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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF THE AUTHOR.
BY HIS WIDOW,
MADELEINE VINTON DAHLGREN.
Prefacing a short sketch of some of the events in the life of the late Rear Admiral Dahlgren, we desire to make some explanatory remarks, regarding the present work, which was the last effort of his gifted pen.
These notes on International Maritime Law, were hastily thrown together, while the Admiral was in command of the South Pacific Squadron, and during a rather prolonged stay off Callao, Peru. Consequently, the Admiral had no access to any works of reference, other than those comprising the very limited law library allowed a United States Flag Ship.
This almost absolute want of material brought his labors rather summarily to a close, whilst still detained in the South Pacific. He had, however, intended to elaborate and complete this treatise, on his return to the United States.
But the labors of a life so fully given with a single the interests of his beloved courtry, were
fast drawing to a close. He did not long survive the return home. The short interval of time that remained to him, was unfortunately too fully occupied with the official duties assigned to him, to admit of literary effort.
These notes were consequently left in a rather incomplete state; yet, enough was given to indicate the general plan of a more extended work, and to show its importance and necesity.
At this conjuncture, Judge Charles Cowley, who served so ably during the late war as Judge-Advocate of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, under Admiral Dahlgren, and to whom the questions herein treated are quite familiar, has kindly undertaken to edit the work.
He has been impelled to do so, recognizing the utility of the aims of the author, and likewise influenced by his love for the memory of his old commander.
The Admiral, in some introductory remarks, gives, as a reason for attempting such a compilation, his desire to fill a need of the navy.
We earnestly hope on our part, that although the Admiral was never permitted to see the fruition of this laudable desire, yet that the final attainment may not fall short of his expectation.
We trust that this treatise may, at least in a measure, do the good it was intended to effect
Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren was born in the city of Philadelphia, Nov. 13th 1809. His father, Mr. Bernard Ulric Dahlgren, was one of the most respectable merchants of that commercial emporium, and held the post of Consul for Sweden up to the time of his death. He possessed a fine and highly cultivated intellect, and spared neither pains nor expense in the education of his children. Unfortunately for his family, he died in 1824, before this son, his eldest child, had attained manhood.
The lad, thus left solely dependent on his own exertions, was after some effort favored with an appointment in the Navy. This had been the great object of the boy's ambition. The probation as a midshipman
lasted six years, most of which time was spent at sea. His first cruise was made in the Macedonian, then commanded by Commodore Biddle.
In 1832, Midshipman Dahlgren passed his examination, and owing to his mathematical proficiency, was soon detailed for duty on the Coast Survey, then in charge of Mr. Hassler, a very eminent astronomer.
Becoming deeply interested in this new pursuit, Mr. Dahlgren followed it with more zeal than care for himself; and as a consequence, his uncommonly fine sight at last yielded to the effects of incessant labor, so that in 1837 entire rest was required in order to prevent absolute loss of vision.
Deriving no benefit from medical advice at home, Lieutenant Dahlgren (for he had now been promoted) repaired to Paris in 1837, and placed himself under the care of Dr. Sichel, the distinguished occulist, The injury was however too deep-seated for rapid cure, and several years elapsed before he recovered.
For two years of this period Lieutenant Dahlgren resided on a little farm, as advised by Sichel, and here was born his gallant son, the late Colonel Ulric Dahlgren.
In 1840, Lieutenant Dahlgren resumed duty, and in 1843 went to the Mediterranean in the frigate Cumberland which returned to the United States late in the year 1845, the cruise having been shortened by the prospect of a war with Mexico. When the war began with Mexico, Lieutenant Dahlgren was assigned to ordnance duty at Washington, although he preferred active duty at sea, and had made effort to obtain it. Then commenced those labors as an ordnance officer, which for sixteen years demanded all his energy, and finally placed Mr. Dahlgren in control of this brauch of the naval service as chief of ordnance. At first, he received little notice and no countenance from the ordnance authorities; but earnest and patient attention to duty, aided by the indications of genius for ordnance which he at once gave, soon obtained confidence.
At this time there was no ordnance establishment in the yard, except perhaps a small pyrotechnic laboratory in charge of Mr. Coston, and the new incumbent set to work with no appliances around him.
At that time gunnery included nothing but the use of solid shot, and its simple accessories. The French General Paixhans had explained his system of shells; but the cannon which he suggested, fettered it to the part of an auxiliary, and it played no higher role in naval armament. Lieutenant Dahlgren was not slow in discerning this defect, and soon offered the remedy in the style of cannon known by his name, and which for so many years have constituted the naval armament of the
These guns are the result of invention, not of experiment, and those last made are precisely similar to the first one. The Dahlgren gun has uniformly stood every test of experiment and of battle, and has been used with entire confidence by the navy.
"And many a time in many a clime
His captain's-ear has heard them boom,
Under his sole direction and management the Naval Ordnance Department at Washington then acquired the additions and extensions of its present condition; the foundry for cannon; the mechanical department, where they are finished; the gun carriage shops; the experimental battery; equipments of all kinds, etc. etc.
In order to introduce these innovations into practice and to remove objections, particularly to the XI.-inch gun which was then considered too heavy for use at sea, Commander Dahlgren was allowed to equip the Sloopof-War Plymouth entirely as he wished, and in 1857 he took to sea. In this cruise he visited the European coast from Portugal to Holland. In 1858, he cruised in the West Indies, and afterwards resumed command of the Ordnance Department.
*TENNYSON'S, Ode on Wellington.