U.S. Coast Guard Awards


Ida Lewis-Wilson

Awarded 16 July 1881

A photo of Ida Lewis

Ida Lewis-Wilson


A gold medal was awarded to Mrs. Ida Lewis-Wilson who won a national celebrity for her many rescues under her maiden name, Ida Lewis. The papers accompanying the application made in her case to the Department showed that she saved thirteen persons from drowning and it is understood that the number was probably much greater. The special incident upon which Ida Lewis earned the medal was her rescue on 4 February 1881. At 5 o’clock two soldiers belonging to the garrison of Fort Adams near Newport, RI were crossing on foot between the fort and Lime Rock lighthouse of which Mrs. Lewis-Wilson was the keeper. They suddenly fell through the ice that had become weak. Hearing their drowning cries, Mrs. Lewis-Wilson ran toward them from the lighthouse with a rope. In imminent danger of the soft and brittle ice giving way beneath her, and also of being dragged into the hole by the men, she succeeded in hauling first one, and then the other, out of the water. The first man she got out entirely unaided; her brother arrived and helped her with the second.

The action on her part showed unquestionable nerve, presence of mind, and dashing courage. The ice was in a very dangerous condition and only a short time afterward, two men fell through the ice and drowned, while crossing during the night. All the witnesses certified that the rescue was accomplished at the imminent risk of the Mrs. Lewis-Wilson’s life.


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Last Modified 1/26/2012