John A. Dahlgren
Infobox Military Person
name= John Adolphus Bernard Dahlgren
November 13, 1809– July 12, 1870
placeofbirth= Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
caption= John A. Dahlgren
nickname="father of American naval ordnance"
United States Navy
serviceyears= 1826 –
July 12, 1870
rank= Rear Admiral
commands= South Atlantic Blockading Squadron
South Pacific Squadron
Bureau of Ordnance
Commandant of the
Washington Navy Yard
American Civil War
Rear Admiral John Adolphus Bernard Dahlgren, USN, (
November 13, 1809– July 12, 1870), son of Bernhard Ulrik Dahlgren, merchant and Swedish Consul in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, made his career in the United States Navy. He headed the Union Navy's ordnancedepartment during the American Civil Warand designed several different kinds of guns and cannons that were considered part of the reason the Union won the war. For these achievements, Dahlgren became known as the "father of American naval ordnance."Naval Historical Center biography.]
John Dahlgren was born on
November 13, 1809in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He joined the United States Navy in 1826 as a midshipmanand was promoted to the coastal survey in 1834. By 1847, he was an ordnance officer, and at the Washington Navy Yardbegan to improve and systematize the procurementand supply system for weapons.
Under his command, the Navy established its own
foundry, and its first product was the Boat Howitzer, which was designed to be used on both ship and in landings. But it is his cast iron muzzle loadingcannon which came to bear his name (the Dahlgren gun) and be his most famous contribution.
His "Boat Howitzer" design was an improvement on the shell-gun invented by the French Admiral
Henri-Joseph Paixhans. Dahlgren wrote:
:"Paixhans had so far satisfied naval men of the power of shell guns as to obtain their admission on shipboard; but by unduly developing the explosive element, he had sacrificed accuracy and range.... The difference between the system of Paixhans and my own was simply that Paixhans guns were strictly shell guns, and were not designed for shot, nor for great penetration or accuracy at long ranges. They were, therefore, auxiliary to, or associates of, the shot-guns. This made a mixed armament, was objectionable as such, and never was adopted to any extent in
France... My idea was, to have a gun that should generally throw shells far and accurately, with the capacity to fire solid shot when needed. Also to compose the whole battery entirely of such guns." John A. Dalgren
United States Navyhad equipped several ships with 8-inch Paixhans guns of 63 and 55 cwt. in 1845, and later a 10-inch shell gun of 86 cwt. In 1854, the six "Merrimack"-class warships were equipped with 9-inch Dahlgren shell guns. By 1856, the Dahlgren gun had become the standard armament of the United States Navy.
However, fatefully, one of the "dahlgrens" exploded on being tested in 1860, causing Navy regulations to require the use of much lower levels of powder until 1864, well into the Civil War. The commander of USS "Monitor" felt that had his gunner packed the cannons with a full charge, he might have been able to destroy CSS "Virginia".
Dahlgren himself took charge of the Washington Navy Yard in 1861, and in 1863 took command of the
South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. In 1864, he helped William Tecumseh Shermansecure Savannah, Georgia. In 1869, he returned to the Washington Navy Yard where he served until his death.
The Naval station in
Dahlgren, Virginia, Dahlgren Hall at the United States Naval Academyin Annapolis, Maryland, and several ships were named for him, as was Dahlgren, Illinois.
Admiral Dahlgren's son, Colonel
Ulric Dahlgren, was killed during the Civil War in a cavalry raid on Richmond, Virginia, while carrying out an assassination plot against Jefferson Davisand the Confederate Cabinet. The plot is known as the Dahlgren Affair. The admiral was deeply troubled by his son's death and role in this event. Despite Radical Republicanassociations, John Dahlgren's younger brother Charles G. Dahlgren(1811-1888) was a strong proponent of slave ownership and was a Confederate Brigadier General, Commander of the 3rd Brigade, Army of Mississippi, which he personally funded.
In 1865, Dahlgren married Madeleine Vinton, daughter of Congressman
Samuel Finley Vintonand Romaine Madeleine Bureau, and the widow of Daniel Convers Goddard, first Assistant Secretary of the newly-created U.S. Department of the Interior. Madeleine was a well-known author in her own right. Their children were John Vinton Dahlgren, who married Elizabeth Wharton Drexel; Eric Bernard Dahlgren, Sr., who married Lucy Wharton Drexel[cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Miss K. Dahlgren held for speeding. Daughter of Mrs. Drexel Dahlgren again Summoned to Court in Lenox. |url= |quote= Lenox, Massachusetts, July 20, 1915. Miss Katherine Dahlgren, third daughter of Mrs. Drexel Dahlgren, and a granddaughter of Rear Admiral John Dahlgren, was arrested this afternoon in Stockbridge on a charge of speeding her automobile ninety miles an hour on the main street and for operating the racer in a reckless manner. |publisher= New York Times|date= July 20, 1915|accessdate=2007-07-21 ] ; and Ulrica Dahlgren, who married Josiah Pierce, and was the grandmother of Romaine Dahlgren Pierce, wife of David Mountbatten, 3rd Marquess of Milford Haven.
*"The System of Boat Armaments in the United States Navy"
*"Shells and Shell Guns"
*"Naval Percussion Locks and Primers"
Dahlgren- Other uses of Dahlgren
USS Dahlgren- List of US Naval ships named for Dahlgren
Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division
work=Biographies in Naval History
publisher=Naval Historical Center, Department of the Navy
title=Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren
July 25, 2001
title=Admiral John A. Dahlgren
work=Pennsylvania in the Civil War
author=Gayley, Alice J.
title=Admiral John A. B. Dahlgren (1809-1870)
author=Melton, Jack W., Jr. and Lawrence E. Pawl
publisher=Civil War Artillery.com
title=John A. Dahlgren Collection
publisher=Syracuse University Special Collections Research Center
title=Memoir of John A. Dahlgren, Rear Admiral United States Navy
author=Madeleine Vinton Dahlgren
publisher=J.R. Osgood and Co.
year=1882 (Written by Dahlgren's widow)
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