Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Winslow, John Ancrum

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WINSLOW, John Ancrum, naval officer, b. in Wilmington, N. C., 19 Nov., 1811; d. in Boston, Mass., 29 Sept., 1873. He was descended from a brother of Gov. Edward Winslow, of Plymouth colony. He entered the navy as a midshipman, 1 Feb., 1827, became a passed midshipman, 10 June, 1833, and was commissioned a lieutenant, 9 Feb., 1839. During the Mexican war he took part in the expeditions against Tabasco, Tampico, and Tuspan, and was present at the fall of Vera Cruz. For his gallantry in action he was allowed to have command of the schooner “Union,” which had been captured at Tampico, and was taken into service and named the “Morris”; but she was poorly equipped, and was lost on a reef off Vera Cruz, 16 Dec., 1846. He was executive of the sloop “Saratoga” in the Gulf of Mexico in 1848-'9, at the Boston navy-yard in 1849-'50, and in the frigate “St. Lawrence,” of the Pacific station, in 1851-'5. He was promoted to commander, 14 Sept., 1855, and joined the Mississippi river flotilla in 1861, but was not able to remain on duty because of a serious accident which disabled him. He was commissioned captain, 16 July, 1862, and commanded the steamer “Kearsarge” on special service in 1863-'4 in pursuit of the “Alabama.” Capt. Winslow arrived off Cherbourg; 14 June, 1864, where he found the “Alabama” and blockaded her in the harbor. The “Alabama” made preparations for fight, and Capt. Raphael Semmes caused Winslow to be informed of this intention through the U. S. consul. On Sunday, 19 June, 1864, he was lying three miles off the eastern entrance of the harbor when the “Alabama” came out, escorted by a French iron-clad and the English yacht “Deerhound.” Winslow steamed off seven miles from the shore so as to be beyond the neutral ground, and then steamed toward the “Alabama.” The armament of the “Kearsarge” was seven guns, and that of the “Alabama” eight guns, including a 100-pound Blakely rifle. The “Kearsarge” was slightly faster, and had 163 men, while the “Alabama” had 149. When Winslow turned to approach, the “Alabama” opened fire from a raking position at a distance of one mile at 10.57 A. M. He kept on at full speed, receiving a second broadside and part of a third, when he sheered off and returned the fire from his starboard battery. Both vessels circled around a common centre, and neared each other to within 600 yards. The sides of the “Alabama” were torn out by the shells, and at noon, after the action had continued for one hour, she headed for the shore to get into neutral waters, then five miles distant. This exposed her port side, and she could only bring two guns to bear. The ship was filling, and Winslow approached so rapidly that Semmes hauled down his flag. Winslow stopped the ship, but continued to fire, uncertain whether the “Alabama” had surrendered or the flag had been shot away. A white flag was then shown, and Winslow ceased firing. The “Alabama” again renewed her firing, and Winslow also opened and fired three or four times, though the white flag was still flying. A boat from the “Alabama” then came alongside to announce the surrender, and was allowed to go back to bring off the “Alabama's” officers and crew, but she did not return. The yacht “Deerhound” then came up, and Winslow asked her to assist in rescuing the officers and crew of the “Alabama,” which was then sinking fast. The “Deerhound” picked up thirty-nine persons, including Semmes and fourteen of his officers, after which she went off and sailed to Southampton. Winslow's officers begged him to throw a shell at the “Deerhound,” but he refused. The engagement lasted an hour and twenty minutes. After the last shot was fired the “Alabama” sank out of sight. She had about forty killed, and seventy were made prisoners, so that thirty-nine escaped. Only three men were wounded in the “Kearsarge,” one of whom died. Only twenty-eight projectiles struck the “Kearsarge” out of the 370 that were fired by the “Alabama,” and none of these did any material damage. One 100-pound shell exploded in the smoke-stack, and one lodged in the stern-post of the “Kearsarge,” but did not explode. The “Kearsarge” fired 173 projectiles, and few failed to do some injury. This was the only important sea-fight of the war between two ships. Honors were showered upon Winslow throughout the country for his victory. He received a vote of thanks from congress, and was promoted to commodore with his commission dated 19 June, 1864, the date of the victory. He commanded the Gulf squadron in 1866-'7, was a member of the board of examiners in 1868-'9, and commander-in-chief of the Pacific squadron in 1870-'2. He was promoted to rear-admiral, 2 March, 1870, and after his return from the cruise in the Pacific resided temporarily at San Francisco, after which he removed to Boston, Mass., where he resided until his death.