Baby name story: Ironsides

USS New Ironsides
USS New Ironsides

Catholic priest William Henry Ironsides Reaney (1863-1915) was known as “The Fighting Chaplain” of the U.S. Navy. Notably, he served aboard the USS Olympia — the flagship of Commodore George Dewey — during the Spanish-American War of 1898.

How did he come to have the unusual middle name Ironsides?

At the time he was born, his father, Commander Henry Reaney, was serving aboard the USS New Ironsides (an iron-clad steamer). Some accounts even claim William was born aboard the Ironsides while his mother was visiting the ship.


  • McClarey, Donald R. “The Fighting Chaplain.” American Catholic 4 Jan. 2010.
  • “‘Fighting Chaplain,’ Father Reaney, Dies.” New York Times 19 Nov. 1915.
  • Register of the Commissioned, Warrant and Volunteer Officers of the Navy of the United States. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1863.

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