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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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John Rodgers

RODGERS, John, naval officer, born in Harford county, Maryland, 11 July, 1771; died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1 August, 1838. His father was a Scotchman, and served as colonel of militia in the war of independence. The son entered the merchant marine when he was thirteen years old, and was a captain in 1789. He entered the navy as lieutenant, 9 March, 1798, and was executive of the " Constellation" at the capture of the French frigate " L'Insurgente " off Nevis, Wisconsin, 9 February, 1799, receiving a silver medal and vote of thanks to Captain Truxtun and his officers for this capture. He took the " L'Insurgente" to port and suppressed an attempt of the captured crew to rise against his prize crew of eleven men. Obtaining leave, he bought a vessel and sailed to Santo Domingo, where he saved many lives in an insurrection of slaves. He was promoted to captain, 5 March, 1799, and in March, 1801, carried despatches to France. He was assigned the "John Adams" in 1802, sailed to Tripoli, and in May, 1803, captured the Moorish ship "Meshonda" in an attempt to run the blockade. On 21 July, 1803, he destroyed a Tripolitan corsair, after engagement with nine gun-boats, in which the " Enterprise" co-operated. He returned home in December, 1803, but in July, 1804, again sailed to Tripoli in command of the "Congress," joining the squadron under Commander Barron, whom he succeeded in command on 22 May, 1805. Rodgers continued the operations, and on 3 June, 1805, obtained a treaty with Tripoli abolishing the tribute that had been exacted of European powers and forbidding slavery of Christian captives. In September, 1805, he compelled the bay of Tunis to sign a similar treaty, after which he returned home. He was then in charge of gun-boats at New York until 1809. From February, 1809, till 1812 Rodgers commanded the home squadron, cruising on the Atlantic coast to prevent impressment of Americans by British cruisers. At 8 P. M., on 16 May, 1811, in his flag-ship, the "President," near New York, he hailed a strange vessel, who repeated the hail and fired a gun, the shot from which struck the " President's" main-mast The shot was answered and several broadsides were exchanged, which demonstrated the stranger's inferiority. At daylight Rodgers boarded the crippled vessel, which was the British ship " Little Belt," whose captain declined assistance. This episode widened the breach between the countries, and contradictory reports were made, but a regular court acquitted Rodgers of all blame. The British made no investigation. Three days after the declaration of war in 1812 he sailed in the " President," in command of a squadron, to intercept the British West India fleet, and on 23 June, 1812, he met the British frigate "Belvidera," which escaped after a running fight of eight hours. Rodgers was wounded in the engagement by the bursting of a gun on the "President." The captain himself fired the first gun--the first shot in the war. He made four cruises, searching for British men-of-war, in the " President," and on the third visited Irish channel, capturing twelve vessels, including the "Highflyer." His prizes numbered twenty-three in all, and applause and honors greeted his return. In June, 1814, he went to assist in the defence of Baltimore, where he rendered valuable service in command of the sailors and marines that, co-operating with the military, defeated the British in the battle of North Point and the attack on Fort McHenry. The naval forces under Rodgers defended the water battery, the auxiliary forts Coy-in, ton and Babcock, and the barges of the naval flotilla. At a critical moment several vessels were sunk in/he channel to prevent the larger British frigates from passing. After the war he declined the office of secretary of the navy, but was appointed president of the naval commissioners, which office he held from 1815 till 1837, except for the years 1824-'7, when he commanded the Mediterranean squadron. His father's male descendants are numerous, and, as a rule, have entered the army or navy.--His son, John, naval officer, born in Harford county, Maryland, 8 August, 1812; died in Washington, D.C., 5 May, 1882, entered the navy as midshipman, 18 April, 1828, served in the "Constellation" in the Mediterranean in 1829-'32, attended the naval school at Norfolk in 1832-'4, and became passed midshipman in the last-named year. After a year's leave, during which he attended the University of Virginia, he was in the brig "Dolphin," on the Brazil station, in 1836-'9, and commanded the schooner " Wave" on the coast of Florida in 1839. He was commissioned lieutenant, 22 January, 1840, had charge of the schooner "Jefferson" in surveying the Florida Keys, and in hostilities with the Seminoles in 1840-'3, and was again surveying on the coast of Florida in 1849-'52. The charts and sailing directions for this coast bear witness to his faithful work. He commanded the steamer "John Hancock" and the United States surveying and exploring expedition in the North Pacific and China seas in 1852-'5. In April, 1855, he took the "Vincennes" into the Arctic ocean, and obtained valuable commercial and scientific information. He was commissioned commander, 14 September, 1855, and continued on special duty in connection with the report of the exploring expedition. In 1861 he was among the first to ask for duty in the civil war, and in May, 1861, was ordered to superintend the building of the "Benton" class of western river iron-clads. In November he joined the expedition to Port Royal, where he hoisted the flag on Fort Walker after the engagement. In May, 1862, he commanded an expedition in James river, leading in the attack on Fort Darling, 15 May, 1862, during which his vessel, the " Galena," an iron-clad steamer, was hit 129 times, two thirds of his crew were killed or wounded, and all his ammunition was expended, when he withdrew. He was commissioned captain, 16 July, 1862, and in 1863 sailed in command of the monitor "Weehawken" from New York, encountering a heavy gale off the Delaware breakwater, where he declined to take refuge because he wished to test the sea-going qualities of monitors. On 17 June, 1863, he fought the powerful Confederate iron-clad "Atlanta," which he captured, after an engagement of fifteen minutes, in Warsaw sound, Georgia, during which the " Weehawken" fired only five shots. Congress gave him a formal vote of thanks for his "eminent zeal and ability," and he was promoted to commodore from 17 June, 1863, the date of his victory. He commanded the monitor "Dictatot " in 1864-'5, on special service. In 1866 he took the double-turret monitor "Monadnock" through the Straits of Magellan to San Francisco. He stopped at Valparaiso just before its bombardment by the Spanish, which, with General Kilpatrick, the United States minister, he strove to prevent. He proposed joint armed interference to the English admiral, but the latter refused to co-operate. These negotiations added to his reputation as a diplomatist. He had charge of the Boston navy-yard in 1866-'9, was commissioned rear-admiral, 31 December, 1869, and commanded the Asiatic fleet in 1870-'2, when he rendered great service by suppressing outrages on American commerce by the Coreans. Admiral Rodgers was commandant of Mare island navy-yard, California, in 1873-'7, and superintendent of the United States naval observatory at Washington from 1 May, 1877, until his death. His services at the observatory contributed to the advancement of science, and under his administration Professor Asaph Hall discovered the moons of Mars. Admiral Rodgers was also successful in his efforts to have a new site selected for a future observatory, tie was president of the transit of Venus commission. In 1863 he had been one of the fifty corporate members of the National academy of sciences that were named by congress in that year. On 23 June, 1878, he was elected to succeed Professor Joseph Henry as chairman of the light-house board, and personally superintended and participated in experiments in optics and acoustics to improve the service. His able counsels were in constant demand on advisory boards, especially for reconstructing the navy, and for the "Jeannette" relief expedition, for which his personal knowledge of the Polar sea was valuable. See a memoir by Professor J. Russell Soley, United States navy (printed privately, Annapolis, 1882).--The first , John's brother, George Washington, naval officer, born in Harford county, Maryland, 22 February, 1787; died in Buenos Ayres, South America, 21 May. 1832. entered the navy as midshipman, 2 April, 1804, was commissioned lieutenant, 24 April, 1810, and served in the sloop " Wasp" in the capture of the "Frolic," 18 October, 1812, for which he was included in a vote of thanks by congress, and received a silver medal. He commanded the brig " Firefly" in the Algerine war in 1815, was commissioned master-commandant, 27 April, 1816, and had charge of the ship "Peacock" in 1816-'18 in the Mediterranean. He was commissioned captain, 3 March, 1825, was on the board of examiners in 1828-'30, and at his death was commodore commanding the Brazil squadron. His wife, Anna Maria, sister to Commander Perry, died in New London, Connecticut, 7 December, 1858, aged sixty.--Their son, Christopher Raymond Perry, naval officer, born in Brooklyn, New York, 14 November, 1819, was appointed a midshipman on 5 October, 1888, and while serving on the schooner "Flirt" in 1889 and in command of the schooner "Phoenix" in 1840-'1, was actively engaged in the Seminole war. He was promoted lieutenant on 4 September, 1844, was engaged in blockading the coast of Mexico in 1847, and was in the trenches at the siege of Vera Cruz and the capture of Tabasco and Tuspan. In 1856-'7 he commanded the steamer "Bibb" and the schooner "Gallatin" in the coast survey. He was commissioned as commander on 15 October, 1861, and served with distinction on the " Wabash," and as fleet-captain of Rear-Admiral Samuel F. Du Pont's fleet at the battle of Port Royal and in command of the naval force in the trenches at the capture of Fort Pulaski. He directed the movements of a fleet of gun-boats that was engaged in occupying strategic points on the coast south of Port Royal, commanding an expedition to St. Augustine and up St. Mary's river in March, 1862, and was fleet-captain in the "New Ironsides" in the attack of 7 April, 1863, on the defences of Charleston and in the subsequent operations of the South Atlantic blockading squadron, till in the autumn of 1863 he was assigned to the command of the steam sloop "Iroquois," in which he was employed on special service till the end of the war. He was commissioned as captain on 25 July, 1866, commanded the "Franklin" in the Mediterranean in 1868-'70, became a commodore on 28 August, 1870, was on special service in Europe in 1871, then chief of the bureau of yards and docks till 1874, was commissioned as rear-admiral on 14 June, 1874, and was superintendent of the naval academy, except in 1878-'80. when he commanded the naval forces in the Pacific, until on 14 November, 1881, he was placed on the retired list. Rear Admiral Rodgers presided over the international conference at Washington in 1885 for the purpose of fixing" a prime meridian and universal day.--Another son, George Washington, naval officer, born in Brooklyn, New York. 30 October, 1822: died off Charleston harbor, South Carolina, 17 August, 1863, entered the navy as midshipman, 30 April, 1836, became passed midshipman, 1 July, 1842, and was in the steamer" Colonel Harney" and the frigate ", John Adams" during the Mexican war, at Vera Cruz, Tuspan, Alvarado, and other points on the Gulf coast, where he served as acting master from 4 November, 1846. He was on the United States coast survey in 1849-'50, was commissioned lieutenant, 4 June, 1850, cruised in the "Germantown" on the home station in 1851-'3, and was at the naval academy in 1861-'2. In April, 1861, he saved the " Constitution " from a threatened attack by secessionists at Annapolis, and took the naval academy to Newport, , Rhode Island He was commissioned commander, 16 January, 1862, and in October commanded the monitor "Catskill," in which he participated in the attacks on Charleston. On 7 April, 1863, he impetuously took her almost under the walls of Fort Sumter. Admiral Dahlgren appointed him chief of staff, 4 July, 1863, and, still commanding the " Catskill," he was distinguished by the cool and deliberate manner in which he fought his ship. In the attack on Fort Wagner, 17 August, 1863, he took command of his vessel as usual, and while in the pilot-house he was instantly killed by a shot that struck the top of the house and broke it in. It was of Commander Rodgers that Miles O'Reilly wrote one of his most admired stanzas: "Ah me ! George Rodgers lies With dim and dreamless eyes, He has airly won the prize Of the sthriped and starry shroud."

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