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Josiah Tattnall

TATTNALL, Josiah, statesman, born in Bonaventure, near Savannah, Georgia, in 1762; died in Nassau, New Providence, 6 June, 1803. Upon the revolt of the American colonies he and his brother were obliged to go to England with their father and grandfather, who remained loyal to the British crown but refused service in the army to coerce the colonies. The family estates in Georgia were confiscated by the Americans because of their absence in England. In 1780 Josiah ran away from his parents in England and returned to this country, where he joined General Nathanael Greene's army and served against the British until the close of the war. In recognition of this service the state of Georgia restored a part of the confiscated estates to him. He was the third captain of the Chatham artillery, colonel of the 1st Georgia regiment, and brigadier-general commanding the 1st division of the Georgia state militia. He was a member of the Georgia legislature, a United States senator in 1796-'9, and governor of Georgia in 1800. He served in the general assembly at Louisville in 1796, when the Yazoo act of 1795 was rescinded. His remains were brought from Nassau and are buried at Bonaventure, which estate has been converted into a cemetery.--His son, Josiah, naval officer, born in Bonaventure, near Savannah, Georgia, 9 November, 1795; died in Savannah, G a., 14 June, 1871, was educated in England under the supervision of his grandfather in 1805- '11. He returned to the United States in 1811 and entered the navy as a midshipman, 1 January, 1812. He served in the war of 1812 in the seamen's battery on Craney island, and with a force of navy-yard workmen in the battle of Bladensburg. During the Algerine war he participated in the engagements of Decatur's squadron. He returned to the United States in September, 1817, was promoted to lieutenant, 1 April, 1818, and served in the frigate "Macedonian," on the Pacific station, in 1818-'21. In 1.823-'4 he served in the schooner "Jackal," one of Porter's "Mosquito fleet," in the suppression of piracy in the West Indies. In October, 1828, he was appointed 1st lieutenant of the sloop " Erie," in the West Indies, where he cut out the Spanish cruiser "Federal," which had confiscated American property at sea during the wars of the Spanish-American republics for independence. In August, 1829, he took charge of the surveys of the Tortugas reefs off the coast of Florida, which surveys proved to be of great value for the location of fortifications at Dry Tortugas. In March, 1831, he took command of the schooner "Grampus" in the West Indies, and in August, 1832, he captured the Mexican war-schooner "Montezuma" for illegal acts against an American vessel. His services with the " Grampus " in protecting American commerce elicited letters of thanks from the merchants and insurance companies at Vera Cruz and New Orleans, from whom he also received a service of silver. In December, 1832, he was relieved of his command at his own request, and he subsequently served on duty in making experiments in ordnance and in the conduct of the coast tidal survey. In November, 1835, in command of the bark "Pioneer," he took Gem Santa-Anna to Mexico after he had been captured in a battle with the Texans and surrendered to the United States. Upon their arrival at Vera Cruz, Tattnal1 personally prevented an attack on Santa-Anna by an excited mob of his opponents. He was promoted to commander, 25 February, 1838, and placed in charge of the Boston navy-yard. While on his way to the African station in the "Saratoga" in 1843 he encountered a hurricane off Cape Ann, Massachusetts, and won a brilliant professional reputation by the skill he displayed in cutting away the masts and anchoring when almost on the rocks off the cape. When war was declared with Mexico he was assigned to command the steamer "Spitfire," joined the squadron at Vera Cruz, and was given command of the Mosquito division. With this he covered the landing of General Winfield Scott's army, and assisted in the bombardment of the city. After the fall of Vera Cruz he led in the attack on the forts at Tuspan and was severely wounded in the arm by grape-shot. The legislature of Georgia gave him a vote of thanks and a sword. He was promoted to captain, 5 February, 1850, and in command of the steamer "Saranac" contributed much to preserve peace between the United States and Spain during the Cuban insurrection. On 15 October, 1857, he was appointed flag-officer of the Asiatic station. He found China at war with the allied English and French fleets, and went to the scene of operations at Peiho. Shortly before an engagement his flagship grounded and was towed off by the English boats. This service was taken as an excuse for subsequent active participation in the attack on the Chinese. In explanation of his violation of neutrality, Tattnal1 exclaimed that "blood was thicker than water." He was sustained in his course by public opinion at the time and also by the government. On 20 February, 1861, he resigned his commission as captain in the navy, and offered his services to the governor of Georgia. He was commissioned senior flag-officer of the Georgia navy, 28 February, 1861, and in March, 1861, he became a captain in the Confederate navy, and was ordered to command the naval defences of Georgia and South Carolina. On 7 November, 1861, he led an improvised naval force against the attack on Port Royal. He conducted attacks on the blockading fleet at the mouth of the Savannah, constructed batteries for the defence of that river, and materially delayed the operations of the National forces. In March, 1862, he was ordered to relieve Franklin Buchanan, who was wounded in the engagement with the "Monitor," and took command of the "Merrimac" and the naval defences of the waters of Virginia. He set out for Hampton Roads on 11 April, 1862, accompanied by the gun-boats, which cut out three merchant vessels, but the "Merrimac" did not venture to lose communication with Norfolk. When the Confederates were forced to abandon the peninsula, Norfolk and the navy-yard were also surrendered, and on 11 May, 1862, Tattnal1 destroyed the "Merrimac" off Craney island in order to prevent her capture. He was then ordered to TAUSTE resume command of the naval defences of Georgia. At his request a court of inquiry was ordered to investigate the destruction of the "Merrimac," and he was censured for destroying" the vessel without attacking the enemy's fleet, and for not. taking her to Hog island to defend the James river. He then demanded a regular court-martial, which met at Richmond, 5 July, 1862, and, after a thorough investigation, honorably acquitted him. He was indefatigable in his efforts to defend Savannah river, but in January, 1865, he was obliged to destroy all the vessels he had collected. He then went to Augusta, where he was included in the parole of the surrender of General Joseph E. Johnston's army. He remained there until 12 June, 1866, when he took his family to Nova Scotia, after first obtaining permission from the war department to leave the country. He resided near Halifax, but his pecuniary resources became nearly exhausted, and in 1870 he returned to his home in quest of employment. On 5 January, 1870, the mayor and city council appointed him inspector of the port of Savannah. He held this office, which had been created for him, for seventeen months, when it was abolished by his death. See "The Life of Commodore Tattnall," by Charles C. Jones, assisted by J. R. F. Tattnall, the commodore's son (Savannah, 1878).

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