Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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WOOLSEY, Melanchton Taylor, naval officer, born in New York in 1782; died in Utica, N. "'Y., 18 May, 1838. His father was an officer in the war of independence mid resided at Plattsburg, on Lake Champlain, where he was collector of the port. The son studied law, but entered the navy as a midshipman, in April, 1800, and cruised in the sloop "Adams" in the West Indies in 1800-'1. He went to Tripoli just before the close of the Tripolitan was', was promoted to lieutenant, 14 February, 1807, and went to Washington, where he prepared a code of signals for the navy. He was sent to Lake Ontario to superintend the building of three naval vessels, and at Oswego, in 1808, laid the keel of the " Oneida," the first United States naval vessel that was ever built on that lake. He commanded the "Oneida." and was in charge of the naval station at Sackett's Harbor when the war of 1812 began. On 19 July, 1812, a British squadron of five vessels came in sight, when Woolsey attempted to escape into the open sea in the " Oneida"; but as this was impossible, he returned into Sackett's Harbor, where he landed half of his battery on shore and repelled the British after an engagement of two hours. Commander Isaac Chauncey arrived soon after this victory, and assumed chief command. Other vessels were built, and in November, 1813, Kingston was attacked, Woolsey commanding the "Oneida" and continuing to serve as second in command. He was promoted to master-commandant, 24 July, 1813, and was present at the attack on York and the assault on Fort George. In the schooner "Sylph" he sailed with Commander Chauncey's squadron on 28 August, 1813, and chased the British squadron under Sir James Yeo for six days, participating in numerous engagements during September. On 5 October, 1813, he captured the cutter " Drummond" and the sloops "Elizabeth," "Mary Ann," and "Lady Gore" off False Ducks. In May, 1814, Woolsey was sent to Oswego in the "Sylph" to transport guns and cables to Sackett's Harbor at a period when the British had again obtained control of the lake. The British squadron appeared off Oswego while he was there, and he circulated a report that the destination of the guns and stores had been changed, after which, availing himself of a dark night, he went out with a flotilla of nineteen heavy boats carrying the guns and stores. The British discovered his retreat and followed him to Sandy Creek, where he was landing the guns when they appeared. Major Daniel Appling, who had accompanied him with a force of riflemen, prepared an ambuscade, and with Woolsey met the British with such a destructive fire that in the end they were all captured. Three gun-boats, two barges, one gig, six guns, and 186 men were taken on this occasion. Woolsey then took his guns and stores to Sackett's Harbor, and the Americans regained command of the lake. He had charge of the brig "Jones "from the following year until the close of the war. He remained at Sackett's Harbor after peace was restored until 1824 in command of that station. He was promoted to captain, 27 April, 1816, had the frigate "Constellation" in the West Indies from 1824 till June, 1827, was in charge of the Pensacola navy-yard in 1827-'31, and commodore commanding the Brazil station in 1832-'4. In 1836-"7 he had charge of the surveys of the Chesapeake bay, after which his health declined.--His son, Melanchton Brooks, naval officer, born in New York, 11 August, 1817: died in Pensacola, Florida, 2 October, 1874. entered the navy as a midshipman, 24 September, 1832, attended the naval school a, t Philadelphia, and became a passed midshipman, 16 July, 1840. He was promoted to master, 22 March, 1847, and to lieutenant, 16 July, 1847, and by action of the retiring board he was placed on the reserved list, 13 September, 1855. In 1861 he was assigned to active duty and attached to "the receiving-ship at New York. He commanded the steamer "Ellen," on the South Atlantic blockade, in 1861-'2, in which he engaged Fort Pemberton at Wapper creek, South Carolina, in May, 1862. repelled Confederate cavalry at Secessionville, 1 June, 1862, and participated in the attack on James island, 3 June, 1862. He was commissioned a commander. 16 July, 1862, on the reserved list, and commanded the sloop "Vandalia" in 1862-'3, and the steamer "Princess Royal," in the West Gulf squadron, in 1863-'5. He participated in the engagement and repulse of the Confederates at Donaldsonville, Louisiana, on 28 June, 1863, and was highly commended for this victory. He continued to serve on the blockade until the close of the war, and was placed on the active list and promoted to captain, 25 July, 1866, and to commodore, 20 Nay, 1871. On 6 March, 1873, he was appointed commandant of the Pensacola navy-yard. In 1874 Woolsey had orders to go to the north on duty, but he declined to leave his post; when a yellow-fever epidemic appeared, and he died there.
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