei, New Zealand.


“Civil War Naval Chronology 1861-1865”, Naval History Division, Navy Department

Harpers Weekly Magazine

New York Times

Lou Maingay, Whangarei Museum

National Archives, Auckland, PROBATES

New Zealand Deaths Index Folio 121, First Quarter

New Zealand Society Genealogists Cemetery Records, Microfiche 78

“The Carters of Springfield”, Mabel Carter

U. S. Consul Dispatches


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