One of the very few men in history to have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and also serve as a lighthouse keeper was Robert E. Blume.
Robert E. Blume was one of 52 men who were all awarded the Congressional Medal for the same mission on May 11, 1898 in Cuban waters during the Spanish American War. The medals were awarded to 26 sailors and marines from the USS Nashville and 26 sailors and marines from the USS Marblehead, all who participated in the cutting of a cable from Cienfuegos, Cuba.
The award given to Robert E. Blume, who at the time was a seaman on the USS Nashville, stated, “Facing the heavy enemy fire of the enemy, Blume set an example of extraordinary bravery and coolness throughout the action.” His medal was awarded on July 7, 1899.
Throughout his career, Robert E. Blume had a problem with alcohol that tainted his navy service record. Records indicate that had been caught drinking on ship, smuggling alcohol on board, late in returning from liberty, fighting while under the influence, served time in the brig, and he had been demoted from Chief to Seaman.
In 1904, again because of heroic actions, Robert Blume, along with another sailor who was involved in the same act, was nominated for the Medal of Honor. The other sailor was awarded the medal, but Blume, because of his dismal service record, was not. Instead, he was again promoted to Chief, but that was not satisfactory to him. He apparently thought that he should have been awarded the second medal.
In 1906, fed up with navy life, he quit the navy to take a job as a third assistant lighthouse keeper at the Twin Lights of Navesink in Highlands, New Jersey. But apparently life on land at a lighthouse did not sit well with him, and he left the U.S. Lighthouse Service in 1908 to rejoin the U.S. Navy where he went on to serve gallantly in World War I.
On September 16, 1937, at the age of 68, Robert E. Blume, lighthouse keeper and Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient, passed away. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
This story appeared in the
Jul/Aug 2017 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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