Tag: Dahlgren (John A. B.)

Wikipedia says: John Adolphus Bernard Dahlgren (November 13, 1809 – July 12, 1870) was a United States Navy officer who founded his service’s Ordnance Department and launched major advances in gunnery.

Dahlgren devised a smoothbore howitzer, adaptable for many sizes of craft as well as shore installations. He then introduced a cast-iron muzzle-loading cannon with vastly increased range and accuracy, known as the Dahlgren gun, that became the Navy’s standard armament.

In the Civil War, Dahlgren was made commander of the Washington Navy Yard, where he established the Bureau of Ordnance. In 1863, he took command of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron at the rank of rear admiral, and helped William Tecumseh Sherman secure Savannah, Georgia.

…He was assigned to the Washington Navy Yard in 1847. While there, Dahlgren established the U.S. Navy’s Ordnance Department; became an ordnance expert; developed a percussion lock; and wrote a number of books, including The System of Boat Armaments in the United States Navy, Shells and Shell Guns, and Naval Percussion Locks and Primers. Under his command, the Navy established its own foundry to manufacture new equipment, and its first product was the boat howitzer, designed for use aboard ship and in landings.

His most famous contribution was the Dahlgren gun, a cast-iron muzzle loading cannon.

In 1861, Dahlgren’s superior at the Washington Navy Yard resigned to join the Confederate navy, and President Abraham Lincoln wanted to name then-Commander Dahlgren to the post of commander of the Washington Navy Yard. By law, however, that position could only be held by an officer with a rank of captain or above. Lincoln successfully persuaded Congress to pass a special act legalizing Dahlgren’s appointment to the yard, and, in July 1862, Dahlgren was promoted to the rank of captain and made chief of the Bureau of Ordnance. In February 1863, Dahlgren was promoted to rear admiral and took command of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. In 1864, he helped William Tecumseh Sherman secure Savannah, Georgia.

Dahlgren’s eldest son Charles Bunker Dahlgren (1839–1912), who had studied steam engineering, joined the U.S. Navy at the start of the Civil War and served with distinction, receiving several promotions and ending as the rank of captain, though he declined offers to continue in federal service after the war. Among other incidents, Charles Dahlgren commanded the siege battery of IX inch Dahlgren shell-guns which destroyed the powerful Confederate batteries at the Battle of Vicksburg, and served under his father during the blockade of Charleston.

Another of Dahlgren’s sons, Colonel Ulric Dahlgren, was killed on March 2, 1864, in a cavalry raid on Richmond, Virginia, while carrying out an assassination plot against Jefferson Davis and the Confederate Cabinet. The plot became known as the Dahlgren Affair. The admiral was deeply troubled by Ulric’s death and role in this event, as well as reports of the disrespectful treatment of the corpse before Richmond spy master Elizabeth Van Lew secured its proper burial.

His brother William also spied on Confederate purchasing agents in England during the war. However, despite Radical Republican associations, John Dahlgren’s younger brother Charles G. Dahlgren (1811–1888), a banker and slave owner, became a Confederate brigadier general, commander of the 3rd Brigade, Army of Mississippi, which he personally recruited and funded, until his troops’ integration into the regular Confederate army and removal by Jefferson Davis in 1862.

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