Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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DOWNES, John, naval officer, born in Canton, Massachusetts, in 1786; died in Charleston, South Carolina, 11 Aug.., 1855. He entered the navy as a midshipman in June 1802; was in the frigate " New York" during the war with Tripoli, and distinguished himself in a boat attack upon Tripolitan feluccas. In March 1807, he was made a lieutenant, and in the war of 1812 he served as executive officer of the frigate "Essex," Captain Porter, during her cruise in the Pacific. Among her numerous prizes was the whale ship "Georgiana," which Captain Porter fitted as a cruiser, with sixteen guns, named the " Essex Junior," and placed under the command of Lieutenant Downes, who retained this place until the capture of the " Essex" and the conversion of the " Essex Junior" into a cartel, 28 March 1814. He was promoted to the rank of master commandant in 1813, and two years later commanded the brig "Epervier" in the squadron employed against Algiers under Decatur, and captured, 17 June 1815, the Algerine frigate "Nashouda." Two days afterward the "Epervier" and three of the smaller vessels of the squadron captured the Algerine brig of war "Estido," twenty-two guns and 180 men, off Cape Paios. After the conclusion of peace with Algiers, Decatur transferred Dowries to his own ship, the" Guerriere." He became captain in March 1817, and from 1819 till 18211 commanded the frigate " Macedonia " in the Pacific. In 1828'9 he commanded the "Java" in the Mediterranean, and from 1832 to 1834 the squadron in the Pacific. On his way to his station he attacked (6 February 1832) and nearly destroyed Quallah Batoo, on the coast of Sumatra where an outrage had been committed on an American vessel. His sea service terminated with his cruise. From 1837 till 1842, and from 1850 till 1852, he commanded the navy yard at Boston.
His son, John A. Downes, naval officer, born in Massachusetts, 25 August 1822; died in New Orleans, 20 September 1865, entered the navy on 4 September 1837; became passed midshipman in 1843, lieutenant in 1851, and a commander in 1862. During the civil war he commanded the ironclad "Nahant" at the bombardment of Fort McAlister, 3 March 1863, and in the first attack upon Fort Sumter, 7 April 1863. In the report of Rear Admiral Dupont he is mentioned as one of those " who did everything that the utmost gallantry and skill could accomplish in the management of their untried vessels." He aided in the capture of the Confederate ironclad " Atlanta." He was on special duty at Boston a short time, and was then given command of the Gulf squadron, in which service he died.
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