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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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James Ellsworth De Kay

DE KAY, James Ellsworth, naturalist, born in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1792; d, in Oyster Bay, L. I., 21 November 1851. He studied medicine at Edinburgh, and there took his degree as a physician. On his return to the United States he married a daughter of Henry Eckford, the naval architect, whom he subsequently accompanied to Turkey, where the latter was appointed superintendent of the naval yards at Constantinople. Dr. De Kay also became intimate with his brother-in-law, Joseph Rodman Drake, Fitz-Greene Halleck, William Cullen Bryant, and other men of mark in literature and science. He was entrusted by Mr. Eckford with negotiations with Brazil and other South American powers, relative to the ships of war that had been ordered by the latter. Upon returning to this country, he settled permanently at Oyster Bay, L. I., devoting himself to the study of natural history and contributing to the New York press. On the outbreak of cholera in the latter City, Dr. De Kay hastened to give his services to the afflicted, although the practice of his profession was repugnant to him. He was subsequently a founder of the Lyceum of natural history, afterward merged into the National academy of science. In 1836 the state ordered a geological survey, making it comprehensive enough to cover botany and zoology, and intrusting those departments to Dr. De Kay. The results of his researches are contained in five volumes of the " Survey" (1842'9). Besides these, he is the author of "Travels in Turkey" (New York, 1833).

His brother, George Coleman De Kay, naval officer, born in New York City in 1802; died in Washington, D. C., 31 January 1849. He was prepared for College, but ran away to sea. He became a skilful navigator, and took vessels built by Henry Eckford to South America. He volunteered in the navy of the Argentine republic, then at war with Brazil, and was given command of a brig in June 1827. After taking several prizes, he accepted a captain's commission, which he had declined on entering the service, preferring to win it by promotion. In an engagement with the brig "Cacique," commanded by Captain Manson, that vessel was captured, though twice the size of De Kay's, and much more heavily armed. When returning to Buenos Ayres in June 1828, his brig, the "Brandtzen," was driven inshore in the River Plata by a Brazilian squadron. He scuttled the vessel to prevent her capture, swam ashore with his crew, and on reaching Buenos Ayres was made commodore. After the peace he delivered a corvette to the porte for Henry Eekford. He was with him in Constantinople when he (lied, Eckford at the time being superintendent of the Ottoman shipyards. Returning to New York, De Kay married in 1833 Janet, only child of Joseph Rodman Drake, the poet. In 1847 he took the U. S. frigate " Macedonian" to Ireland with supplies for the sufferers from the famine, having exerted himself to secure the passage of an act of congress permitting a government vessel to be so employed. See "Outline of the I,ife of Com. George C. De Kay" by Fitz-Greene Halleek (New York, 1847).

George Coleman's son, Joseph Rodman Drake, soldier, born 21 October 1836; died in New York City, 9 June 1886, served with credit during the civil war on the staffs of Generals Mansfield, Pope, and Hooker, and won the brevet of lieutenant colonel for gallantry in several battles.

Another son of George Coleman, George Coleman, soldier, born 24 August 1842; died in New Orleans, 27 June 1862, left his studies in Dresden, Saxony, in 1861, returned to the United States, and entered the National service as lieutenant of artillery, and afterward was on the staff of General Thomas Williams till he received a mortal wound in a fight with bushwhackers at Grand Gulf.

Another son of George Coleman, Sidney, soldier, born 7 March 1845, ran away from school in the second year of the civil war and joined the 71st New York volunteers. He was afterward made lieutenant in the 8th Connecticut regiment, served on the staffs of Generals B. P. Butler, Devens, and Terry, and received the brevet of major. After the war he went to Crete to assist the Greeks against the Turks.Another son, Charles, author, born in Washington, D. C., 25 July 1848, has published "The Bohemian" (New York, 1878); " Hesperus" (1880); "Vision of Nimrod" (1881); "Vision of Esther" (1882); and "Love Poems of Louis Barnaval" (1883). His best-known story is " Manmatha."

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