2005-12-29 / Front Page

Immigrant served with honor during Civil War

Thomas Fallon came to Freehold from home in Ireland
BY DICK METZGAR Staff Writer

BY DICK METZGAR
Staff Writer

PHOTOS BY PAT HICKEY

An American flag marks the grave at St. Rose of Lima Cemetery, Freehold Township, of Thomas Fallon, a Medal of Honor winner in the Civil War who returned home to Freehold at the end of the bloody conflict.PHOTOS BY PAT HICKEY An American flag marks the grave at St. Rose of Lima Cemetery, Freehold Township, of Thomas Fallon, a Medal of Honor winner in the Civil War who returned home to Freehold at the end of the bloody conflict. Believe it or not, Freehold Borough was once the adopted home of one of the most decorated war heroes in American history, although most residents of the community may not be aware of that fact.

Thomas Timothy Fallon, who was born in County Galway, Ireland, on Aug. 12, 1837, compiled one of the most brilliant records of the Civil War, according to a story that appeared in the old Freehold Transcript. A piece of that story was recently published in the 100 years ago section of the Yesteryear column in the News Transcript.

Fallon, who died in Freehold on Aug. 29, 1916, is buried in the St. Rose of Lima Cemetery just outside the borough on Freehold-Englishtown Road in Freehold Township. Funeral services for Fallon were held at St. Rose of Lima Church on McLean Street in the borough.

Little was apparently written about Fallon’s civilian life in Freehold following the end of the Civil War in 1865 until his death. Research by Randall Gabrielan, director of the Monmouth County Histor-ical Commission, showed that Fallon owned property on Randolph Street in 1877, and at 5 Mechanic St. in 1888. Gabrielan’s research also revealed that Fallon became a tailor sometime after returning to Freehold following his service with the Union Army in the Civil War.

St. Rose of Lima Cemetery manager Bruce Cormier looks up the grave records of Civil War veteran Thomas Fallon.
St. Rose of Lima Cemetery manager Bruce Cormier looks up the grave records of Civil War veteran Thomas Fallon. However, it not known how many local residents knew that “Tom the Tailor” was one of the most distinguished American war heroes ever.

Apparently, Alex Moreau, the founder and publisher of the Freehold Transcript, knew the war hero well and documented much of Fallon’s Civil War record on the occasion of his 68th birthday in August 1905 (the source of the recent Yesteryear material) and his obituary in August 1916.

According to the information in the Freehold Transcript, Fallon was one of the first recipients of the Medal of Honor, the highest honor bestowed to American war veterans, which was created to honor special heroes of the Civil War.

Fallon was cited three times during the Battle of Williamsburg, Va., (May 5, 1862) by order of Gen. Philip Kearney, each of which would have qualified him for the Medal of Honor, a rare distinction indeed.

The Civil War medals of honor were awarded in 1891 through an act of Congress.

At the time he received his award, Fallon reportedly commented to Moreau, “I donned the blues (Union uniform) in ’61, marched with the boys until ’65, which was the proudest act of my life.”

According to the Freehold Transcript’s account 100 years ago, Fallon came to the United States in 1859, when he was 22, and moved to Freehold, where he was living in 1861 when he enlisted in the volunteer service of the U.S. Army. Although he was living in Freehold, Fallon joined a New York outfit, Company K, N.Y. Volunteers, allegedly a group consisting mostly of Irish immigrants.

The Freehold Transcript spoke in glowing terms of Pvt. Fallon’s military service with the Union army against the Confederate States of America army in the South.

In all, Fallon took part in 21 Civil War battles. His Medal of Honor heroics took place on May 5, 1862, May 30-31, 1862, and June 14-15, 1864.

Here is how the Freehold Transcript wrote of Fallon’s war record on his 68th birthday in 1905:

“Although the Medal of Honor records (of necessity) but one act of bravery, he was recorded three times for acts of bravery by Gen. Philip Kearney. He was one of 10 men who composed a skirmish line at the Battle of Williamsburg on May 5, 1862. Only four of the number came back alive. Gen. Kearney, who was an eyewitness to their movements, ordered that their names be recorded for their bravery.”

Official Civil War records state that a few weeks later on May 30-31 in action at Fair Oaks, Va., Fallon again distinguished himself by voluntarily joining his unit in the combat action of that period despite the fact that he had been excused from duty because of disability. Eight other men received medals of honor in the Battle of Fair Oaks.

“Mr. Fallon was in 1864 given a furlough for 30 days for meritorious service at the Battle of Big Shanty, which was fought on June 14-15,” the Freehold Transcript wrote 100 years ago. “He was ordered to lead the west wing of his company in a charge upon the earthworks, and one officer and 28 men were captured. He captured the officer by striking him with his musket and carrying him over the earthworks.”

He was also mentioned for bravery in going out as a spy, a very hazardous position, to watch the movement of the Rebel artillery at the Charles City crossroads, before the retreat from Richmond, the newspaper wrote.

The newspaper summed up Fallon’s Civil War record: “Of all those recorded for acts of bravery, Mr. Fallon stands high. There were but 16 men mentioned twice and three times in the entire Army and Navy. Two of the men who were recorded three times for acts of bravery were recorded twice during one day’s battle, but each of Mr. Fallon’s acts were committed in battles of two days duration. He holds one of the most brilliant records of any of the veterans of the Civil War.”

When Fallon died at the age of 79, his August 1916 obituary in the Freehold Transcript recorded that his widow was the former Mary Garrity of Freehold, his wife of more than 50 years. She was born in 1843 and died in 1922. He had a daughter living in Jamesburg, and four grandchildren. Fallon’s wife is buried next to him in the St. Rose of Lima Cemetery.

Fallon is the only Medal of Honor recipient buried at the cemetery.

According to all accounts, Freehold’s “Tom the Tailor” was one of the most decorated American soldiers of his era — or any other era.

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