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Correspondence between Rear Admiral Dahlgren and Captain Wise Concerning Ordnance, 1855: Finding Aid

Published in April 2020

Summary Information

  • Publisher: United States Naval Academy. Special Collections & Archives.
  • Publisher Address:
    589 McNair Road
    Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5029, USA
    Phone: 410-293-6917
    https://www.usna.edu/Library/sca/index.php
  • Call number: MS 145
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: Correspondence between Rear Admiral Dahlgren and Captain Wise Concerning Ordnance
  • Dates: 1855
  • Size: 0.15 linear feet
  • Container Summary: 1 volume of 80 leaves
  • Creator: Dahlgren, John Adolphus Bernard, 1809-1870
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: John A. Dahlgren and Henry A. Wise were officers and ordnance experts in the United States Navy. The Correspondence between Rear Admiral Dahlgren and Captain Wise Concerning Ordnance spans from March until October 1855. The correspondence was written by Henry Wise, stationed in South Boston while a Lieutenant, and John Dahlgren, stationed in Washington with the Navy's Ordnance Office while a Lieutenant and Commander.

Biography of John A. Dahlgren

John Adolphus Bernard Dahlgren was born on November 13, 1809 in Philadelphia to Bernard Ulric and Martha Rowan Dahlgren. Warranted a Midshipman in the United States Navy in February 1826, Dahlgren spent his first two cruises aboard U.S.S. Macedonian (Frigate) and U.S.S. Ontario (Sloop-of-war), before being assigned to coast survey duty in 1837. Although promoted to Lieutenant on May 8, 1837, Dahlgren was forced to take an extended leave of absence from the Navy due to vision problems, and did not return to active duty until May 1843.

Upon his return to active duty, Dahlgren was attached to U.S.S. Cumberland (Frigate). In January 1847, he reported for ordnance duty at the Washington Navy Yard, and that August, was put in charge of all ordnance matters. While so employed, Dahlgren developed what would come to be known as the Dahlgren Gun and the Dahlgren Boat Howitzer.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Dahlgren assumed command of the Washing Navy Yard after the Yard's previous commander, Franklin Buchanan, joined the Confederacy. Shortly after being promoted to Captain, Dahlgren was appointed Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance. Promotion to Rear Admiral followed on February 7, 1863, and that June, Dahlgren assumed command of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, replacing Samuel Francis Du Pont. Having finally captured the Confederate port of Charleston, Dahlgren returned to Washington in June 1865.

After the war, Dahlgren assumed command of the South Pacific Squadron in late 1866. In July 1868, he was detached to resume his post of Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance. A little over a year later, he was transferred to command of the Washington Navy Yard. John Adolphus Bernard Dahlgren died on July 12, 1870 in Washington, DC.

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Biography of Henry A. Wise

Henry Augustus Wise was born on Brooklyn, New York on May 24, 1819 to Captain George Stewart and Catherine Stansberry Wise. Warranted as a Midshipman in February 1834, he was promoted to Passed Midshipman on July 16, 1840 after several years at sea and at the naval school in Philadelphia. Following several special duty assignments, he was attached to U.S.S. Plymouth (Sloop-of-war) in 1844. Promoted to Master on October 13, 1846, he was then attached to U.S.S. Independence (Frigate).

Still aboard U.S.S. Independence at the outbreak of the Mexican War, Wise, who was promoted to Lieutenant during the conflict, participated in engagements in the Gulf of California, Mazatlán, and La Paz. Following the war, he was assigned to the Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1850, and two years later transferred to U.S.S. Cumberland (Frigate).

In 1855, Wise was assigned to ordnance duty, spending the next five years in Boston and Washington so employed. In 1860, he was appointed to the U.S. Japanese Commission. After the outbreak of the Civil War, Wise, a Virginian by upbringing, was ordered to destroy the Gosport Navy Yard, after which he was attached to U.S.S. Niagara (Screw frigate) blockading Charleston. Following promotion to Commander in July 1862, he was appointed Assistant Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance under Rear Admiral John Adolphus Dahlgren, assuming the role of Acting Chief when Dahlgren was ordered to sea on the South Atlantic Blockade in June 1863. Promotion to full bureau chief came on August 25, 1864, and promotion to Captain followed on December 29, 1866. In 1868, Wise stepped down as Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance for health reasons, and was succeeded by his predecessor, John Dahlgren. Henry August Wise died on April 2, 1869 in Naples, Italy while on leave of absence.

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Description of Contents

The Correspondence between Rear Admiral Dahlgren and Captain Wise Concerning Ordnance, comprising 0.15 linear feet of documentation in a single volume of 80 leaves, spans from March until October 1855. The correspondence was written by Henry Wise, stationed in South Boston while a Lieutenant, and John Dahlgren, stationed in Washington with the Navy's Ordnance Office while a Lieutenant and Commander.

The letters, in a volume bearing the embossed name of Commodore W. N. Jeffers in gilt lettering on the cover, pertain to the design, manufacture, and testing of ordnance, including pieces cast by Cyrus Alger & Co. Specific topics covered include alterations to cascabels and trunnions on 9-inch, 10-inch, and 11-inch guns; performance of specific artillery pieces; and the results of tests, including the bursting of several guns.

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Arrangement

The Correspondence between Rear Admiral Dahlgren and Captain Wise Concerning Ordnance comprises a single volume.

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Access and Use

Access

Patron use restricted to microfilm.

Copyright and Permission

The Correspondence between Rear Admiral Dahlgren and Captain Wise Concerning Ordnance is the physical property of Nimitz Library. Copyright belongs to the authors or creators of the works, or their legal representatives. For further information, consult the Head, Special Collections & Archives.

It is the responsibility of the researcher to secure written permission to publish, reprint, or reproduce material from Special Collections & Archives. The researcher assumes responsibility for infringement of copyright or literary or publication rights. Please contact the Head, Special Collections & Archives for permission to publish and for further information.

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Acquisition and Appraisal

Provenance and Acquisition

Unknown.

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Related Materials

Location of Copies or Alternate Formats

This collection also available on microfilm.

Related Archival Material

Collections of John A. Dahlgren's papers can be found at the Manuscripts Division of the Library of Congress, New York Public Library, New-York Historical Society, and Syracuse University.

Collections of Henry A. Wise's papers can be found at the Manuscripts Division of the Library of Congress, New-York Historical Society, and the University of Virginia.

Materials Cataloged Separately

No materials have been removed from this collection and cataloged separately.

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Processing and Other Information

Preferred Citation

Correspondence between Rear Admiral Dahlgren and Captain Wise Concerning Ordnance, MS 145

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Selected Bibliography

The following sources were consulted during preparation of the biographical note:

Fowler, William M. "Dahlgren, John Adolphus Bernard (13 November 1809-12 July 1870)." American National Biography New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Nelson, Paul David. "Wise, Henry Augustus (24 May 1819-02 April 1869)." American National Biography New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Mary R. Catalfamo. Finding aid written by David D'Onofrio in April 2020.

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Subject Headings

These materials have been indexed in the Naval Academy Library online catalog using the following terms. Those seeking related materials should search under these terms.

Name and Subject Terms

  • Dahlgren, John Adolphus Bernard, 1809-1870
  • Ordnance -- Manufacture
  • Ordnance, Naval
  • United States. Navy -- Ordnance and ordnance stores
  • Wise, H. A. (Henry Augustus), 1819-1869

Genre Terms

  • Correspondence
  • Letter books
  • Manuscripts

Additional Creator/Author

  • Wise, H. A. (Henry Augustus), 1819-1869
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Contents List

Box 1 Folder 1

Correspondence between Rear Admiral Dahlgren and Captain Wise Concerning Ordnance, 1855

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