NORTH ANDOVER — With his ship stuck in the sand in range of Confederate guns, 16-year-old Frank Gile jumped into a rowboat in a last-ditch effort to save the ironclad.
For his actions, Gile, of North Andover, joined four other men to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for actions that ultimately saved the ship and the crew.
Union vessels kept Charleston under siege for most of the war. In September 1863, a Union attack on Fort Sumter failed, but boats remained in the harbor.
On the morning of November 16, 1863, the ironclad U.S.S. Lehigh moved closer to shore to provide cover for Union Army troops. But the boat got stuck on a sandbar, unable to sail away from the shore.
The ironclad then came under heavy fire from nearby Fort Moultrie. With the ship in a dangerous position, the crew worked to free the ship.
But numerous attempts to free the ship failed, and the officers were preparing to give an "abandon ship" order.
That's when Gile, a landsman, and two other men — Landsman William Williams and Seaman Horatio N. Young — volunteered to row a smaller boat to the U.S.S. Nahant.
Under heavy artillery fire, the men took line to the Nahant, another ironclad.
The Nahant was able to tow the Lehigh off of the sandbar and Gile, 16 at the time, went on to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Gunner's Mate George W. Leland and Coxswain Thomas Irving also received Congressional Medals of Honor for actions that day.
Gile went on to serve on three other ships and then served in the army after the war ended. Gile had seven children, dying in 1898 in North Andover.
The Gile family went on to serve the U.S. many times in battle.
A few of Gile's sons served in World War I, and his grandsons Joseph and Raymond served in World War II and the Korean War, respectively.
Joseph Gile, who earned the Purple Heart for service in North Africa and Italy, owned Joe's Bungalow in Lawrence and died in 2007. Constance Gile, 76, of Salem, N.H., described her late husband as "a patriot."
"He was very proud that his grandfather was a part of history," said Gile, who provided a copy Frank Gile's 1898 obituary in the Andover Townsman. Constance Gile also provided many details of the Frank Gile's service.
Joseph Gile was also a Gold Star father. Gile's son Joseph T. Gile Jr., a Marine, died in the Vietnam War in 1966.
Frank Gile and his grandson, Joseph Gile, are both buried in Ridgewood Cemetery, 177 Salem Street in North Andover.
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