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John Adolphus Bernard Dahlgren

By John T. Marck

The son of the Swedish consul in Philadelphia, John Dahlgren was born there on November 13, 1809. Originally denied a midshipman's commission in the navy, he did begin his career in 1842 as an acting midshipman. Five years later he began his tour of duty at the Washington Navy Yard.

It would be here that he established and directed the United States Navy's ordnance department. One of the many contributions he made to naval ordnance was the Dahlgren Gun, which became one of the standard weapons during the Civil War.

When the Civil War began, Dahlgren was in command of the Washington Naval Yard, and more than one year later in July 1862, he became the chief of the Bureau of Ordnance. Later that summer, he was promoted to the rank of captain, and about one year later, was agin promoted to the rank of rear admiral. He then applied for and was granted sea duty, receiving command of the South Atlantic Blocking Squadron in July 1863. In this position he spent the majority of his time at sea off Charleston, South Carolina, where he attempted to close off the harbor. Of his naval contributions at sea, he helped in the capture of Charleston and Savannah by directing an expedition up the St. John's River into Florida.

When the war ended, Dahlgren served for a while in the Pacific, then returned to the Bureau of Ordnance. Still in command of the Washington Navy Yard, he died on July 12, 1870.

Copyright 1993-2022 by John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and their accompanying pictures, photographs, and line art, may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author.