Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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RUSSELL, John Henry, naval officer, born in Frederick city, Maryland, 4 July, 1827. He entered the navy as a midshipman, 10 September, 1841, was attached to the "St. Mary's" in the Gulf of Mexico, 1844-'6, and participated in the first operations of the Mexican war and the blockade at Vera Cruz prior to the capture of that city. He became a passed midshipman, 10 August, 1847, and was graduated at the naval academy in 1848. He was attached to the North Pacific exploring expedition in 1853-'6, and served in the sloop " Vincennes" under an appointment as acting lieutenant, and also as navigator. In this cruise the United States envoy to China was indebted to Lieutenant Russell for opening communication with the Chinese, who had refused all intercourse. Russell boldly pushed his way alone to the senior mandarin, and delivered despatches by which American and English envoys were admitted to audience. He was commissioned master, 14 September, 1855, and lieutenant, 15 September, 1855, and in 1860-'1, when on ordnance duty at the Washington navy-yard, he was one of two officers there that remained loyal, notwithstanding that his ties and affections were with the south. He went to Norfolk to assist in preventing vessels at the navy-yard from falling into the hands of the secessionists, and had charge of the last boat that left the yard, 28 April, 1861. He was next attached to the frigate "Colorado," and on 14 September, 1861, he commanded a boat expedition to cut out the privateer "Judah" at Pensacola, under the protection of shore batteries and about 9.000 men. Russell boldly approached during the night, and after a severe hand-to-hand conflict, in which 20 of his force of 100 sailors were killed or wounded, himself among the latter, he succeeded in destroying the "Judah" and regained the "Colorado." Admiral Porter, in his "Naval History," says that "this was without doubt the most gallant cut-ting-out affair that occurred during the war." The navy department complimented Russell. The state of Maryland gave him a vote of thanks, and President Lincoln personally expressed his gratitude. Russell was then placed in command of the steamer "Kennebec" in Farragut's squadron, was present at the surrender of the forts below New Orleans, and received the garrison of Fort Jackson as prisoners on his ship. Farragut thanked him for his service in saving lives of officers and men in the flag-ship's boat during a guerilla attack at Baton Rouge. He was commissioned lieutenant-commander, 16 July, 1862, was on ordnance duty at Washington in 1864, and commanded the sloop "Cyane," of the Pacific squadron, in 1864-'5. After being commissioned commander on 28 January, 1867, he took charge of the steamer "Ossipee," Of the Pacific squadron, in 1869-'71, and during a gale in the Gulf of California rescued the passengers and crew of the Pacific mail-steamer "Continental" in September, 1869. He became captain, 12 February, 1874, commanded the sloop "Plymouth" in 1875, and by prompt measures saved the vessels of the North Atlantic squadron from an epidemic of yellow fever at Key West. In 1876-'7 he commanded the steamer "Powhatan" on special service. He was made commodore, 30 October, 1883, had charge of the Mare island navy-yard in 1883-'6. was promoted rear-admiral, 4 March, 1886, and voluntarily went upon the retired list, 27 August, of the same year.
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