Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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UPSHUR, Abel Parker, statesman, born in Northampton county, Virginia, 17 June, 1790; died near Washington, D. C., 28 February, 1844. He received a classical education, studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1810, and practised at Richmond, Virginia, until 1824, when he removed to his estate in Northampton county, and was elected to the legislature In 1826 he was appointed a judge in the general court of Virginia, in 1829 he was a member of the convention that was called to revise the state constitution, and after the reorganization of the judicial system under that instrument he was again elected judge of the same court This office he continued to hold until 1841, when he was called by President Tyler to fill that of secretary of the navy. On the resignation of Daniel Webster, in 1843, he was made secretary of state. In politics he belonged to the extreme state-rights pro-slavery school of the south. Early in 1844 he was on the United States steamer "Princeton," on Potomac river, in company with the president and the other members of the cabinet, to witness experiments with a large wrought-iron gull, which burst on being fired the third time and killed him together with several others. Judge Upshur, besides a number of essays and addresses, published "Brief Inquiry into the True Nature and Character of our Federal Government Review of Judge Joseph Story's Commentaries on the Constitution" (Petersburg, Virginia, 1840). --His brother, George Parker, naval officer, born in Northampton county, Virginia, 8 March, 1799; died in Spezzia, Italy, 3 November, 1852, entered the navy as a midshipman, 23 April, 1818, was promoted to lieutenant, 3 March, 1827, and served on the Brazil station in the "Lexington" in 1832-'4 at the attack and dispersion of the pirates on Falkland islands. He commanded the brig "Truxtun" on her first cruise in the Mediterranean in 1843-'4, and served in the receiving-ship at Norfolk in 1844-'7. He was commissioned a commander, 27 February, 1847, and was superintendent of the naval academy at Annapolis in 1847-'50. He took command of the sloop "Levant" at Norfolk, 12 July, 1852, joined the Mediterranean squadron, and died on board ship while in command at Spezzia.--Their nephew, John Henry, naval officer, born in Northampton county, Virginia, 5 December, 1823, changed his name from Nottingham to that of his mother, Upshur, when he entered the navy to gratify her wish, as the Upshur family was conspicuous in naval annals. He became a midshipman, 4 November, 1841, and cruised in the sloop "St. Mary's" in 1843-'6, in which he joined the squadron in the Gulf of Mexico during the Mexican war. He served in the naval battery during the bombardment of Vera Cruz, 10 to 25 March, 1847, and after the fall of that city he attended the naval school, becoming a passed midshipman, 10 August, 1847. He was promoted to master, 18 July, 1855, and to lieutenant, 14 September, 1855, served in the frigate "Cumberland" on the coast of Africa to suppress the slave-trade in 1858-'9, and was an instructor at the naval academy in 1859-'61. When the war began he was assigned to the North Atlantic blockading squadron, and participated in the capture of the forts at Hatteras inlet and in the sounds of North Carolina in 1861. He was executive officer of the steam frigate "Wabash" at the capture of Port Royal, and commanded four boats in Commander C. R. P Rodgers's expedition in the inland coast waters in the vicinity of Port Royal and Beaufort, South Carolina He was in charge of the steamer " Flambeau," of the South Atlantic blockading squadron, in 1862-'3 in operations on the coast of South Carolina. He was promoted to lieutenant-commander, 16 July, 1862, assigned to the steam frigate "Minnesota," of the North Atlantic blockading squadron, in 1863-'4, and had the steamer "A. D. Vance" (a blockade-runner whose name was changed to the " Frolic ") in 1864.'5, in which he took part in both engagements at Fort Fisher. He was promoted to commander, 25 July, 1866, and given the "Frolic," on the Mediterranean station, in 1865-'7. After promotion to captain, 31 January, 1872, he served as a member of the board of inspectors in 1877-'80. He had a leave of absence, during which he visited Europe, in 1880, and upon his return was a member of the board of examiners. He was commandant of the Brooklyn navy-yard in 1882-'4, and commander-in-chief of the Pacific station in 1884-'5. He was promoted to rear-admiral, 1 October, 1884, and was voluntarily placed on the retired list, 1 June, 1885.--A niece, Mary Jane Stith, poet, born in Accomac county, Virginia, 7 April, 1828, was educated entirely at home, and early began writing for the press. On the death of her father, in 1869, she removed from Norfolk, Virginia, to New York city, and on 2 July, 1870, married Josiah R. Sturges. Mrs. Sturges was one of the organizers and the first president of the Harlem free hospital and dispensary for women and children. She has contributed to southern periodicals both prose and poetry, commonly under the pen-name of " Fanny Fielding." Her principal work is "Confederate Notes," an historical novel, which appeared anonymously in 1867 in the "Home Monthly," published at Nashville, Tennessee
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