Amos Bradley receives the Medal of Honor on April 3, 1863.

  • By Duane Colt Denfeld, Ph.D.
  • Posted 4/03/2015
  • Essay 11040
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On April 3, 1863, Amos Bradley (1837-1894) receives the Medal of Honor. The future resident of Spokane is a "landsman" (a recruit seaman) in the Union Navy. He is awarded the medal for his valor on April 24, 1862. On that day he had duties at the wheel of the Union gunboat USS Varuna. The Varuna came under heavy fire and battled two Confederate warships, which rammed the Union ship until it sank. While his ship was under fire and sinking, Landsman Bradley remained at his post and with the rest of the crew continued to fight. The Medal of Honor citation recalls his valor at the attacks at Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip, New Orleans, and his heroism while the Varuna was under attack and sinking.   

Landsman Bradley

Amos Bradley was born in Dansville, New York, to a prominent family.  His father owned a paper mill and served as mayor.

On July 17, 1861, Bradley enlisted in the Union Navy, serving as a landsman on the gunboat USS Varuna. The vessel was armed with eight-inch guns.

On April 24, 1862 the USS Varuna fought the Confederate steamer CSS Governor Moore (former Charles Morgan) and was rammed by it and by the CSS Stonewall Jackson. During the battle Landsman Amos Bradley was stationed at the wheel. He remained at the wheel despite heavy gunfire raking the deck. He continued his duties while the USS Varuna fell to the ramming and repeated shell damage. The ship continued to fight as it sank.

Landsman Bradley received the Medal of Honor for his valor at the attacks at Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip, New Orleans, and at the battle with the confederate warships.

The Medal of Honor was awarded on April 3, 1863. He was discharged on September 12, 1864. 

After the War

Following the Civil War, Bradley returned home to Dansville, New York, and became a farmer. By 1870 he had moved to Deer Lodge, Montana, and worked as a stage driver with a mining company there. He moved on to San Luis Obispo, California, still driving a stage. His wife Eliza died in San Luis Obispo in 1876. He remarried there in 1880 and they moved to Shasta, California, where he went to work with a mining company driving a company stage.  

In 1883 he relocated to Spokane and continued working as a stage driver. Late in life he became a "capitalist." He lived in Spokane's Ross Parks district and died on June 9, 1894. Amos Bradley was buried in Greenwood Memorial Terrace Cemetery.  

Honoring a Hero

In 2009, more than 100 years later, a Department of Veterans Affairs survey of Medal of Honor burial locations discovered that his grave lacked the appropriate gravestone. The department then placed a Medal of Honor gravestone at his grave.

Amos Bradley became the fourth Medal of Honor recognized burial in the Spokane area. Also in the Greenwood Memorial Terrace Cemetery are the graves of Platoon Sergeant Bruce Grandstaff (1934-1967) and Private First Class Joe Mann (1922-1944). Located in Spokane’s Fairmont Cemetery is Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sergeant Jesse Drowley (1919-1996).

Sources: United States Senate Committee On Veterans Affairs, Medal of Honor Recipients, 1863-1973 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1973);  Stefanie Pettit, "Civil War veteran buried in Spokane," The Spokesman-Review, November 11, 2010 (

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