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James Abner Sherman was born on September 27, 1845 in Liverpool, England and moved with his parents to United in 1846. Illinois archival records reveal the family was residing in Chicago, Illinois from 1846 through 1872 and against his parents wishes, under the assumed name of Thomas Haynes, James enlisted as a seaman in the U.S. Navy on June 28, 1864 at Cincinnati, Ohio; three months before turning 19 years of age. His enlistment it seems was spent aboard the USS “Grampus”. The USS “Grampus” was a side-wheel steamer 180 feet long, 27 feet wide and the second ship of the United States Navy to bear that name. Originally named the “Ion”, she was purchased by Rear Admiral D.D. Porter for the U.S. Navy on  July 22, 1863, at Cincinnati, Ohio, for (US) $9,750 and was stationed at Cincinnati, Ohio; used as a receiving ship for the Mississippi Squadron. By  November 14, 1863, with Acting Master Elijah Sells in command, she was recognized as a "nice little receiving vessel in first-rate order," but contained no furnishings or weapons other than ten cutlasses and revolvers. With Acting Ensign C.W. Litherbury in command, Grampus remained at Cincinnati, Ohio, assisting in the stripping of ships for conversion to gunboats and effecting their delivery to fleet staging points for the Mississippi Squadron; principally at Cairo, Illinois, and Mound City, Illinois.

From records of the Department of the Navy, provided to the U.S. Pension Board some years later however, it appears James used his alias Thomas Haynes to cover his lying about his age; which he gave as being 23 at the time of his enlistment.

Sherman served on the U.S.S. “Grampus” as a seaman, until June 30, 1864, later serving aboard the U.S.S. “Great Western”, another receiving ship, where he remained until April 30, 1865.  It was during his stay aboard the “Great Western” that he was promoted to a Paymasters Steward. It is said he once claimed to have also served aboard the USS “Siren”, but there are no records to substantiate that.  James  was discharged at Cairo, Illinois on August 2, 1865 and after the war returned to Chicago, Illinois where he joined the “Grand Army of the Republic” in 1867.

Records reveal in 1875 he was living in New York, then served in the merchant marine for a couple of years, ending up in England; from where he sailed to Australia, in 1876.   Arriving in the state of Victoria, Australia, James settled down in Sale, Victoria where he met Margaret Doyle, who also lived in Sale.   They got on well together and on August 6, 1884 they were married at Warragul, Victoria.  They had one child in 1885 who died at a very young age, then had 2 sons and a daughter; John Lincoln who was born in 1887, Allan born in 1894 and Cesarea Helen Marie born in 1902.

James’s marriage certificate recorded that James declared he was a widower and earned a living as a commercial traveler; what we today would call a traveling salesman.   Sherman applied for and was granted a disability pension of $12 a month, which was increased to $20 a month in 1912 when he as living in Mirboo North, Gippsland, Victoria.   At that time James was a gold prospector. He finally left the goldfields and took employment as a watchman, due largely to his age and physical condition.

James Abner Sherman died in the Melbourne hospital in Victoria at the age of 71, on January 15, 1916 and was laid to rest in the Coburg Cemetery, in the Roman Catholic section, Compartment E, Grave No. 330; on January 17, 1916.   In 1992 a bronze plaque was supplied by the American Veterans Administration in Washington D.C. and placed on his grave to commemorate his military service to the United States.   After his death, his wife Helen was awarded a Widow’s Pension, which she received until her death in 1947.


Charles W. Sherman

company F, 116th. New York Infantry Regiment

#4323 General Section 21

Waverley Cemetery, Sydney, New South Wales.

Phone courtesy Royal Australian Historical Society Library


Birth, Marriage and Death Records, Victoria

Coburg Cemetery Records

 Department of the Navy, Washington, D.C.

 “Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships”, 1991

 Grand Army of the Republic, Illinois

 National Archives, Washington, D.C.

 Sons of Union Veterans, Illinois

 U.S. Pension documents, Washington, D.C.


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