Commander Dahlgren Biography


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, April 20, 1861

The April 20, 1861 edition of Harper's Weekly features extensive information on the Civil War Union Navy.  Newspaper thumbnails will take you to a large, readable version of that page.


Charles Adams

Fort Pickens

Adams Biography

Charles Adams Biography


Commander Dahlgren

Dahlgren Biography

Commander Dahlgren Biography

The Baltic and Atlantic

The Baltic and Atlantic

The Start of the Civil War

Washington Navy Yard

Washington Navy Yard

US Naval Fleet

US Naval Fleet






[APRIL 20, 1861.



IN a recent number we published a picture of Captain Rodman's big Columbiad at Fort Monroe, We now publish on page 244 a series of picture; illustrating the Dahlgren gun, with a portrait of Commander Dahlgren.

This distinguished officer of the United States Navy is a native of Pennsylvania. He entered the service as a Midshipman in 1826, became a Lieutenant in 1837, and a Commander in 1855. For the last fifteen years he has been engaged at the Navy-yard at Washington in superintending the construction of artillery. The service owes to him, first, the heavy guns which bear his name, and also a very efficient armament for boats, consisting of 12 and 24-pound bronze howitzers of light pattern, which throw shells, shrapnel, and canister. Before his time boats were armed merely with shot guns, carronades, and land pieces, which were obviously unsuitable for service at sea. His vigilance and energy have now provided our boats with an admirable system of ordnance, and contributed not a little to the general efficiency of our naval gunnery.

The large Dahlgren guns with which our new steam frigates are armed are regarded as the most perfect models yet constructed. The weight of metal between the muzzle and the trunnions is reduced, and is placed about the breech, where most strength is required. In length, range, and height the 8-inch Dahlgren does not differ materially from the 32-pounder. Its dimensions are as follows :

Length of bore                                100.3inch.

Weight                                                63 cwt. Range at 5° elevation, with 9 pounds powder.                                          1776 yards.

The navy 32-pounder sends a ball or shell 1930 yards, when fired at an elevation of 5° with nine pounds powder. The great 9 and 11-inch guns are still an experiment.

The fuse used in the Dahlgren howitzers was invented by Colonel Borman, of the Belgian Artillery. Our correspondent writes : " When the charge is to be placed in the gun, the time for explosion—from a quarter of a second to five seconds —can be obtained by cutting away the soft metal of which the cover to the fuse chamber is composed at the time, as marked upon the fuse. The discharge of the piece ignites the fuse, which, burning the time marked, reaches the chamber of grained powder, which explodes the thin covering between the contents of the shell, and explodes the whole. I have seen the Dahlgren howitzer discharged four times within twenty seconds. Each shrapnel contains eighty musket-balls ; this would give nearly a thousand balls per minute from a single piece—and then, too, the shell is exploded at will at any given point."


WE publish on page 245 a view of the Washington Navy-yard, showing the shad-fishers in the fore-ground pursuing their peaceful calling, and the engines of dread war in the whole back-ground of the picture.

The Washington Navy-yard lies on the north bank of the Anacostia, a branch of the Potomac, about one mile from the junction. The waters of this stream are of considerable width, and though the channel is very narrow, it has been practicable for the largest ships of war ; but from neglect it is now so choked by deposits that only at high-water and with great care can vessels of 17 and 18 feet get to the navy-yard. This navy-yard was located very soon after the city itself, and being at the seat of Government, has been more used for building and fitting ships than its remoteness from the ocean might be supposed to make convenient. The Chesapeake was prepared here for sea in 1807, previous to her encounter with the Leopard. In 1814, when the British occupied Washington, a fine frigate, in process of building, and the Argus, 18, were burned to prevent their being taken. The Columbus, 74 (1819) ; frigates Potomac (1821), Brandywine (1825), and Columbia (1836) ; sloops-of-war St. Louis (1828), and St. Mary's (1844) ; schooners Grampus, Shark, and Experiment; and the steam-frigate, Minnesota (1835), were all built here.

The yard is best known, however, for its facilities in preparing supplies for the Navy of a peculiar description.

All the anchors and chain cables for the Navy are made here, under the eye of that faithful old son of Vulcan, Mr. Tucker. This has been his province for nearly half a century, and though scarcely as active as he has been, he is yet to be seen, early and late, in the active performance of his business, and the full vigor of a green old age.

The range of new buildings for the manufacture of steam-engines is perhaps unsurpassed in this country for its extent, convenience, and excellent machinery. Here was made the engine of the Minnesota; and if it sustains the same standard of work in future, the establishment need not fear competition in any quarter. Since that the engine of the Richmond was executed, and now the mechanics are busy putting up that of the Pensacola, a new design by Mr. Sickles. Here presides Mr. Bright, an able and industrious engineer, who was trained in the yard.

In the ordnance buildings are manufactured all the bronze howitzers for the Navy, also supplies of various kinds, such as fuses and rockets, shrapnell, shell, etc., for the howitzers, caps and ammunition for the small-arms.

This is under the direction of Captain Dahlgren, by whom all the present establishment was designed and put into operation during the last ten or twelve years, except the Laboratory, which owes its existence to the late Mr. Costar, an accomplished pyrotechnist.

The several parts of this branch are the Mechanical Department, the Laboratory, the Gun Foundery, carriage-makers, etc.

One of the most important is the experimental

Battery, where may be seen every model of artillery, new or old, rifled or smooth, and where have been first put into practice the important changes that are noticeable in the new steamers of the Navy.

The entire yard is under the command of Captain Buchanan, and its beautiful condition is not only creditable to his personal taste and industry, but is evidence that an officer so distinguished for his ability on board ship can be equally so in a yard. He may well be proud of the praise accorded him in and out of his profession.

Here, too, in the extensive and excellent buildings and facilities of the yard, as indeed of every other navy-yard in the United States, may be observed the results of able and faithful management by the veteran who directs the affairs of the Bureau of Yards and Docks—Commodore Jos. Smith—one of the few who have survived the perils of 1812, and the labors of continued service since that epoch. He played an active part in the stubborn fight on Lake Champlain, and now seems hardly touched by the intervening period of half a century.


WE publish on pages 248 and 249 a picture of the United States fleet now lying off Fort Pickens, Florida. It consists of the steam sloop Brooklyn, the frigate Sabine, the sloop of war St. Louis, the steamers Crusader and Wyandot, and a supply ship. They lie about three miles off the shore, and form a beautiful picture as seen from Fort Pickens.

The following list will give the strength, and the names of the officers of the several vessels :



Captain—Henry A. Adams. Lieutenant and Executive Officer—J. R. Mullany. Lieutenants—George P. Welsh, Wm. H. Murdagh, Robert F. R. Lewis, L. H. Norman. Acting Master—Wm. P. M'Cann. Surgeon—M. G. Delaney. Passed Assistant Surgeon—James T. Harrison. Paymaster—John F. Steele. First Lieutenant of Marines—John Cash. Boatswain—Paul Atkinson. Gunner—James M. Cooper. Carpenter—Wm. D. Jenkins. Sailmaker—John Joins. Master's Mates—R. L. Parker, Val. Voorhees, Daniel Dunsmore, Wm. S. Roche, John Skillman, J. R. Crockwell, Thomas Garvey. Captain's Clerk—B. H. Lane. Purser's Clerk—John M. Falk.


Captain—William Walker. Lieutenants—James A. Doyle, J. C. Williamson, Albert W. Smith, William N. Jeffers, William Mitchell, H. A. Adams. Surgeon—Lewis W. Minor. Paymaster—Thomas H. Looker. Assistant Surgeons—T. W. Leach, M. P. Christian. Lieutenant of Marines—George R. Graham. Engineers—Joshua Follansbee, W. B. Brooks, Marshall P. Jordan, James W. Wittaker, Henry Snyder, E. F. Mayer, Jun., John K. Neill.


Captain—Charles H. Poor. Executive Officer-Lieu-tenant J. D. Todd. Lieutenants—W. W. Low, M. P. Jones, G. E. Belnap. Surgeon—John O. C. Barclay. Paymaster—G. T. Pierce. Assistant Surgeon—J. O. Purnett. Marine Officer—Lieutenant H. L. Graham. Boatswain—P. A. Chassen. Gunner—J. W. Searle. Carpenter—James M'Donald. Sailmaker—L. B. Wakeman. Clerks—Captain's, W. Gordon; Paymaster's, W. Shelbrick.


Lieutenant Commanding—T. A. M. Craven. Lieutenants---J. M. Duncan, J. E. Jewett, and A. E. K. Ben-ham. Passed Assistant Surgeon—J. W. B. Greenhom. Master—Rush R. Wallace. Engineers—First Assistant, J. A. Grier ; Third Assistants, L. Campbell, O. H. Lackey, and J. D. Lining.


Lieutenant Commanding—Abner Read. Lieutenants--J. R. Eggleston, J. M. Stribling. Assistant Surgeon—Algernon S. Garnet. Engineers—First Assistant, W. H. Cushman; Third Assistants, M. H. Plunkett, K. Wilson. Purser—Emery J. Brooks.


Captain—Alexander Gibson. Lieutenants—C. H. B. Caldwell, James S. Maxwell, Alfred Hopkins. Master—J. A. Howell. Assistant Surgeon—A. W. Sandford. Paymaster—E. W. Dunn. Clerks—Captain's, John Van Dyke; Paymaster's, A. C. Bowie.


ON Saturday, April 6, the Atlantic sailed under sealed orders, with several hundred United States troops and military stores on board ; and on Monday following the Baltic also sailed with the like freight. We publish on page 252 a couple of pictures illustrating the shipment of military stores, etc., on board these vessels. The Herald reporter thus describes the scene :


the ship every thing betokened the mission on which she is bound. On every side something was met that spoke of war; the decks were covered with loose plank, around the sides of the vessel were ranged a number of water-casks, while piled up for future disposition were boxes of shell and other warlike implements, among which were several boxes of the newly rifled carbines used by the artillery. The upper deck, at the bow, was devoted to the erection of stalls for the use of the horses that were to be received on board. These were constructed with regard both to strength and comfort, the sides and back being very carefully padded, so as to secure the animals from injury during the passage. Eighty of these stalls were erected, completely filling up the front part of the vessel. Every measure has been adopted that was at all practicable to secure the comfort of the animals.

The sleeping accommodation for the soldiers are little better than the horse-stalls—rough boards carelessly nailed together forms the bedstead on which the men are to stretch themselves, and more than stretch themselves they can't, there being very close quarters for one, where two are intended to be put. It is intended that each of these stands will hold six men, and as they are very narrow, very high, and packed together as close as it is possible to do so, they will be able to carry a great number in a very small space. The cabin, state-rooms, and other portions of the vessel remain unchanged.

In the fore-part of the hold an immense quantity of provisions are stored—flour, meats, bags, barrels, and parcels are carefully stored away, and there is little fear of their provisions falling short, at least for some time ; the rest of the hold is filled with the guns, carriages, forges, and stores that may be needed at whatever place they may be bound for.


of the troops and armament was conducted in the usual military style. Some curiosity was manifested as to how

so many horses (seventy-eight) were to be got on board, as the steamer was lying several feet from the dock, but the presence of two strongly-built stalls soon explained that. The horse was quietly placed in one of the stalls, and almost before he had time to know where he was, the steam-hoisting apparatus had placed him with his companions on board the ship. The time employed in putting all the animals in their quarters was incredibly short, only a few moments being given to each. The guns and their heavy carriages were stowed away carefully, and the baggage next received the proper attention.

The steam-tug R. L. Mabey at five o'clock came along-side; her deck was densely crowded with soldiers from Fort Hamilton, and there was some little delay in getting them on board the larger vessel. They presented a strange sight, with their knapsacks, water-bottles, cans, and other accoutrements. They are nearly all young men—fine, healthy young fellows, and full of spirit.


The work of shipping a cargo on the Baltic was prosecuted with unceasing vigor during the whole of Sunday night and yesterday, until the moment of departure. The articles shipped embrace ordnance tools, muskets, foraging carts, and forge vices. A large number of gunny bags was in the list. These gunny bags possess a warlike character, inasmuch as they are used in throwing up redoubts, and are also very serviceable in protecting a boat's crew in approaching a battery.

Among the commodities shipped was a remarkable quantity of spirituous liquors of all kinds, the labels attached to which were often times rather ludicrous, especially such as the following : "58 bottles firemen's rum."

During the afternoon the workmen were principally engaged in shipping provisions and ammunition on board the Baltic. A number of Bengalee lights were also shipped.

Toward five o'clock the steam-tugs R. L. Mabey, C. P. Smith, and Catlin came to the dock with 500 troops. The R. L. Mabey placed 160 men, from Governor's Island, on board the Baltic, after which the steamship moved slowly out from the dock, the soldiers on the top deck cheering, and gaining the middle of the river, turned toward the Bay and went out to sea. She passed the Narrows at seven P.M., accompanied by the steam-tug Yankee, which has been chartered by the Government.



SIR. WALTER DE GREY was a gallant young knight As ever was seen at a feast or a fight Ever fiat at the battle and first at the board,

Were it blood to be spilled or good wine to be poured. He had rode with six sword-strokes bestowed on his crest--

Twice that number of pints might be stowed 'neath his vest ;

And little the marvel that Walter was tough, For the life of a ruffler in that day was rough. The most of his time in the saddle was spent,

Or, when arms tired his arms, he retired to a tent, And hung out a trumpet in reach of his foes, A blow upon which was precursor of blows!

Of a sooth his armed heels he might proudly display,

For he won them their spurs upon Ascalon's day, Though then but a squire, be no wrought in the fight That Richard at bed-time said, " Walter, good knight!" He had charged on the Moslem alone, without feres, And had raised such a din about Saladin's ears, That the foe to their Prophet cried, "Shield us, we pray,

From the old devil black and this young devil Grey!"

Sir Walter, of course, was a favorite with dames—The reason none know, and sure nobody blames; But certain it is that bright plumes and bright swords Have made bright eyes forget both the Lord and theirlords, And that down to this day there is nothing that charms The sex called divine like a good "man at arms." To tell truth of my knight, our Good Lady above Came in for a very small share of his love;

If he knelt at her shrine, it is more than I know, But I'll vouch that he knelt him to many below;

For these saddle-trained men were sad rovers at best, And their love—like their lances—but seldom knew rest.

Sir Walter for squire had as merry a knave As ever braced helmet or buckled a glaive.

Stout John was the man a young master to aid, For, ready alike with his tongue and his blade,

He would ride by your side, and cut throats or a joke, As the need might demand or the humor provoke. He could tell you long stories—some sad and some queer Of a Barbary far and of Barbaras near ;

For John had explored every nook in the world Where a petticoat fluttered or pennon unfurled—He had followed the steps of an optician knight Who sought to restore the old Sepulchre's site,

Yet I grieve to record did not save it from loss—They were crossed in their efforts by foes of the Cross! But I can not recount every region and spot

Where my good John had been—nor can you where he'd not!

Well : As the knight and his squire scoured the country one day,

In quest of some straggler to succor or slay, They espied a fair castle--the evening was nigh, And our heroes were weary, and hungry, and—dry. Said the squire, " What will next be the move of the

knight?" Quoth Sir Walter, "I'll castle." Said John, " That move's right !"

So they spurred on like men of decision and tact, On the spur of the moment accustomed to act,

Till they came to the gates--not a soul was exposed, The draw-bridge was up and the portcullis closed; But a horn hung outside—they had never heard tell In that quaint Middle Age of a door with a bell. Quoth stout John, " When a traveler is wearied and worn, He can not be censured for taking a horn!"

So lie put to his lips, and he wound such a blast That the church-yards all round thought that day was the last ;

And a Gambler who long had lain still as a dump Stepped out and demanded if that was the trump. While the Baron inside swore he hadn't a doubt "If that man were a candle he'd blow himself out." And the old warder sprang to unfasten his chains, Lest the parties outside should blow out their brains. "You make," said the graybeard, as John cantered through, "More noise with one horn than the Foul Fiend with two!"

Inside of the castle was feasting and cheer.

It was wassail and wine, beef, brandy, and beer—Till the evening had waned, when the Baron arose : "Fair Sirs, if it please, ere we go to repose

A few strains on the harp my daughter shall play." "We attend the fair harpist," said Walter de Grey.

Don't tremble, good reader, I mean not to tell Of the beauties and charms of the fair Isabel ;

For Sir Walter that night bored the poor sleepy John With such tales of these trifles that, when he had done, The squire spoke him, briefly : "I see, though too late, This castling was wrong—it will end in a mate."

That night my poor knight very little sleep knew, And he woke up his squire ere the cock fairly crew. "God save us!" cried John, "have this young damsel's charms

Turned thy brain, that thus early we take us to arms?" Quoth the knight, "Save thy jokes, for they please me not well ;

We fell on this castle—you wet what befell.

Unhelmed and unhorsed, on my knees and in need, I have called on my squire—shall I see thee secede?" " Nay, nay," said stout John ; "and no caitiff shall dare Say the squire leaves the knight till the knight leaves his square.

You shall mount, and I'll make you quite rich in a trice With the coin that rich men give to poor—good advice.

If you're saddled by love, and the boy's bridal rein Holds you steady in check, it is useless to strain, And fret, and grow restise, man, learn front the horse, And take the field fair like a courser, of course."

"Alas! my good squire," said Sir Walter de Grey, "I've heard horses whinny and fillies cry neigh." Quoth John, "I have ridden beside thee in light, And each deed was indeed like a gallant Sir Knight; Upon bombards we've charged in the far sunny South—Shall we blench from the fire of a fair lady's mouth?"

Sir Walter was silent, but soon he arose,

And in dressing that morning he donned his best clothes.

Perhaps I am wrong, but I've noticed this much When young men to their dress give artistical touch, The thing is portentous as clouds in the sky—You may know that a wedding or funeral is nigh. Well, Sir Walter that morning threw armor afar, And instead of his falchion he bore a guitar ; In the garden below soon a tinkling was heard, - And the Baron, half-roused, damned an innocent bird.

I remember that once some young ladies next door Had a serenade--time, in the morning at four

And they opened their window and flung out bouquet On the brazen young ass who'd woke me with his brays;

I remarked to my wife, had he come beneath ours, I'd have flung out some favors more weighty than flowers.

But tastes don't agree—to return to my theme, I'll tell you the words that broke Isabel's dream.


Oh, Lady, leave thy slumber now,

For birds their matins tell;

The gems of Night deck Morning's brow: Come down my Isabel !

The rose is breathing its sweet prayer, And every lily-bell

Is ringing fragrance on the air: Come down my Isabel!

And I have found an angel's tear--This dew upon the dell

To mirror back thy beauty clear: Come down my Isabel!

I bent above a blushing flower, And heard the rose queen tell

To bring the brightest to her bower: Come down my Isabel!

The stars swing silent in the sky, So soft the zephyr's swell,

It scarce can drown a lover's sigh: Come down my Isabel!

The lady came down, the knight knelt in the dew, What he said as he knelt there is nothing to you; The act was imprudent, he spoiled his guitar

And returned to the house with it. shocking catarrh.

When Sir Walter and John after breakfast had met—John never stirred out while the grass-plat was wet: "Tell me now," said the squire, "have we gleanings

of light?

One would say by thy face 'twas a very (lark knight." It was Walter that spoke, and his tongue was as slow As the bell's that is tolled to tell tidings of tees: "Alas for my love, and also for Its grief, And alas for my lady, her father—the thief To the musty old church his fair daughter has given, And to-morrow the maid will be wedded to Heaven!"

Loud laughed the stout squire, "By this blade good and bright,

I will swear she had rather be wed to a knight!

"One hope," said Sir Walter, "one only remains, The hand that has forged may unrivet the chains." So they sought out the Baron, they found him at play With two kittens—his felines were tender, you'll say

Sir Walter spoke deftly, "Thy daughter is fair As the brow of the morning and pure as a prayer, Through all the wide land can no lady be found."   

The Baron called " puss" and he looked on the ground "What's this," whispered Walter, "why calls he the cat?" "I opine," said the squire, "that he snellelh a rat!

The Baron then spoke. "In his young knightly clays He'd been given," he said, "to some weak, wicked ways--

Such as sacking of churches and burning of priests, And robbing poor boors of their beauties and beasts But long since of his sins be repented sincere, For the sight of his wine made him think of his bier- And he'd deeded away both his castle and child, To atone for deeds done while his young blood ran wild, And the Abbot had promised that church bells should

toll, And masses of masses be said for his soul;

And he hinted that now, since the day was well through, The knight should go on, and be wished him a-dew"

"By my soul," cried the squire, "what a villainous sham!

It is meet that we met this poor innocent lamb; How next shall we move, to win us the game?" "Alas," said Sir Walter, "I fear to my shame We must call it a draw!" "Nay," said John, "that were green, Put a check on his Bishop and capture the Queen."

There was bustle next morning the castle about, It was bustle within and more hustle without, For, in cowl and in surplice, on foot and on horse, The monks and the priests had turned out in such force, That a jester remarked, as they wound o'er the plain, "No Bishop before dragged behind such a train!" All was pomp and display: Isabel was to go As a bride to a convent—conventionally so-



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