Captain Josiah Tattnall CSN

Captain Josiah Tattnall

Josiah Tattnall was born near Savannah, Georgia, on 9 November 1795. He became a Midshipman in the Navy in January 1812, saw action during the War of 1812 and in the Barbary campaign that followed. During the last part of the decade, Lieutenant Tattnall served in the Pacific Squadron. In the 1820s and 30s, his activities included participation in campaigns against piracy in the West Indies, coast survey duty and command of the schooner Grampus. After promotion to Commander in 1838, he was in charge of several Navy facilities, served at sea in the Mediterranean and off Africa, and was wounded in combat during the Mexican War. As a Captain during the 1850s, he commanded the large frigate Independence, the Sacketts Harbor Naval Station on Lake Erie, and U.S. Navy forces in the Far East. While in the latter post, on 25 June 1859 he intervened in a battle between the Chinese and the British, aiding the latter. He justified his unneutral actions with the comment "blood is thicker than water".

In February 1861, as southern states were leaving from the Union, Captain Tattnall resigned his commission to become an officer in the Georgia Navy and, soon after, in the Confederate States Navy. During 1861, he commanded the naval defenses of Georgia and South Carolina, participating in the battle of Port Royal, S.C., on 7 November. He was placed in charge of the naval defenses of Virginia in March 1862, and took over command of the pioneer ironclad Virginia after her battles with Federal warships on 8 and 9 March 1862. After two months of naval stalemate in the Hampton Roads area, the Confederate evacuation of Norfolk forced Tattnall to destroy the Virginia, an act supported by a subsequent court-martial. For the rest of the Civil War, Tattnall commanded naval forces in Georgia and the Savannah naval station. He lived in Canada for four years after the war, then returned to Georgia to serve as inspector of the port of Savannah. Josiah Tattnall died on 14 June 1871.

(Courtesy of the DANFS)


Page created Mar. 28, 2007