Rear Admiral. He was a ship commander, scientist, and diplomat during the transition of the USN from sail to steam propulsion.
He entered the USNA in 1847, and after interrupting his studies for sea duty-during which he served in anti-slaving patrols off the West African coast and in shore parties protecting US citizens during a Chilean revolution-he re-entered and completed his studies there in 1854. As a junior officer he served in a number of assignments at sea, including duty in USS Portsmouth, 1856-58. While serving in Portsmouth in the Pacific, he distinguished himself in an attack on Canton barrier forts in November 1856. In 1862 he was promoted to Lieutenant Commander and took command of the steam-propelled ironclad USS New Ironsides. During the US Civil War he commanded the single-turret monitor USS Canonicus during Union attacks on the Confederate Fort Fisher in December 1864 and January 1865.