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Thursday, January 11, 1900

A Nova Scotian V. C.

(Yarmouth Times)

The list of V. C.’s, on which are now some 180 names, will doubtless be augmented during the present war. In running over the list of those who are entitled to wear the little bronze cross, one encounters the entry, "Hall, Seaman William, India, 1857;" and if it were known to the reader that Seaman Hall is one of the two colored men who have won the Victoria Cross, and lives near Avonport, Kings County, it would probably possess at least as much interest for him as such names as Redvers Buller, Evelyn Wood, Roberts of Kandahar, Sir George Stewart White, and others of prominence which appear in that distinguished category.

Mr. Hall was seen by the writer three years ago in his neat little home. He invited the Times reporter, that was to be, in, and told as much of the story of his exploit as his fading memory would allow. As an introduction he brought out a small box of medals, among which was the Crimea medal, bearing the clasp inscribed "Sebastapol." Beside this were many others, any one of which would cause a soldier’s breast which bore them to swell with pride. But the trophy for which even the commander-in-chief would gladly barter his baton was the one which engrossed the writer’s attention, as he held it almost reverently. It is not much to look at. In fact, it is rather a clumsy affair; there is no beauty in it, or value either, intrinsically that is. But the little piece of metal told that its humble possessor had once gone unflinchingly into the jaws of death for his country’s sake. 

Mr. Hall used to wear the cross upon his watch chain, and has lost the blue ribbon from which it was suspended. He was captain of the foretop on one of H. M. ships that went to India during the mutiny, and accompanied the famous naval brigade to Lucknow. It was during the siege of that place by Sir Colin Campbell that Mr. Hall performed the exploit of "conspicuous valor," indeed, that won him the Victoria Cross. Mr. Hall is well advanced in years and the circumstances attending that celebrated campaign are fading from his memory, but he recalls well how he and a lieutenant fought their gun after the rest of the crew had been killed beneath the high wall they at length succeeded in breaching. They ran the gun close to the walls. The slant of the loopholes were such that they were safe from the fire of the garrison when within a certain point, but at every shot the gun recoiled and ran back into the fire zone. As often as the gun ran back would Hall and his companion dart out after it amid deadly hail of bullets, roll it back again, load up and bang away at the evergrowing breach, until their heroic task was done. Their country owned their services, and the gallant young lieutenant and his devoted colored comrade received the highest distinction reserved for British heroes and the height of a British soldier’s or sailor’s ambition. Few men can boast of such splendid service as can this fine old Nova Scotia negro, who is ranked among those whom the nation loves to honor.