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First Name: Henry

Last Name: Adams


Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Middle Name: A.

Date of Birth: 18 March 1800

Date of Death: 11 May 1869

Rank or Rate: Commodore

Years Served:
Henry A. Adams


Henry A. Adams
Commodore, U.S. Navy

Henry A. Adams was born on 18 March 1800.

He entered the U.S. Navy as a Midshipman on 14 March 1814, just prior to his fourteenth birthday, and served in the Navy for the next 48 years. Adams was promoted to Lieutenant on 13 January 1825, to Commander on 8 September 1854, and to Captain on 14 September 1855.

In 1852, while in command of the USS Mississippi in the East India Squadron, he was assigned as Chief of Staff and second-in-command to Captain Matthew C. Perry, serving in that duty during Captain Perry's famous 1852-53 expedition to open Japan to the Western world, and carrying the title of "Captain of the Fleet."

After the expedition reached Japan, Adams served as chief negotiator with the Imperial government officials, due to Captain Perry's refusal to meet with anyone having less than Imperial rank. When Captain Perry successfully negotiated the Treaty of Kanagawa, and it was signed in March 1854, Captain Adams was detailed to take the signed treaty home on the USS Saratoga to the U.S. and present it for ratification.

In August 1858 he was assigned to command the sailing frigate USS Sabine and led it in its first cruise as part of the American show of force against Paraguay in October 1858, after that nation fired on U.S. ships. He was still in command of the Sabine in April 1861 when the Civil War began.

Stationed off Pensacola, FL, and in command of the naval elements there, he received orders to land the forces of Army Captain Israel Vogdes to reinforce Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island. The Fort, one of the largest in the U.S., was built to defend the entrance of the Pensacola Harbor and Navy Yard, and it was crucial to keep the naval base there out of Confederate hands.

However, Captain Adams did not obey the order, since it came from an Army general, not the Navy Department, and it contradicted his last standing orders from former Secretary of the Navy Isaac Toucey, who had issued them in January 1861 during the last days of the Buchanan Administration.

After sending a message to the present Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, for instructions, he received a response personally delivered in secret by Lieutenant John L. Worden (future commander of the famous ironclad USS Monitor) to comply with the Army directive. He then assisted the move to Fort Pickens, which would remain in Union hands throughout the war.

The ship was then part of the initial blockade of the Southern ports, and in November 1861 Captain Adams directed the rescue of some 500 Marines and Sailors off the coast of South Carolina after their ship foundered in a violent storm.

Promoted to Commodore on 16 July 1862, he was placed on the Retired List, and spent the rest of his days officially "awaiting orders."

Death and Burial

Commodore Henry A. Adams died on 11 May 1869 at his residence in Philadelphia, PA. He is buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia, PA.

Honoree ID: 2041   Created by: MHOH




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