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Joseph Benjamin Noil
U.S. Navy poster featuring Joseph Noil
Born 1841
Died March 21, 1882 (aged 40–41)
Place of birth Liverpool, Nova Scotia, Canada
Place of death Washington, D.C.
Place of burial Saint Elizabeth's Hospital
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Rank Seaman
Unit USS Powhatan
Awards Medal of Honor

Joseph Benjamin Noil (1841 – March 21, 1882) was a United States Navy sailor and a recipient of America's highest military decoration—the Medal of Honor.

Joseph B. Noil enlisted in the Navy from New York; when he re-enlisted for a three-year hitch on December 29, 1874, he was described as thirty-four years old, born in Nova Scotia and a "Negro". His civilian occupation was as a caulker, and he was five feet, six inches tall.[1] While serving on USS Powhatan at Norfolk, Virginia on December 26, 1872, he saved a drowning shipmate, Boatswain J.C. Walton. For his conduct on this occasion, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

On May 25, 1881, Noil, promoted to the rating of Captain of the Hold and serving on the USS Wyoming (1859), was admitted to the Naval Hospital Norfolk, Virginia, suffering from paralysis. About a week later, he was transferred to Saint Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C.,[2] where he died on March 21, 1882,[3] and was buried in the hospital graveyard under the name of "Joseph B. Noel".[4] His grave was discovered by Don Morfe, who is one of a number of dedicated people who have made it their mission to identify and photograph the known resting places of Medal of Honor recipients.

Noil married Sarah Jane Gambier (1846 – March 6, 1896) of New York City;[5][6] they had two daughters, Florence Gambier Noil (October 1871 – October 5, 1933)[7] and Sarah E. Noil (b. 1876, date of death unknown).[8]

His granddaughter, Cora Hunter Parks, was an actress, dancer, and vaudeville artist who appeared in a number of Broadway shows. As a member of the group The Rhythmettes,[9] she sang "Optimistic Voices" in the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz,[10] and on Broadway in 1939, again with the Rhythmettes, with Louis Armstrong, Moms Mabley, Oscar Polk and others, she sang and danced in the show Swingin' the Dream.[11]

Medal of Honor citation[]

Rank and organization: Seaman, U.S. Navy. Born: 1841, Nova Scotia. Accredited to: New York. Citation:

Serving on board the U.S.S. Powhatan at Norfolk, 26 December 1872, Noil saved Boatswain J. C. Walton from drowning.

See also[]


  1. "Enlistments at New York in 1874/Return of the United States Naval Rendezvous, New York, New York, for the week ending December 31, 1874" ,v. 65, p. 385; Records Group M1953, "Weekly Returns of Enlistments at Naval Rendezvous (Enlistment Rendezvous)", National Archives, Washington, D.C., as found online Retrieved March 12, 2012
  2. U.S., Naval Hospital Tickets and Case Papers, 1825-1889 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013. Original data: Hospital Tickets and Case Papers, compiled 1825‒1889. ARC ID: 2694723. Department of the Navy, Records of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Record Group 52. National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.
  3. "District of Columbia Deaths and Burials, 1840-1964," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 21 Apr 2013), Joseph B. Noel, 21 Mar 1882.
  4. Saint Elizabeth Hospital Cemeteries, East Campus, Section 3, Row 3, Grave 535,
  5. 1870 Federal Census for 4th Election District of the 14th Ward of New York City, page 59, lines 5-7; 1880 Federal Census for New York County Enumeration District 333, Sheet 8, Lines 27-30, for household at the rear of 431 West 18th Street, New York City
  6. Certificate of Death, New York County, no. 7898; original at New York Municipal Archives, 31 Chambers Street, Room 103 · New York, NY 10007
  7. Certificate of Death, Queens County, no. 6141, original at New York Municipal Archives, 31 Chambers Street, Room 103 · New York, NY 10007
  8. 1880 Federal Census for New York County, Enumeration District 333, Sheet 8, Line 30
  9. International Broadway Database,
  10. International Movie Database,
  11. International Broadway Database,

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