The Mississippi in the Civil War Message Board

Bio info on tinclad Petrel CMOH recipient....

I have recently been pleasured with biographical information re the Congressional Medal of Honor recipient resulting from the capture of the Federal tinclad USS Petrel by the 11th\17th Arkansas Infantry on April 22, 1864 (see URL below).

The following information is from the book "Bremerton and the Puget Sound Naval Yard" by Fredi Perry (Perry Publishing, 2002; ISBN: 1-892282-04-6, Libr of Congress Control Number: 2002090121; pp. 33-34):

"John H. Nibbe"

"John H. Nibbe (1848-1902) came to Washington Territory via the Horn, settling at Point White (Bainbridge) in 1868. He established a post office and named the community Nibbeville and here he served as postmaster in 1885. He was long active in ownership and operation of Mosquito Fleet boats, serving primarily the small settlements of Bainbridge and Sinclair Inlet."

"He’d settled at Point White with his Native American wife, Jennie, establishing a general store and bowling alley. After a career at Point White, he moved to Mitchell’s Point (Annapolis) in 1887 and Sidney (1888), coming to Bremerton in 1896 where he became a businessman and prominent citizen. His store was one of the first in Bremerton and he located near the NW corner of Front and Pacific."

"From his marriage to Jenny, two sons were born: Jefferson (circa 1877), and Archie, (1881-1893). Nibbe’s mother moved to Bainbridge from Germany and discouraged his relationship with Jenny. He then married a neighboring widow, Georgina Porter, the mother of Charles, Ida Mae, and Elizabeth. He and Georgina were parents of Robert, Henry, and Ellen."

"After Nibbe’s death from Bright’s Disease, Georgina married John Rolstad (1903) but within a year they were divorced. She then married an old family friend and neighbor at Nibbeville and Sidney, Frank Smith."

"Nibbe’s fame isn’t as an early Bremerton businessman, but rather as one of the youngest recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor."

"Recognized as sailing master, storekeeper and postmaster in early Kitsap County, John Nibbe was ignored in local annals as a national hero until Helen Ross gave this author a list of "missing" Washington State recipients of the Medal for the updated book that she was writing (Ross, Helen. Washington State Men of Valor. Rokalu Press. Port Orchard. 1994). Immediately recognized as a local historical figure, she researched his life and times."

"Born in Hamburg, Germany, Nov. 25, 1847, Nibbe went to sea at the age of 14 in merchant ships plying between Hamburg and New York. By the time he was 17, he had jumped ship in New York to serve in the US Army and then the navy during the Civil War. On April 22, 1864, Quartermaster Nibbe threaded the Union's gunboat USS Peterel [sic] up the Yazoo River channel that runs northeast out of Vicksburg in western Mississippi."

"In an engagement on the river with the Confederacy, a shot ripped through the stem of Peterel [sic]. Boilers exploded as the enemy raked the gun decks. Fire, heat and earsplitting blasts from bursting ammunition created a hell-hot atmosphere. In a frenzy of fear and panic, officers and men jumped overboard only to be gunned down or drowned. Neither fear nor panic seized Quartermaster Nibbe. Though much younger than most of his shipmates, Nibbe assisted in removing the wounded from exposed areas and then proceeded to the fire room. Man-killing steam escaped from boilers ruptured in the initial attack. Nibbe started to light off the undamaged boilers. Suddenly he was surrounded by rebel soldiers and forced to surrender. Along with two others of the ship's company, Nibbe was captured and transported to a southern prison. Out of the 55 officers and men on Peterel [sic], 51 of those lost their lives that day. The record omits the date of Nibbe's later release or escape from prison. He was honorably discharged from the navy on Jan. 12, 1865, three months before the final battle of the Civil War. At war's end, General Order No. 59 directed that Medals of Honor be awarded to 65 navy men from 21 ships for actions above and beyond the call of duty. Nibbe was one of those men."

"As one of Kitsap County's first entrepreneurs, he understood the economics of transporting goods in his own ships to his own store. And he knew that would attract settlers who required a post office he would operate."

"With transportation at the ready, Nibbe had no difficulty moving merchandise into an area on the brink of development. Consequently he streamed ahead of settlers' tides, moving from Crystal Springs to Mitchell Point to Sidney and finally Bremerton. At this last stop, his general merchandise store was one of the first commercial businesses in Bremerton that then boasted less than a dozen buildings."

"More than a century after Nibbe's heroic deeds on the Yazoo River, one of three high-rise Bachelor Enlisted Quarters in PSNS was dedicated in 1989 and named Nibbe Hall. Master of Ceremonies was Washington's Secretary of State Ralph Munro whose family neighbored the Nibbe's Bainbridge Island property."

"Hero Nibbe is buried in Ivy Green Cemetery, Bremerton. His grave is marked twice, originally by a large granite tombstone naming Nibbe as Woodman of the World member, and more recently with a ground level marble marker honoring him as a Medal of Honor recipient."

The material above was kindly provided to me by the Kitsap County Historical Museum located in Bremerton, Kitsap County, Washington (State). Please acknowledge them and the author, Fredi Perry, for any use of the above material.


Kenneth Byrd