Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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HUMPHREYS, Joshua, ship builder, born in Haverford, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, 17 June, 1751; died there 12 January, 1838. His grandfather, Daniel Humphreys, came from Wales to Pennsylvania, and settled in Haverford in 1682, buying a large tract of land, where they erected Quaker meeting houses, which still remain in possession of the family. Joshua was apprenticed at an early age to a ship carpenter in Philadelphia. Before the completion of his apprenticeship his instructor died, and he was placed in charge of the establishment. Here he was soon regarded as the first naval architect in the country, and after the adoption of the constitution of the United States, when it became necessary to organize a navy, he was consulted officially. His views, which were communicated to Robert Morris on 6 January, 1793, and subsequently to General Henry Knox, the secretary of war, were adopted. He was the first naval constructor in the United States, and has been called the father of the American navy. His main idea was that the ships should be heavier in tonnage and artillery than their rates would seem to authorize. They were capable of enduring heavy battering, and inflicting severe injuries in a short space of time. Owing to their heavy armament the British called them "74's in disguise." His ships were "The Constitution," "The Chesapeake," "The Congress," "The Constellation," "The President," and "The United States," which last was built under his immediate direction in his own shipyard.--His brother, Charles, member of the Continental congress, born in Haverford, Pennsylvania, in 1712; died there, 11 March, 1786. For many years he was successfully engaged in milling, and was respected for his integrity of character. He was a member of the provincial assembly in 1764 and 1775, and of the general congress in 1775-'6" but, although he opposed the oppressive measures of Great Britain, voted against the Declaration of Independence. His home, known as the "Mansion House," was occupied by Lord Cornwallis on his return to Philadelphia from his reconnoitre to Watson's ford, on the Sehuykill.--Joshua's son, Clement, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 25 January, 1777; died at sea in 1803, was made the bearer of dispatches to France during John Adams's administration. Subsequently he engaged in the East India trade, and was lost at sea between Batavia and Bombay, for the ship "India," of which he was supercargo, was not heard of after 1 August, 1803.--Another son, Samuel, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 23 November, 1778; died in Georgetown, D. C., 16 August, 1846, was sent to Georgia by the government at the age of eighteen to make contracts for supplying live-oak for a navy. In 1815 he was appointed chief contractor of the United States navy, which post he held until his death. In 1824 the Emperor Alexander of Russia requested him to construct a navy for Russia, offering him a yearly salary of $60,000. This was refused by Mr. Humphreys, who replied: "I do not know that I possess the merits attributed to me, but, be they great or small, I owe them all to the flag of my country."--Samuel's son, Andrew Atkinson, soldier, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 2 November, 1810; died in Washington, D. C., 27 December, 1888. He was graduated at the United States military academy in 1831, assigned to the 2d artillery, and served at the academy, on garrison duty, in special work, and in the Florida campaign of 1885. In September, 1886, he resigned, and was employed as a civil engineer by the United States government on the plans of Brandywine Shoal lighthouse and Crow Shoal breakwater, under Major Hartman Bathe. On 7 July, 1838, he was reappointed in the United States army, with the rank of 1st lieutenant in the of topographical corps engineers, and served in charge of works for the improvement of various harbors, and in Washington in 1842-'9 as assistant in charge of the coast survey office. Meanwhile, in May, 1848, he was promoted captain, and subsequently was engaged in a topographical and hydrographical survey of the delta of the Mississippi river, with a view of determining the most practicable plans for securing it from inundation and for deepening its channel at the mouth. He was compelled by illness to relinquish the charge of this work in 1851. and went to Europe, where he examined the river deltas of the continent, studying the means that were employed abroad for protection against inundation. On his return in 1854 he was given charge of the office duties in Washington that were connected with the explorations and surveys for railroads from the Mississippi to the Pacifc. In 1857 he resumed his work on the survey of the Mississippi delta, and published in conjunction with Lieutenant Henry L. Abbot a "Report on the Physics and Hydraulics of the Mississippi River" (Philadelphia, 1861). He was made major in August, 1861, and after the beginning of the civil war was assigned to duty on General McClellan's staff. During the campaign on the Virginia peninsula he was chief topographical engineer of the Army of the Potomac, and was made brigadier-general of volunteers on 28 April, 1862. In September, 1862, General Humphreys was given command of a division of new troops in the 5th corps of the Army of the Potomac, with which he led in the Maryland campaign. He was engaged in the battle of Fredericksburg and at Chancellorsville. where he was posted on the extreme left of the army, and meanwhile he received the brevet of colonel and was made lieutenant-colonel in the corps of engineers. He was then transferred to the command of the 2d division in the 3d corps, with which he served in the battle of Gettysburg under General Daniel E. Sickles, where he was promoted major-general in the volunteer army. On 8 July, 1868, he became chief of staff to General Meade, and he continued to fill that place till November, 1864. He was then given command of the 2d corps, which was engaged under his direction at the siege of Petersburg, the actions at Hatcher's Run, and the subsequent operations, ending with Lee's surrender. General Humphreys received the brevet of major-general in the United States army for services at Sailor's Creek, and, after the march to Washington, was placed in command of the district of Pennsylvania. From December, 1865, till August, 1866, he was in charge of the Mississippi levees, where he was mustered out of the volunteer service. He was then made brigadier-general and given command of the corps of engineers, the highest scientific appointment in the United States army, with charge of the engineer bureau in Washington. This office he held until 30 June, 1879, when he was retired at his own request, serving during three years on many commissions, including that to examine into canal routes across the isthmus connecting North and South America, and also on the lighthouse board. General Humphreys was elected a member of the American philosophical society in 1857, a member of the American academy of arts and sciences in 1863, and was one of the incorporating members of the National academy of sciences in the last-named year. He also held honorary memberships in foreign scientific societies, and received the degree of LL. D. from Harvard in 1868. His literary labors included several reports to the government concerning the engineering work on the Mississippi and on railroad routes across the continent, and he contributed biographical material concerning Joshua Humphreys to Jas. Grant Wilson's "History of the Frigate Constitution." He also published "The Virginia Campaigns of 1864 and 1865" (New York, 1882), and "From Gettysburg to the Rapidan" (1882).
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