FW: ANB - Bio of the Day: Henry Knox Thatcher
- fyi..Thatcher was involved in the Mobile/Gulf campaigns near the end of the
late unpleasantness.....aj wright // ajwright@...
From: ANB Biography of the Day [mailto:biod-request@...]
Sent: Tuesday, July 10, 2001 1:00 AM
Subject: ANB - Bio of the Day
American National Biography Online
Thatcher, Henry Knox (26 May 1806-5 Apr. 1880), naval officer,
was born in Thomaston, Maine, the son of Ebenezer Knox, a lawyer
and Harvard graduate, and Lucy Flucker. Henry was the grandson
of his namesake, General Henry Knox, General George Washington's
commander of artillery during the American Revolution. He was
also a descendant of Deacon Samuel Thatcher, who immigrated to
America in 1642 and settled in Watertown, Massachusetts. After
schooling in Boston, Thatcher became a cadet at the U.S. Military
Academy in 1822, but he soon left to enter the U.S. Navy.
Thatcher became a midshipman on 4 March 1823. His first tour
of duty was with Commodore David Porter's Washington Navy Yard-based
operations against pirates in the Caribbean. Thatcher then was
assigned to Pacific Ocean duty on board the United States, the
flagship of Commodore Isaac Hull. Thatcher remained on this assignment
from 1824 until 1827. He then returned to the United States and
was promoted to passed midshipman on 23 March 1829. He was next
aboard the USS Independence in Boston harbor.
Thatcher's experience in command began in 1831, when he was
dispatched to the West Indies as the temporary captain of the
Erie. In that year he married Susan C. Croswell. The couple had
no children of their own but eventually adopted a daughter. In
February 1833 Thatcher was promoted to lieutenant and in the
next year made another cruise to the West Indies, this time as
a ship's officer on the Falmouth. His first experience in Mediterranean
waters was in 1839-1841 aboard the Brandywine. He alternated
these sea voyages with shore duties on the receiving ship Ohio
and as an inspector at the Boston Navy Yard. In 1851-1852 Thatcher
was in command of the store ship Relief of the U.S. Navy's Brazil
Squadron. In 1854-1855 he was the executive officer of the Naval
Asylum in Philadelphia, and in 1855 he was promoted to commander.
By 1856 Thatcher had advanced to a position in which he was normally
given independent commands. In the period 1857-1859 he was the
skipper of the Decatur in the Pacific Ocean.
Thatcher did not actively participate in the American Civil
War until the conflict's last campaigns. When the war began,
he was at the Boston Navy Yard. In November 1861 he reported
to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to take command of the corvette
Constellation, which sailed east to special duty in the Mediterranean.
On 16 July 1862 Thatcher was promoted to commodore, and on 26
August 1863 he was finally given the opportunity to serve in
combat against the Confederate states. His first war duty was
as master of the Colorado, then assigned to North Atlantic blockading duty.
Thatcher's first serious action against the South was as a subordinate
to David Dixon Porter, son of Admiral David Porter, whom Thatcher
had served forty years before. From December 1864 until January
1865 Porter and Thatcher battled the Confederates off the North
Carolina coast. Finally, the southern bastion Fort Fisher fell,
and Porter praised Thatcher's efforts during the fierce bombardment.
In early 1865 Thatcher became an acting rear admiral and was
ordered to the Gulf of Mexico, where he began operations in cooperation
with Union army elements in the reduction of Mobile, Alabama.
When Mobile surrendered, Thatcher left Mobile Bay and pursued
the Confederate fleet up the Tombigbee River. He received the
surrender of that fleet, and the Navy Department praised his aggressiveness.
Thatcher next proceeded to the Union campaign against Texas,
securing the mouth of the Sabine River and taking control of
Galveston harbor. The navy then combined its forces in the Gulf
of Mexico, and Thatcher, aboard his flagship the Estrella, was
given command of the combined naval forces. The war ended while
he was in this position of responsibility.
Following the Civil War Thatcher was promoted to permanent rear
admiral with date of rank from 25 July 1866. He commanded the
North Pacific Squadron aboard his flagship the Pensacola from
1866 until 1868. Admiral Thatcher retired from the navy on 26
May 1868. During the period from 1869 until 1870 he was the port
admiral at Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He died in Boston, Massachusetts.
Thatcher's long sea service contributed to the rise of the U.S.
Navy as a force in international affairs. For much of his forty-five
years of active service, he represented the United States abroad,
protecting its commerce and its citizens. His performance in
combat command was brief but competent.
Thatcher's career is outlined in U.S. Navy, Bureau of Navigation,
Record of Officers, 1818-1888, in the National Archives. His
ancestry is traced in G. H. Preble, Henry Knox Thatcher (1882);
Henry Bond, Genealogies of the Families and Descendants of the
Early Settlers of Watertown, Massachusetts (1860); and Cyrus
Eaton, History of Thomaston, Maine, vols. 1 and 2 (1865). A sketch
of Thatcher's Civil War service is in J. T. Headley, Farragut
and Our Naval Commanders (1866). An obituary is in the Army and
Navy Journal, 10 Apr. 1880.
Back to the top
Rod Paschall. "Thatcher, Henry Knox";
American National Biography Online Feb. 2000.
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