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First Name: William

Last Name: Anthony

Birthplace: Albany, NY, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Marines (present)

Date of Birth: 27 October 1853

Date of Death: 24 November 1899

Rank: Sergeant Major

Years Served:
William Anthony
'The Nation's Hero'


William Anthony
Sergeant Major, U.S. Marine Corps

William Anthony was born on 27 October 1853 in Albany, NY.

Anthony enlisted in the U.S. Army on 1 February 1875 and served two five-year enlistments before joining the U.S. Marine Corps at Brooklyn, NY, on 18 July 1885. He served ashore (at the New York Navy Yard) and afloat (in the armored cruiser USS Brooklyn) before reporting for duty on 12 May 1897 in the Marine guard of the battleship USS Maine.

An explosion rocked Maine as she lay at anchor in Havana Harbor on the night of 15 February 1898. As she began to settle, Private Anthony, who was on watch at the time, hastened immediately forward toward the Captain's cabin to inform him of the event. In the darkness, the Marine bumped into Captain Charles D. Sigsbee (whom Anthony served as orderly) as the latter groped his way toward the outer hatch of the super-structure. Anthony apologized and made his report: "Excuse me sir - I have to report that the ship has been blown up and is sinking." The two men then proceeded together toward the quarterdeck. (Later investigations showed it was a buildup of coal dust that caused the blow-up of the Maine--not a Cuban mine.)

"The special feature in this case of service performed by Private Anthony," Sigsbee later recounted in a letter to John D. Long, the Secretary of the Navy, "is that, on an occasion when a man's instinct would lead him to safety outside the ship, he started into the superstructure and toward the cabin, irrespective of the danger." Maine's former Captain then recommended that the Marine be promoted to Sergeant, which was accomplished on 14 April 1898. Because of this incident, he became known as "The Nation's Hero." Anthony was a minor celebrity for a few months afterward, even appearing in a musical, "Red White and Blue."

Anthony had meanwhile joined the Marine guard of the cruiser USS Detroit on 5 March 1898 and served in that ship until transferred to duty at the Marine Barracks, New York Navy Yard, on 10 September of that year. Upon expiration of his enlistment, Anthony was honorably discharged at New York on 26 June 1899 with the rank of Sergeant Major.

Anthony fell on hard times, married a shop-girl, and committed suicide by drinking a phial of "tincture of cocaine" in New York City in 1899.


The destroyers USS Anthony (DD-172) and USS Anthony (DD-515) were named for him.

Death and Burial

Sergeant Major William Anthony died on 24 November 1899 in New York City. He is buried at The Evergreens Cemetery in Brooklyn, NY.

Honoree ID: 2073   Created by: MHOH




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