Charles Benedict Davenport.

Naval officers, their heredity and development online

. (page 8 of 33)
Online LibraryCharles Benedict DavenportNaval officers, their heredity and development → online text (page 8 of 33)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

first attacking column, while Nelson led the second, Collingwood showed consum-
mate valor and skill while his great flagship was shot almost to pieces. Trafalgar
was won, but Nelson was killed and Collingwood took his place. He was raised to
the peerage. He fought no more naval battles, but was constantly employed in
cruises that involved good sense and political sagacity until he died at sea, 1810.

Collingwood was of the hypokinetic type. His father was a merchant who
was rather ineffective. As a lad Collingwood was diligent at school, was fond of
books, and exhibited then, as he always retained, the art of writing with a "polish,
a sweetness of language and archness of humor, very close to some of the happiest
compositions of Addison." At school he was a mild boy and showed no brilliant
talents. He was reserved from boyhood; he was considered cold in his bearing,
rather inaccessible, firm, and resolute. He lacked Nelson's sociable qualities.
He would have silent moods when he would not speak a word for a day. However,
at times he showed temper; but he was never known to swear or otherwise forget
himself in his anger.

Collingwood's great strength lay in his thoroughness, good judgment, attach-
ment to reality, self-reliance, and pertinacity. His thoroughness and good judg-
ment made him invaluable in blockade and in watching the enemy's ships. "He
deliberated carefully, weighing every contingency which his sagacity and fore-
thought presented to him, and never overlooked anything of importance which it
was possible for him to foresee." "His decisions were . . . reached by thoughtful
processes. . . . His resolutions formed, they were as good as accomplished; he
dispensed with self-questionings, and never flinched a hair's breadth from carry-
ing them out." "His resolution was adamant; so that whoever came into close
opposition to it must give way or be crushed. . . . His determination to be
obeyed was absolute; disobedience meant destruction. Yet he rarely flogged, but
preferred as punishment watering the grog and extra duty." He was always
perfectly dignified in his deportment and constantly attended to his religious
duties. Yet he was not without features of the hyperkinetic; was fond of society,
joked in a quiet way, mostly by puns, and interspersed his conversation with
humorous remarks and anecdotes. In the battle of Trafalgar his flagship pene-
trated into the very center of the enemy's fleet and almost alone finished the Santa


Anna, the flagship of the Spanish Admiral Alava; but he showed in this battle
rather the devotion to duty and pertinacity of the solid, unexcitable sort.

There is no evidence that Collingwood had a special longing for the sea.
Constantly he regrets that he can not return to his home. During his brief sojourn
on land he made historical studies and educated his two daughters. He had a
brother, Wilfred Collingwood, captain of the Rattler in the West Indian service,
who died prematurely, and of whom the Duke of Clarence (later William IV) said:
"his majesty has lost a faithful servant and the service a most excellent officer."


1 1 (F), Cuthbert Collingwood (died 1775), an unsuccessful merchant. L r p-' vy~1

1 2 (M), Micah Dobson. Fraternity of M: 1 3, Dobson. 1 4, ' ,

Admiral Brathwaite (died 1805, aged 80 years).

Fraternity of Propositus: II 2, Wilfred Collingwood (died 1787),
captain of a naval vessel in the West Indian service. II 4 (Propositus),
CUTHBERT COLLINGWOOD. II 5 (consort), Miss Blackett, of naval stock.

Children of Propositus: I 1, Sarah (born 1792) and 2, Mary Patience
(born 1793) Collingwood.

DAVTES, W. 1875. A Fine Old English Gentleman, exemplified in the life and character of

Lord Collingwood. London: Sampson, Low, Marston and Searle. 263 pp.
RUSSELL, W. C. 1891. Collingwood. London: Methuen & Co. 271 pp.


WILLIAM BARKER GUSHING was born at Delafield, Waukesha county, Wis-
consin, November 1842. He was appointed to the Naval Academy in 1857, and
resigned under pressure, without having distinguished himself in his studies, in
March 1861. In May of the same year he was appointed master's mate, attached
to the frigate Minnesota, one of the blockading squadron. Having shown great
spirit, Gushing was appointed a lieutenant in July and in October was put in charge
of a gunboat and ordered to capture Jacksonville, North Carolina, and seize any
vessels found on the New river. He captured the city and three schooners, but
on the return trip his gunboat ran aground. Sending off all its contents by one of
the prize vessels, he fought the enemy as best he could on its arrival, then set fire
to the gunboat and escaped in a skiff. For two years more Gushing played the
part of a blockader with skill, vigilance, and energy. In October 1864, the Con-
federate ironclad ram Albemarle sank Federal naval vessels and threatened to regain
control of Albemarle sound. Gushing had a plan for her destruction. He brought
from New York an open launch provided with a boom to carry and direct a tor-
pedo. At night he approached the Albemarle (lying in the Roanoke river), which
opened fire upon him. As she was encircled by logs to ward off torpedoes, Gushing
drove his launch through the cordon of logs and right up to the hull of the
Albemarle; by lines attached to his body he aimed the torpedo, which exploded
under the Albemarle' s hull and sank it. At the same moment his launch was
sunk by the enemy's fire, and out of the entire party only two, including Gushing,
escaped. By swimming and rowing he made his way into Albemarle sound and
to the Federal fleet; for this exploit he was promoted to be lieutenant commander.
In similar daring fashion he attacked and reduced Fort Fisher. After the war
he commanded the Maumee and was advanced to the grade of commander. He
died of brain fever, December 1874, at the age of 32 years.


The prevailing trait of William Gushing was love of adventure. As a lad
he was never happier than when playing some joke upon one of his elder brothers.
Once he followed one of his brothers and a young lady to prayer-meeting and,
sitting behind them, sang improvised personalities until sent out in disgrace by
a church official. The father had died and his mother's cousin, Commodore
(afterward Admiral) Joseph Smith, had him entered at the Naval Academy. Here
his pranks and " sheer deviltry" continued and culminated towards the close of
the winter of 1861, when he fixed a bucket of water over the door through which
his teacher of Spanish was to pass on his way to an evening party; the teacher
was deluged and the lad was permitted to resign. On one occasion during the war
he wore General Hooker's new uniform coat to the theater. His naval exploits
in the war partook largely of the nature of adventures.

Another trait was fearlessness, well illustrated by his aiming the torpedo
accurately while only a few feet from the Albemarle's guns. He was a pronounced
hyperkinetic. He was animated and enthusiastic in conversation. He spoke
fluently, wrote easily and charmingly. He was generous and expressed his emo-
tions fully. He would fight any man without the slightest hesitation, and was
quick to resent an insult.

Gushing belonged to fighting stock, as the history of his three brothers shows.
They were:

Milton, born in 1837, became a paymaster in the United States navy and was
promoted to paymaster of the fleet, then in the Mediterranean. He was retired
for disability and died, without issue, January 1886.

Howard B., born in 1838, at 14 years of age became a printer's "devil"
in a weekly newspaper office at Fredonia, New York; later he became a pressman
in Boston, and then a type-setter in Chicago. In 1861 he raised a company of
newspaper men in Chicago, but their services were not required. In 1862 he
enlisted as a private in an Illinois volunteer artillery regiment. In 1863 he was
promoted to a lieutenancy in the regular artillery. In 1867 he was lieutenant of
Troop F, Third Cavalry, and was engaged in Indian warfare in Arizona and Texas.
He was spare, active as a cat, and famous all over the southwestern border for cool-
ness and energy. He was killed in May 1871, by the Apache Indians.

Alonzo, born in January 1841, was appointed cadet at West Point. Here
he showed "himself modest in demeanor, but always efficient in his work and
kindly toward under-classmen." He was appointed second lieutenant in artil-
lery on graduating in June 1861, and was promoted to first lieutenant the same
day. In Washington he drilled artillerymen, became ordnance officer, and later
acted as aide-de-camp to Sumner in charge of topographical work. He advanced
rapidly as topographical engineer through the grades to lieutenant colonel, up to
the time of his death in battle, July 3, 1863. Elements contributing to his success
were faithfulness in the discharge of every duty and thoroughness in its perform-
ance. "Possessed of mental and physical vigor, joined to the kindest of hearts, he
commanded the love and respect of all who knew him. His fearlessness and resolu-
tion displayed in many actions were unsurpassed." One says of him, he "looked
more like a school girl than a warrior, but he was the best fighting man I ever saw."

The father of this fraternity, Dr. Milton B. Gushing (born in 1800), was a
restless man (see legend), but one of great personal attractiveness and sympathetic
for the higher side of public questions. He suffered from ill health and left his
family unprovided for. His father, Zattu Gushing, superintended the construction
of a ship on an island opposite Erie, Pennsylvania. He was an upright, dignified,
clear-headed man, and was for years a county judge.


The mother, Mary Butler Smith, married in 1836, when she was 29 years of
age. She had a splendid physical and mental constitution and was " fortunately
endowed with a passionate love for life in an open, free atmosphere, as near as
practicable to nature itself. She had been reared among the most highly cultivated
people of Boston, and was related to such distinguished families as the Adamses,
Hancocks, and Phillipses." Just before the birth of her second son she was a bit
gloomy and homesick. After the death of her husband she went to Fredonia,
where she established a school.

Mary Smith's father's brother Albert's son, Commodore Joseph Smith of
the navy, afterwards rear admiral, was born in Boston in 1790. He became mid-
shipman in 1809 and lieutenant in 1813. As first lieutenant of the brig Eagle
he took a conspicuous part in the battle of Lake Champlain, in September 1814,
and was wounded. For his services he was voted a silver medal by Congress.
In 1815 he participated in the war against Algiers; in 1827 he was commissioned
commander. In 1837 he became captain; during 1846-1869 he was chief of the
bureau of yards and docks, becoming rear admiral hi 1862. From 1869 to 1871
he was president of the examination board for the promotion of officers, and died
at Washington in 1877. His son, Joseph B. Smith, made a midshipman hi 1841,
had a reputation for rare courage. He became a lieutenant in 1855 and in 1862
was killed on the Congress in battle with the Merrimac in Hampton Roads.

Mary Smith had a sister, Elizabeth Winkle Smith, who married John Oilman
Pillsbury. Their son was John Elliott Pillsbury, born December 1846, at Lowell,
Massachusetts. Through the influence of the Hon. Albert Smith, he was made
a page in the House of Representatives, 1859. At the request of Admiral Joseph
Smith he was appointed midshipman in September 1862. He was graduated from
the Naval Academy and was sent to the North Pacific squadron. In 1869 he
was stationed at the Boston navy yard. He joined the Colorado (Admiral John
Rodgers) for a cruise in Asiatic waters; in 1875 he was on the Blake for deep-sea
soundings. He was assigned in 1879 to the Kearsarge, North Atlantic squadron,
and in 1884 to the United States Coast Survey. Put in command of the Blake,
he devised instruments to measure currents at various depths. He published
"Dangers of the South Pacific," "Atlantic Local Coast Pilot Sub-division 19,
1885," and "The Gulf Stream." He married, in 1877, Florence Greenwood, and
had one daughter, Elsie, born in 1877.


Fraternity of M M F: II, Bass, one of the "Boston Tea Party." 12 (M M F),

Moses Belcher Bass. I 3 (M M M), Margaret Sprague. I 4 (M F F), Josiah Smith. I 5 (M
F M), Mary Barker, her consort's second cousin. I 6, Captain Robert L. Eells. I 7, Ruth

II 1 (F F), Zattu Gushing (born about 1771), left Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1791 and
went to Ballston Spa, New York. In 1799 he superintended the construction of a ship on an
island opposite Erie, Pennsylvania; in 1805 he settled in Fredonia, New York, where he was

a judge for 14 years. Fraternity of M M: II 3, Bass, a youth of great promise who died

at 25 years of age on a voyage to England for his health. II 4 (M M), Mary Butler Bass. II
5 (M F), Elisha Smith. Fraternity of M. F.: II 7, Bosen Smith. II 8, Mary Barker. II 9,
Josiah Smith, a shipbuilder. II 10, Albert Smith, a captain who commanded large ships. II
11, Anne Lenthal Eells.

III 1 (F), Milton Gushing (born 1800), studied at what is now Colgate University and
practiced medicine; removed to Zanesville, Ohio, where he was a local merchant, then to Colum-
bus, Ohio, and in 1837 to Wisconsin, where he was appointed justice of the peace. In 1844 he
went to Chicago and practiced medicine and in 1847 went back to Ohio, where he died. Ill 2
(M), Mary Butler Smith. Fraternity of M: III 3, Cordelia Miller Smith. Ill 4, William Robert



Pearman. Ill 5, Joseph Bass Smith (born 1810), was lost or died at sea. Ill 6, Margaret
Sprague Smith, an author of prose and verse. Ill 7, Joshua Loring Banker. Ill 8, Elizabeth
W. Smith. Ill 9, John G. Pillsbury, a printer. Ill 10, Jane Read Smith. Ill 11, John Henry
Batchelder. Ill 12, Sir Albert Jones Smith, a naval commander. Ill 14, Joseph Smith, a
rear admiral of the United States navy. Ill 16, Albert Smith, a lawyer. Ill 17, Elizabeth
Smith. Ill 18, Sarah Barker Smith. Ill 19, Joseph Eells.

Fraternity of Propositus: IV 1, Milton Gushing (1837-1886), became a paymaster of the
fleet. IV 2, Ellen Grosvenor. IV 3, Howard B. Gushing (1838-1871). IV 4, Alonzo Gushing
(1841-1863). IV 5 (Propositus), WILLIAM B. GUSHING. IV 6 (consort), Kate L. Forbes. IV
7, Walter and Mary R. Gushing. IV 8, Eli Bouton. IV 9, Mary Isabel Gushing (born 1847). IV
10, Edward F. Gayle. IV 11, John Elliott Pillsbury (born at Lowell, Massachusetts, 1846).
IV 12, Joseph B. Smith, appointed a midshipman in 1841, became a lieutenant in 1855, and was
killed in 1862 on the Congress in the conflict with the Merrimac at Hampton Roads. IV 13, Albert
Smith, became a captain in the army and died from the effects of service during Civil War.


GUSHING. J. S. 1905. Genealogy of the Gushing Family. Montreal: Perrault Printing Co.
Ixx + 596 pp.

HAIGHT, T. 1910. Three Wisconsin Cushings. Wisconsin History Commission, xiv + 109 pp.

SMITH, S. 1895. Memorial of Rev. Thomas Smith (second minister of Pembroke, Massachu-
setts) and his descendants. Plymouth. 147 pp.



JOHN ADOLF DAHLGREN was born at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Novem-
ber 13, 1809. He was forced by the early death of his father to earn a living at
the age of 15. Having only one strong taste, he applied for admittance to the navy
as midshipman, but was not successful until February 1, 1826. After six years
of service he successfully passed his examination. On account of his proficiency
in mathematics he was detailed, in 1834, to the United States Coast Survey under
Hassler, and entered upon triangulation work, particularly the measurement of
the base on Long Island. In 1836 Dahlgren was made second assistant of the
survey, with direction of a triangulation party. On account of eye-strain, Lieu-
tenant Dahlgren visited France for relief and was obliged to retire to a farm from
1838 to 1842, but during this period he reported on the rocket-firing system of the
French army. For a year or two he resumed active service in the navy and on the
outbreak of the war with Mexico he was assigned to ordnance duty, especially
in the rocket department. Having by experimentation proved the defects in the
naval guns then in use, he devised first, in 1850, a light howitzer for small-boat use
and then his 9-inch and 11-inch shell-guns, which introduced new principles into
naval armament. He published technical books on ordnance and brought the ord-
nance department of the navy to great system and perfection. In 1857 he was
given charge of the sloop of war Plymouth, of less than 1,500 tons, with permission
to arm and equip her as he thought best. With her battery of 4.7-inch and
1.9-inch guns she became the most formidable craft afloat. In his voyage with the
Plymouth, Commander Dahlgren was able to settle various diplomatic difficulties
with other countries. Dahlgren experimented next on rifled cannon and urged
the construction of ironclads, but his recommendations led to no response from an
unprogressive naval board, and the Civil War found the government unprepared.
Dahlgren's guns, nevertheless, won many important victories in the years that
followed. Dahlgren was tremendously active on the Chesapeake and Patriotic; he
was appointed chief of the bureau of ordnance with rank of captain in July 1862,
and armed and equipped ironclads. As rear admiral from February 1863, he closed
the Atlantic ports of the Confederacy. From 1868 to 1870 he was again chief of the
ordnance bureau, and a few months before his death was appointed, for the second
time, commandant of the Washington navy yard. He died in July 1870.

The most striking trait shown by Dahlgren was a desire to go into the navy.
This is quite possibly a nomadic trait; certainly there is an appeal of the sea,
as such. In the letter sent with his application for admission to the navy, at 15
years of age, occur such phrases as: "The decided wishes of John are for the
navy and a seafaring life and no other object has any temptation for him." Again,
"He is ... so passionately bent on the destination of the navy of the United
States that he can not be diverted from it," and he himself writes: "Having long
been anxious to adopt as a profession the naval service of my country ..." This
desire for the navy was seen in his younger brother William, who, owing to a mis-
understanding with John, vowed he would never be known as Dahlgren again;
so he assumed his mother's name and thereafter was called William de Rohan.
The National Cyclopedia of American Biography (V, 24) states of William:

"He went to Europe, where his family connections and ample means brought
him into intimacy with persons of the highest rank in life, including Admiral Hobart
(Pasha), with whom he took service under the Sultan, with the rank of captain.
Leaving the Turks, he went to the Argentine Republic with Garibaldi and com-


manded the naval forces of that country that brought about independence (1846).
After that, when Garibaldi came to the United States, De Rohan went to Chile
and became admiral of the Chilean navy. He took an active part with Gari-
baldi in the unification and independence of Italy. At this period he was not only
made admiral of the Italian navy, but furnished money to buy 3 steamers,
the nucleus of the Italian fleet. During the siege of Rome, De Rohan commanded
the marine division and supervised the artillery fire. He spent many years in
England, where he became interested in the workings of the British naval reserve,
in which he was commissioned a commander by the admiralty. He was anxious
to fight for the Union in the American Civil War, but was restrained by fear of
being brought under the command of his brother. He was possessed of a large
fortune when he entered the Italian navy, but lost it all because the Italian gov-
ernment refused to reimburse him. He sought redress in diplomatic circles, but
all to no purpose, and he died in Philadelphia, the city of his birth, a poor man, in
April 1891."

The trait of nomadism was in the father also, Bernard Ulrik Dahlgren,
born in 1784. He was graduated from Upsala and was an adventuresome traveler
at an early age, making frequent expeditions to hyperborean regions. At the age
of 20, having become involved in an attempt to disseminate republican principles
at Gefle, he was obliged to flee from Sweden and his property was confiscated by
the Crown. After traveling extensively and incurring much hazard, he finally
embarked from Spain for New York, where he landed December 1806. He was
made Swedish consul at Philadelphia and held that post until his death. He was
well known as a merchant of ability and great integrity. His judgment was clear
and impartial, so that it commanded great confidence, and his arbitration was
accepted as conclusive. He was a man of herculean stature and strength, being
6 feet 4 inches tall and well proportioned.

Father's brother, Sir Carl Adolf, was graduated at Upsala and was made
a subphysician in the Royal Navy hi 1797. He left the navy in 1800, but upon
the outbreak of war in 1808 he offered his services to the government. He was
appointed staff surgeon to the army of Finland, in which capacity he served until
the close of the war. Thereupon he reentered the navy and thereafter held posi-
tions as court physician and field surgeon in chief to the army. He was created
a knight of Wasa in recognition of his long and eminent service. He died at Stock-
holm hi 1844. His son, Sir Johan Adolf, was the author of various dissertations
on chemistry and medicinal botany and a "discoverer in the domain of practical
chemistry." He also was created a knight of Wasa in recognition of prolonged
and useful service. In 1871 he resigned the directorship of the Royal Military
Hospital in Stockholm and after that led a retired Me until his death in 1876.

Father's father, Johan Adolf Dahlgren, born at Norrkoping in 1744, was
educated by private tutors. He then studied chemistry and pharmacy and became
a protege* and friend of Linnseus. He matriculated (1764) at the University of
Upsala and was graduated with the degree of doctor of medicine. He was a man
of great activity, a skillful physician, and a voluminous writer on medical subjects.
In 1789 he was named chief physician of the province of Finland. He died in 1797.

Mother, Martha Rowan, was "richly endowed with the best qualities of head
and heart." She had a special taste for designing, and her son often said that he
inherited from her his inventive faculty.

Mother's father, James Rowan, was a Revolutionary soldier, who served
as commissary in General Lacy's brigade and sustained heavy losses in his support


of the war. It is probable that he was related in some degree to Stephen Clegg
Rowan, born near Dublin, Ireland, in 1808, who, when a child, came with his parents
to the United States, was appointed midshipman in 1826, fought gallantly on land
in Mexico, during the Civil War played an important part in blockading the coast
of North Carolina, and eventually gained the rank of rear admiral, commandant
of the Norfolk navy yard, commander in chief of the Asiatic squadron hi 1870,
superintendent of the Naval Observatory, and chairman of the lighthouse board
in 1883. He died in Washington in 1890.

John A. Dahlgren as a young student was good in mathematics, as well as in
Latin and Spanish. His teacher says: "He has received more honors than any
other individual in my classes in the same time." At the age of 10 or 11 "he was
continually occupied in reading universal history, particularly that of Greece and
Rome." As midshipman, John Dahlgren's "mathematical training and pro-
ficiency and some knowledge of the use of instruments speedily attracted the
attention of the learned chief of the Survey, Mr. Hassler."

Dahlgren had a keen sense of form. He had a fondness for birds speaks
of one that is hopping about in his cabin, resting on his knee at times. His manu-
script books are "a marvel of painstaking care. Every letter and figure is drawn
with the incisive clearness of a steel engraving, and no sign of weariness or haste
is anywhere indicated."

John Dahlgren was enthusiastic in talking, affectionate in nature, and felt

Online LibraryCharles Benedict DavenportNaval officers, their heredity and development → online text (page 8 of 33)