Biography[edit | edit source]
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Wilson enlisted on October 15, 1861, at Chicago, Illinois. Assigned to the gunboat USS Carondelet—commanded by Commander Henry A. Walke—Seaman Wilson served during the operations which captured Forts Henry and Donelson in February 1862. He exhibited "conspicuous courage under fire" on the night of April 4, 1862, during the flotilla's passage down the Mississippi River past Island No. 10 to New Madrid. During the passage, Wilson—knee-deep in water and exposed to Confederate gunfire—stood on the bow of the gunboat as he took soundings and called out the depths of the river, enabling Carondelet to make the passage safely. His soundings were the only significant guide for the gunboat as it threaded its way through the tortuous channel. Walke's running the gauntlet turned out to be a crucial factor in the Union's capture of Island No. 10 and its later operations to the south.
Later that year, Wilson also served during the capture of Confederate batteries opposite Point Pleasant on April 6 and Confederate positions below Madrid on the April 7. He took part in the naval engagement above Fort Pillow on the 10th, in the Battle of Memphis on June 6, and in the action with the Confederate ram CSS Arkansas on July 15. On January 24, 1863, Walke officially commended Wilson "for the distinguished service." Wilson eventually attained the rank of boatswain.
Namesake[edit | edit source]
The USS Wilson (DD-408) (launched 1939, decommissioned 1946) was named for him.