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Revenue Captain Michael A. Healy, USRCS

Biographical Highlights

Captain Michael Healy, USRCS-Michael A. Healy was born on 22 September 1839 in Georgia.  His father, Michael Morris Healy, was a white planter and his mother, Mary Eliza Smith, was a slave.  

-His father sent him and his nine siblings north to be educated and escape slavery.

-Michael A. Healy ran repeatedly ran away from any of the schools he was sent to and finally "ran away to sea" in 1855 as a mate on board the clipper ship Jumna, bound for Calcutta from Boston.  He sailed on merchant vessels for the next ten years until he applied for an appointment as an officer in the U.S. Revenue Marine in 1864.

-He was commissioned as a Third Lieutenant in the U.S. Revenue Marine by President Abraham Lincoln on 4 March 1865.

-Healy was promoted to Second Lieutenant in 1866. He served as a junior officer on board the cutters Reliance, Vigilant, Moccasin, and Active and was promoted to First Lieutenant on 20 July 1870.

-He became the second officer on the cutter Rush in 1874.

-Healy obtained his first command, the cutter Chandler, in 1877.

-He was ordered to take command of the Thomas Corwin in 1882, a post he held until 1886.

-The Revenue Cutter Service promoted Healy to the rank of Captain on 3 March 1883.

-In 1884 he and the Corwin participated in an attack and bombardment of the Alaskan-native village of Angoon at the request of an officer of the U.S. Navy.

-The Revenue Cutter Service acquired the ship Bear and ordered Healy to take command in February 1886. The Bear was designated as the flagship of the Bering Sea Force. He commanded the cutter through 1895.

-In 1888 the Bear’s crew rescued 160 sailors from whaling vessels trapped near Point Barrow, Alaska.

-In 1890 he was investigated by a Board of Investigation for charges of drunkenness and cruelty to some merchant sailors. The Board cleared Healy of the charges.

-From 1892 through 1895, Healy transported reindeer to Alaska, establishing a plentiful food source for the native population.

-On 8 June 1896 a court-martial found Healy guilty of seven charges. The Treasury Secretary ordered him dropped to the bottom of the Captain’s list and placed out of the Service for a period of four years without pay.  The charges he was found guilty of were:

-Healy was given temporary command of the cutter McCulloch in 1900. He was then given command of the cutters Golden Gate and Hartley.

-In January 1902 Healy was restored to his original position on the Captains’ list and given command of the cutter Thetis.

-He retired from the service on 22 September 1903 after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 64 as the third most senior captain in the service. He died on 30 August 1904 in San Francisco of a heart attack.

His career may best be summed up in his own words, spoken by Healy during his court-martial in 1896:

"When I am in charge of a vessel, I always command; nobody commands but me. I take all the responsibility, all the risks, all the hardships that my office would call upon me to take. I do not steer by any man’s compass but my own."

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Last Modified 1/12/2016