John Ortega, Seaman (USA)

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John Ortega, Seaman (USA)

Occupation: USS Saratoga (1842)
Managed by: Ashley Odell
Last Updated:

About John Ortega, Seaman (USA)

Seaman John Ortega (born in 1840 in Spain), was the first Hispanic sailor to be awarded the United States' highest military decoration for valor in combat — the Medal of Honor — for having distinguished himself during the South Atlantic Blockade by the Union Naval forces during the American Civil War.


Ortega, a resident of Pennsylvania, was a Spanish immigrant who joined the Union Navy in his adopted hometown in Pennsylvania.

Ortega was assigned to the USS Saratoga during the American Civil War. The USS Saratoga, commissioned in 1843, was the third ship of the United States Navy baptized with that same name. It was a sloop-of-war under the command of Commander George Musalas Colvocoresses.

On January 13, 1864, Secretary of the United States Navy Gideon Welles, ordered Commander Colvocoresses and the USS Saratoga to proceed to Charleston, South Carolina, and report to Rear Admiral Dahlgren for duty in the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron in what is known as the Union blockade.

The Union blockade was a massive effort on behave of the Union Navy designed to prevent the passage of trade goods, supplies, and arms to and from the Confederate States.

Ortega was a member of the landing parties from the ship who made several raids in August and September which resulted in the capture of many prisoners and the taking or destruction of substantial quantities of ordnance, ammunition, and supplies. A number of buildings, bridges, and salt works were destroyed during the expedition.

For his actions Seaman John Ortega was awarded the Medal of Honor and promoted to acting master's mate.

Medal of Honor citation


Rank and organization: Seaman, U.S. Navy

Accredited To: Pennsylvania

Born: 1840, Spain

G.O. No.: 45, December 31, 1864


Served as seaman on board the U.S.S. Saratoga during actions of that vessel on 2 occasions. Carrying out his duties courageously during these actions, Ortega conducted himself gallantly through both periods. Promoted to acting master's mate.

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