Deeds of Valor–Spanish-American War Medal of Honor Recipient: Bradford New Hampshire’s Walter Scott West (1872-1943)

Walter Scott West charcoalHe was born Scott Walter West, but used the name Walter Scott West when he enlisted for service in Company C, United States Marine Corp., assigned to the U.S.S. Marblehead (C-11). His native town was Bradford, New Hampshire, though his parents had moved to Stoddard by the time he was 7 years old, and afterwards to Hillsborough, NH (the town). So it seems several places may like to “claim” him.

I chose to write about him, as representative of the many New Hampshire participants in the Spanish-American War.  I had no idea until I researched his family tree, that I am related to him–a fifth cousin, three time removed, through his paternal grandmother, Mary Runnels Ayer (who married Leonard West).

Walter Scott West was the only U.S. Marine from New Hampshire to receive the medal of honor until one was presented to Jehd Colby Barker of Franklin, New Hampshire. Lance Corporal Barker lost his life on 21 September 1967 in Vietnam and was awarded the medal posthumously.

Little is known of Walter Scott West’s early life and education, except that in the 1940 United States Census he is listed as finishing 8th grade. At age 26 he had enlisted in the regular U.S. naval service (May 11, 1897) a year before the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, and probably participated in the ship’s training during that year when it was assigned to the North Atlantic Station, cruising along the east coast and Caribbean.

From book "Deeds of valor; how America's heroes won the medal of honor, etc, " by Walter F. Beyer, 1901

From book “Deeds of valor; how America’s heroes won the medal of honor, etc, ” by Walter F. Beyer, 1901

When the Spanish-American war was announced, the ship was stationed at Key West Florida but it immediately left for Havana, and then later to Cienfuegos. The ship shelled enemy vessels and buildings.

Then, on 11 May 1898, a group of men, navy sailors and marines from the ships, Marblehead and Nashville,  were chosen to cut the communication cable in Cienfuegos Bay. Here is what happened according to “The History of Hillsborough, New Hampshire,” 1735-1921, v.1, by George Waldo Browne, pp 495-496:

“With its long line of military heroes and leaders belongs the records of Walter Scott West, a young man from Hillsborough who enlisted in the regular U.S. naval service May 11, 1897, just before the declaration of war with Spain. He had been in the service one year, and was one of the crew on the battleship, “Marblehead” then lying off Cienfuegos, Cuba. The order had come for a party of regulars to be dispatched in the boat to cut the cables at this harbor, and by doing so destroy communication from this place. One was killed.

It was an extremely hazardous undertaking, and only a certain number of picked men were to be allowed to make the venture, and these with a full realization of the danger they were incurring. Only volunteers were to be taken. Young West was among these, but the quota was filled before he was reached. Disappointed he quickly resolved that he would be one of the party in spite of all opposition.

Watching for his opportunity he leaped overboard as the boat containing his comrades was putting away from the battleship. It was a desperate chance, but the young sailor had weight all this and taken his life in his hand.

Fortunately he was a good swimmer, but he was nearly spent with buffeting the waves before he was discovered by the boat’s crew. Here was an unlooked for dilemma on the part of the brave adventurers approaching the raking fire of the enemy. But it seemed too much like savagery not to save the life of the swimmer making a determined effort to reach them. The boat lay to and the nearly exhausted sailor was picked up.
The little craft, with its brave seamen, now resumed its hazardous undertaking, and, in spite of the deadly hail of the enemy, accomplished its daring purpose. The cable was cut and communication between this port and the outside world ended for the time. One of the brave little band lost his life.

For his part in this deed of valor Mr. West received a medal of vote of the United States Congress, “for heroism and gallantry when under fire.” Nor did his service to his country end her, for Seaman West was engaged in at least two further encounters where he displayed unusual bravery, and before the close of the wear he was voted a second medal for deeds of valor at Guantanimo and at Manzanillo. He was also given a medal for marksmanship.

Upon the surrender of Admiral Cevera, in command of the Spanish forces in Santiago on July 3, 1898, Walter Scott West was among those delegated to be keepers over the illustrious prisoner while he was detained at Portsmouth, N.H.”ruin of spanish fleet

Another version of the story is told in the book, “Deeds of valor; how America’s heroes won the medal of honor; personal reminiscences and records of officers and enlisted men who were awarded the congressional medal of honor for most conspicuous acts of bravery in battle. Combined with an abridged history of our country’s wars,” by Walter F. Beyer, 1901 (as shown below)

“Cutting the cables at Cienfuegos marked another of the events of the Spanish-American War which cannot be overlooked, if only for the conditions under which they were carried out. It occurred on May 11th, in the early stage of the war, and was one of the most perilous and exciting of the undertakings. The men were obliged to do this work in small boats, and were constantly under the fire of the Spaniards. The men were comparatively easy marks for the bullets, and but for the eventual protections by the Nashville and Marblehead to which the men belonged, there can be little doubt that none of them would have been spared to tell the tale.

The Marblehead and Nashville had been sent to do blockade duty on the south side of Cuba, and since the capture of the Bonaventure and Argananta, there was nothing to occupy the time of the men on board either ship, and listless days hung heavily upon them. Consequently, when orders were received to cut the Spanish cables, there was delight on board the blockaders particularly among those who were to do the work.
Captain B. H. McCalla, of the Marblehead, the senior officer, requested the Nashville to prepare and steam and a sailing launch to guard the men while they were cutting the cables. The Marblehead also furnished launches, and marines were put on board armed with rifles, revolvers and cutlasses to act as a guard.

At five o’clock in the morning of the 11th everything was in readiness and the boats were lowered. Among those who participated in the expedition were a blacksmith and a carpenter’s mate from both the Marblehead and the Nashville. Lieutenant McR Winslow was in command of the expedition. Austin J. Durney, the blacksmith of the Nashville, who participated in this dangerous expedition and who, with all the others of the boat’s crew, was awarded the Medal of Honor for this work, describes the affair entertainingly as follows:
“Cable cutting was something new to all of us and I did not know just how to manage it. To tell the truth, I didn’t have the faintest idea of the work. To be prepared for all emergencies we equipped ourselves with every possible tool that suggested itself to us, and thus we took along chisels, hammers, axes, saws, etc. As soon as I got hold of the cable I discovered that the only practical tool was a hack-saw, such as is used in any machine shop. We went to within about ten or fifteen yards of the shore before we could get hold of the cable. We had to search for it, and pull it up with grappling irons. It was then pulled over one of the small boats and severed by the hack-saw. The task was difficult, as a rough sea was running. When the cable was cut the shore end was dropped overboard and one of the boats of the Marblehead took the other end out to sea, where it was again cut and flung overboard, thus preventing its being picked up by the enemy and repaired. A second cable was raised close to the shore and likewise cut twice.

“The Spaniards at first did not bother us, they evidently believing that we intended going ashore. But as our object became apparent, and we began cutting the cable, the enemy commenced to rain bullets down upon us. Our marines returned the fire with a will, but the Spaniards had the advantage. They were posted on a cliff and kept out of sight of our men. Only now and then we would see one of them. This was when they were trying to get our range. Nevertheless, most of their firing went over our men. A more effective fire, however, was delivered from a lighthouse close to the shore. We did not expect that the Spaniards would use it as a blind and a fortification, or we would have first destroyed it. But we were determined to get even, and soon after the expedition the building was leveled to the ground.

“The enemy’s fire began to have a deadly effect after the cable was cut and we were returning to our ships, for the father away we got from shore, the more accurate was their fire.
It was then that First Lieutenant Albert C. Dillingham, having taken command of the Nashville, brought her between the returning crews and the shore to save us from destruction; but he undertook no small risk, as the shore was full of ricks that projected almost out of the water. Indeed, had it not been for this the small boats would not have been used for the expedition.      Thus was the perilous task completed.

While the cable was being cut Captain Maynard of the Nashville was wounded. Private Patrick Regan died of wounds, and Private Herman Kuchneister was wounded severely through the jaw.

All medal of honor winners cable cutting

Medal of Honor awarded to Marines, Navy and Coast Guard.

Medal of Honor awarded to Marines, Navy and Coast Guard.

Along with the other members of the Nashville and Marblehead ship’s crew (who had participated in the cable cutting), William Scott West received the Medal of Honor. [see list above].

MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT: WEST, WALTER SCOTT. Rank and organization: Private, U.S. Marine Corps. Born: 13 March 1872, Bradford, N.H. Accredited to: New Hampshire. G.O. No.: 521, 7 July 1899. Citation: On board the U.S.S. Marblehead during the operation of cutting the cable leading from Cienfuegos, Cuba, 11 May 1898. Facing the heavy fire of the enemy, West displayed extraordinary bravery and coolness throughout this action.


William Scott West‘s muster out (discharge) from the military occurred on 6 Feb 1899.  He soon transitioned to a regular life, and he married 2 September 1900 in Henniker NH to Minnie B. Gregg. He moved several times during his life and had several careers.  In 1910 he had a “Tea and Coffee Shop” in Hillsborough, NH. Between 1917-1920 he was managing a similar shop, Grand Union Tea Co., located at 171 Broadway in Lawrence MA..  His home address at that time was 3 Congress Street in Lawrence.  In 1930 he was living in Foxborough MA, working as a real estate dealer.  In 1938 the Boston directory shows him as a transportation officer for the Massachusetts State House.  And finally in 1940 he was living in Boston MA, a policeman on the state police force. He had two children, sons Hugh and Verne.  Details of his family tree are shown in the genealogy below.

===GENEALOGY of Scott William West aka WILLIAM SCOTT WEST===

DNA shows that Elijah West descendants are related to Edward West (W31, a member of West Family Group 8) from Edward West, who was christened 3 Sep 1643 in St. Giles, Cripplegate, London, England, and died before 1677 in New Castle, Rockingham, New Hampshire. He married Martha WALTON in 1662 in Rockingham, NH.

Elijah West, b. 25 July 1773 Hopkinton NH, d. 2 March 1817 in Bradford NH; He m. 6 August 1795 in Merrmimack, Hillsborough Co. NH to Polly “Sally” Kendall, daughter of Timothy & Elizabeth (Lund) Kendall . She was b. 1776-1778 in Litchfield NH, and d. 13 Dec 1867 in Merrimack Co. NH. She m2d) to James Presby. He was b. 1761 and d. 1837. She had at least 3 children by her 2nd husband: Mason, Erastus Lund and Henry Lyman. Most of this family is buried at Presby Cemetery, Bradford NH. Polly/Sally is mentioned in the will of her grandfather, James Walker, an original settler of Bedford NH. “I give and bequeath to my granddaughter Sally Kendel, daughter of Timothy Kendel of Lytchfield, County of Hillsboro in the State of New Hampshire, the sum of three pounds lawful money to be paid her when she comes to the age of twenty one years.” The will was probated on 1 Aug 1786.  In 1800 an Elijah West is shown living in Hopkinton NH.  It is possible that this is Elijah West’s father Elijah, but that is yet unproven. In 1810 the census shows an Elijah West living in Bradford NH.
Children of Elijah & Polly (Kendall) West:
1. Elizabeth K. West, b. 6 Jan 1796 Bradford NH, d. 7 May 1882; m. Joseph Shattuck
2. Polly “Mary” West, b. 13 June 1798 Bradford NH; m. James Presbury
3. Timothy K. West, b. 4 March 1800 Bradford NH; d. 16 March 1886; m. Elizabeth Fuller
4. John West, b. 4 June 1802 Bradford NH; d. 1 Feb 1817 Bradford NH
5. Sally West, b. 9 August 1805 Bradford NH, d. 29 June 1817 Bradford NH
6. Emily L. West, b. 15 Aug 1808 in Bradford NH; m. Joshua Wright.
7. +Leonard West, b. 30 June 1811 Bradford NH, d. 6 July 1859 Bradford NH, age 48
8. Elijah West, b. 17 Sep 1813 Bradford NH; m. Jane Albe
9. Daniel F. West, b. –, d. 22 April 1825 Bradford NH

Leonard West, son of Elijah & Polly (Kendall) Presby, b 30 June 1811, d 6 July 1859 in Bradford NH; m. 1834 to Mary Runnels Ayer, daughter of William and Abigail “Nabby” (Eaton) Ayer, granddau of William & Mary (Runnels) Ayer, and great-grand dau of Ebenezer & Abigail (Sollis) Runnels. She b. 17 May 1811 in Barnstead, Belknap Co. NH and d 31 Jan 1891 in Bradford, Merrimack Co. NH. He was a blacksmith. In 1854 appointed Postmaster. [*Mary Runnels Ayer is my 3rd cousin 5x removed]
1850 US Census > NH > Hillsborough > Hillsborough
Leonard West M 39 NH
Mary R. West F 39 NH
Delia A. West F 15 NH
William K. West M 12 NH
Frank E. West M 5 NH
Ann Wilder F 28 NH
Children of Leonard & Mary R. (Ayer) West:
1. Delia Ann West, b abt 1835 NH; d. 6 April 1892 Winchendon, MA; m1) by 1853 to Richard G. Cross. He was b. 1830 and d. 10 Feb 1861. She m2d) — Fletcher.
2. Martin West, prob twin, b. 1838, d. 16 Aug 1838 Merrimack Co. NH
3. +William K. West, b 8 July 1838 Bradford NH
4. Mary G. West, b. 1844, d. 4 Oct 1844 Bradford NH
3. Almon Frank Eaton “Frank E.” West, b. abt 1845/46 NH, d. 21 April 1884 in Bradford NH; served during the Civil War 7th NH Infantry, Company E., Discharged 6 Jan 1863 on disability.

William K. West, son of Leonard & Mary R. (Ayer) West, b 8 July 1838 Bradford NH, d 1 October 1892 in Hillsborough NH of dropsy; m. 25 August 1865 in Bradford, Merrimack Co. NH to Ella F. “Ellin” “Nellie” Nichols, dau of Edwin & Almira (Steward) Nichols. She b. 23 June 1848 in Bradford NH, d 1 October 1922 in Bradford NH. She is buried in Presbury Cemetery, Bradford NH. Occupation yeoman on his son William’s birth record; Blacksmith. He served in the union army during the Civil war, Co. B Third NH Infantry Regiment (wagon), and he also served for 3 months in 1861 in the 1st NH Infantry, Company D. He filed for an invalid pension 15 Dec 1886, and after his death his widow received it.
1880 US Census > NH > Cheshire > Stoddard
West, William K W M 42 Blacksmith NH NH NH
West, Nellie F W F 32 wife keeping House NH NH NH
West, Willie F. W M 14 son farm hand NH
West, Leonard, W M 11 son at home NH
West, Fred D W M 10 son at home NH
West, Scott W., W M 7 son NH
West, Nellie M W F 4 daughter NH
West Augenette M W F 2 dau
Children of William K. & Ella F. (Nichols) West:
1. William “Willie” F. West, b July 1866 NH prob baptized 31 March 1867; d. 7 January 1907 in Hillsborough NH, of typhoid fever, formerly living Manchester NH; buried Maple Ave cemetery Hillsborough NH; he m. 25 June 1885 in NH to Hattie G. Crooker, dau of Andew J. Crooker
2. Leonard West, b. 2 June 1869 Bradford NH; He m1) 11 May 1894 in Boston MA to Lillian Foster, dau of Henry & Emma (Hosley) Foster; He m2d) 15 Sep 1909 in Wakefield MA to Carrie Gray-Weir, dau of Frederick & Annie (Curnyn) Gray.
3. Fred Douglas West, b. 8 October 1870 Bradford NH, d. 2 Sep 1932 Manchester NH; m. 20 Sep 1900 in Woburn MA to Eva Dell Walker, dau of John & Mary (Crans) Walker.
4. +William Scott “Scott W.” West, b. 13 March 1872 Bradford NH
5. Mabel Nellie West, b. c1875 E. Washington Sullivan Co. NH; m. 8 March 1892 in Antrim NH to Wilbur F. Proctor, son of Herman & Harriet (Whittemore) Proctor.
6. Annie Jennette “Anjenett M.” West, b 8 Sep 1877 Francestown, NH; d. 17 Sep 1884 in Stoddard NH
7. Solomon B. West, b. 18 Aug 1878 Concord NH

William Scott West [this story is about him, see photographs and biography at top of page] aka Scott William, son of William K. & Ella F. (Nichols) West, born 13 March 1872, Bradford, NH, d. 14 Sep 1943. He is buried at Rock Hill Cemetery, Foxboro, Norfolk Co. MA. He married 2 September 1900 in Henniker NH to Minnie B. Gregg, daughter of Benjamin F. Gregg. She was b 12 April 1880 in NH and d. November 1967 in Norfolk Co. MA. In the 1900 census (before his marriage) he is shown lodging in Hillsborough NH, a laborer in a hosiery mill. By 1910 he and his wife were running a Tea & Coffee Shop. In 1938 he is living in Boston, a transportation officer for the state house.
1910 US Census > NH > Hillsborough > Hillsborough > Myrtle St.
West, Walter S. Head M W 36 married 1x 10 yrs NH NH NH Proprietor Teas & Coffee
West, Minnie B wife F W 30 m1x 10 yrs 2 ch 2 living NH NH NH
West, Hugh E. son M W 7 single NH NH NH
West, Verne W. son M W 5/12 single NH NH NH
McNiff Nellie lodger F W 20 single MA MA MA teacher public school
Palmer, Annie Lodger F W 25 single NH NH NH teacher public school
1920 US Census > MA > Essex > Lawrence Ward 5 > 109 Perry Avenue
West, Walter S> Head M W 45 married NH NH NH manager tea store
West, Minnie B Head F W 40 married MA NH NH
West, Hugh E. son M W 17 single NH
West, Verne W. son M W 10 single NH
Colby, Gertrude W niece-in-law F W 22 single NH, salesgirl candy store
1930 US Census > MA > Norfolk > Foxborough > 270 Central Street
West, Walter S Head M W 57 married at age 27 NH NH NH Dealer, Real Estate
West, Minnie B. wife F W 50 married at age 20 NH NH NH
West, Verne W. son M W 20 single NH NH NH Carpenter, building
McKinnon, William J. Boarder M W 12 single MA MA MA no occupation
1940 US Census > MA > Suffolk > Boston > 144 Huntington Avenue
West, Walter S. head M W 67 married 8 yrs school, NH policeman, state police
West, Minnie B wife F W 59 married h-4 school NH
Frazier, Simon lodger M W 59 8 MA
Porter, Winston C lodger M W 44 single ho-4 Canada, formerly Milton
Valmaine, Augustus — M W 71 widow 8r Canada
Children of William S. & Minnie B. (Gregg) West:
1. Hugh E. West, b 28 Dec 1902 NH; d. 2 Aug 1980; buried Rock Hill Cemetery, Foxboro MA. At one time town clerk of Foxboro MA.
2. Verne William West, b. 6 Nov 1909 Hillsboro NH. Wool Broker, member of Blue Hill Lodge (Masonic) Initiated 5 Feb 1952. Diminished 4-April 1967. Died 27 April 1979 in Norwood MA. He had finished 2 years of college and married Frances Pulsifer Crocker, dau of Benton Pusifer & Frances Louise (Fairbank) Crocker. She was b. 27 May 1910 in Foxborough, Norfolk, Massachusetts. At his death he was survived by his wife; two sons: William F. West of Richmond VA and Robert S. West of Sharon MA.; and a daughter Mrs. Janet (West) Valley, of West Newbury MA.


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3 Responses to Deeds of Valor–Spanish-American War Medal of Honor Recipient: Bradford New Hampshire’s Walter Scott West (1872-1943)

  1. Sean Brown says:

    I am researching Medal of Honor recipients and I appreciate the information. I am curious–you never specified the source of the charcoal of William West.

    Please let me know. Thank you.

  2. Pingback: New Hampshire’s 2016 Memorial Day | Cow Hampshire

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