John Ancrum Winslow

John Ancrum Winslow

:"John Winslow redirects here. For the 18th century British Army officer, see John Winslow (British army officer)". "For the 19th century industrialist, see John F. Winslow".

Rear Admiral John Ancrum Winslow (1811 – 29 September 1873) was an officer in the United States Navy during the Mexican-American War and the American Civil War. He was in command of the steam sloop of war USS "Kearsarge" during her historic 1864 action with the Confederate ship "Alabama".

Early life and career

Although born in Wilmington, North Carolina, Winslow was a member of the old New England Winslow family, a descendant of Mayflower passenger Mary Chilton and her husband John Winslow who was a brother of Pilgrim father Edward Winslow. One of his first cousins was Francis Winslow (I) (1818 - 1862) who also joined the Navy, becoming a Commander, who also fought in the Civil War and who died of Yellow Fever in 1862 while in command of the USS "R. R. Cuyler". John A. Winslow became a midshipman in 1827. He was educated in the North and became an ardent abolitionist. While serving at Tabasco during the Mexican-American War, he was commended for gallantry in action by Commodore Matthew Perry. He shared a shipboard cabin with his later adversary, Raphael Semmes.

Civil War service

The outbreak of the Civil War found Winslow serving ashore as commanding officer of the 2d Lighthouse District. He decided to stay with the Union, probably due to his New England roots, anti-slavery views, and his wife, who was another of his first cousins, also from Boston. After Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote relieved Commander John Rodgers in command of the Western Flotilla, he requested that Winslow be sent west to assist him as executive officer. At Cairo, Illinois, Winslow labored to fit out and man gunboats for service on the Mississippi River and its tributaries. In October 1861, he assumed command of "Benton" at St. Louis, Missouri. As that deep-draft gunboat was steaming down river to Cairo, she ran aground on a sandbar. While attempting to refloat the ship, Winslow was badly injured by a flying chain link and forced to return home late in the year to recover. When he was able to return to duty in the summer of 1862, Winslow was given comparatively minor assignments. He contracted malaria, became discontented, and asked to be reassigned to other duty.

Detached from the Mississippi Squadron, Winslow returned to his home in Roxbury, Massachusetts, early in November and was confined to bed there for a month attempting to regain his health. On 5 December, orders arrived directing him to proceed via New York City to the Azores where he was to assume command of the screw sloop "Kearsarge". Two days later, he went to New York where he embarked in USS "Vanderbilt" for passage to Fayal. However, when he reached that island on Christmas Eve, he found that "Kearsarge" had sailed to Spain for repairs; and he was forced to remain at Fayal until spring. When the screw sloop finally returned early in April 1863, he assumed command.

In "Kearsarge", he cruised among the Azores seeking Confederate commerce raider "Alabama" until autumn when he shifted to European waters. At Ferrol, Spain, Winslow learned that CSS "Florida", was at Brest, France, undergoing overhaul; and he promptly sailed for that port to prevent her from slipping out to sea again. While keeping track of the progress of the repair work on the Southern warship through the U.S. diplomatic and espionage network, he also made runs along the coast of western Europe, checking on rumors of other Confederate raiders in the area. He also rigorously drilled his crew in naval gunnery, which stood them in good stead in the battle to come.

In January 1864, "Kearsarge" returned to Cadiz for naval stores and repairs; and, while she was away from Brest, "Florida" put to sea on 18 February. When "Kearsarge" returned and learned that the quarry had escaped, she shifted to Calais, France, where CSS "Rappahannock" was moored. On 12 June, while moored in the Scheldt off Vlissingen (Flushing), Winslow received a telegram informing him that "Alabama" was at Cherbourg, a French naval port. He hastened there in "Kearsarge" and, on 19 June, in an epic battle off that port, won a complete victory, sinking the "Alabama". This earned him promotion to commodore, backdated to the day of the battle, and the Thanks of Congress.

Later career and legacy

Advanced to rear admiral in 1870, Winslow commanded the Pacific Squadron from that year to 1872. He was always known as a solid, courageous, determined officer. Shortly after his retirement, he died in Boston. His coffin was draped in the "Kearsarge" 's battle flag, and a slab of stone from Mt. Kearsarge covered his grave.

Two ships in the United States Navy have been named USS "Winslow" for him. A third "Winslow" honored him and his first cousin once removed, Admiral Cameron McRae Winslow (second son of Francis Winslow (I)).

External links

*Find A Grave|id=5308125

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