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Bristol, Mark Lambert (17 April 1868–13 May 1939), naval officer and diplomat, was born in Glassboro, New Jersey, the son of Mark Lambert Bristol and Rachel Elizabeth Bush, farmers. He was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1883 and graduated in 1887. After service aboard the converted bark ...

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Burns, Otway, Jr. (1775–25 October 1850), privateer, shipbuilder, and state legislator, was born on Queen’s Creek, Onslow County, North Carolina, the son of Otway Burns and Lisanah (maiden name unknown), farmers. Little is known of Burns’s education or youth. Apparently he went to sea at an early age and became a skilled seaman. In 1806 the Onslow County Court apprenticed an orphan lad to Burns to learn navigation. Prior to the War of 1812, Burns was master of a merchantman engaged in the coastwise trade between North Carolina and New England....

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Coffin, Sir Isaac (16 May 1759–23 July 1839), Loyalist and British admiral, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Nathaniel Coffin, the last receiver general and cashier of His Majesty’s Customs at Boston, and Elizabeth Barnes. Born into a family of wealth and social prominence, Isaac Coffin attended the Boston Latin School and then entered the British Royal Navy in May 1773. Assigned to the brig ...

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Donald D. Engen. Photograph by Carolyn Russo. Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution (#99-15320).

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Engen, Donald Davenport (28 May 1924–13 July 1999), naval officer, test pilot, public servant, was born in Pomona, California, the son of Sydney M. Engen, a stockbroker and later an Internal Revenue Service employee, and Dorothy Davenport Engen. Engen spent his childhood years in southern California, principally in Pasadena. When he was in fourth grade, he decided that he wanted to attend the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and become a naval officer....

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Fox, Gustavus Vasa (13 June 1821–29 October 1883), naval officer, assistant secretary of the navy, and business executive, was born in Saugus, Massachusetts, the son of Jesse Fox, a physician, inventor, and manufacturer, and Olivia Flint. Growing up in Lowell, Fox developed an “unconquerable desire” (Jesse Fox to ...

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Richmond Pearson Hobson. From a photomechanical print celebrating "The Sinking of the 'Merrimac.'" Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-108486).

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Hobson, Richmond Pearson (17 August 1870–16 March 1937), naval officer and congressman, was born in Greensboro, Alabama, the son of James Marcellus Hobson, a lawyer, and Sarah Croom Pearson. He received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis in May 1885. The youngest member of his class, he was put “in Coventry” (ostracism via the silent treatment) by his classmates for placing some of them on report and spent the balance of his second- and all of his first-class years under the ban. Never lower than third academically, he graduated in 1889 first in his class. The ostracism was to cast a long shadow on the active naval career of one who, in his own words, “ ...

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Holcomb, Thomas (05 August 1879–24 May 1965), commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps and diplomat, was born in New Castle, Delaware, the son of Thomas Holcomb, an attorney, state legislator, and civil servant, and Elizabeth Hindman Barney. The family moved to Washington in 1893 when his father joined the Treasury Department. Holcomb graduated from high school in 1897 and three years later was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. After completing the marines’ School of Application, Holcomb served from September 1902 to April 1903 with a seagoing battalion attached to the North Atlantic Fleet. In 1903 he was promoted to first lieutenant and stationed in the Philippines in 1904 and 1905 and at the U.S. legation in Peking (Beijing) from 1905 through 1906. He returned to China in 1908 as a naval attaché. Holcomb, by that time a captain, oversaw the training of the legation’s marine detachment, placing particular emphasis—as he would throughout his career—on rifle marksmanship. An expert marksman himself, he had served as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps Rifle Team in 1901, 1902, 1903, 1907, and 1908, and would do so again in 1911. Holcomb returned to the United States in 1914 and became inspector of target practice at corps headquarters. He married Beatrice Miller Clover in 1916; the couple had one son....

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Johnstone, George (1730–24 May 1787), naval officer and first governor of British West Florida, was born in Dumfriesshire, Scotland, the son of Sir James Johnstone, Laird of Westerhall, and Barbara Murray. After entering the Royal Navy in 1743, Johnstone fought in King George’s War before his promotion to lieutenant in 1749. Johnstone was undoubtedly brave but also, wrote a superior, “incapable of subordination.” He faced two courts-martial and fought at least one duel during the French and Indian War....

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Joy, Charles Turner (17 February 1895–06 June 1956), naval officer and diplomat, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Duncan Joy, a cotton broker, and Lucy Barlow Turner. Educated at private schools in St. Louis, New York, and Pennsylvania, and appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy from Illinois’s Twenty-second District in July 1912, Joy received his ensign’s commission in June 1916....

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Loring, Joshua (03 August 1716–05 October 1781), British naval officer and Loyalist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Joshua Loring, a tanner, and Hannah Jackson. Fatherless by the age of five, Joshua moved to Roxbury, where he was apprenticed to a tanner named James Mears. However, the continuing warfare between England and France attracted him, and when of age he went to sea and served on a privateer. In 1740 he married Mary Curtis; they had seven children. During the War of Austrian Succession (1740–1748), he became captain of his own privateer with 120 seamen under his command. In 1744, near Louisburg, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, his ship was captured by two French men-of-war after a four-hour chase. He spent several months in a prison in Louisburg, then was released. When the French and Indian War began, Loring was commissioned a lieutenant in the British navy and by December 1757 was commissioned a captain in command of a twenty-gun vessel named the ...

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Ranger, Joseph (1760?–?), revolutionary war seaman, was born probably in Northumberland County, Virginia, to unknown parents. Ranger was a free African American, or perhaps a runaway slave, who probably worked as a seaman in Northumberland County and Elizabeth City County before the revolutionary war. In the early eighteenth century, Virginia’s waters were sailed extensively by free African Americans and slaves who also worked in the colony’s two shipyards. Despite long-standing concern among the elite in the South about arming even free African Americans for fear of inciting slave revolt, the maritime experiences of Virginia’s African Americans made them prime candidates for enlistment in the state navy (just as many African-American seamen served in the Continental navy)....

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Shufeldt, Robert Wilson (21 February 1822–07 November 1895), naval officer and diplomat, was born in Red Hook, New York, the son of George Adam Shufeldt, a lawyer, and Mary Howey Wilson. He attended Middlebury College in Vermont from 1837 to 1839 but before graduating, joined the navy. After cruises in the Home Squadron (1839–1840) and the Brazil Squadron (1840–1843), he graduated as a midshipman from the Naval School, Philadelphia, in June 1845. Service followed with the Coast Survey (1845–1846, 1849) and the West African Squadron (1846–1848). In 1848 he married Sarah Hutchins Abercrombie; the couple had three sons who survived infancy (three children did not). After placement during 1850–1851 as acting lieutenant aboard ...

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Standley, William Harrison (18 December 1872–25 October 1963), chief of naval operations and ambassador to the USSR, was born at Ukiah, California, the son of Jeremiah M. Standley, a sheriff of Mendocino County, and Sarah Jane Clay. He entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1891, graduated in 1895, and earned an ensign’s commission in 1897 after serving the requisite two years duty at sea. During the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection, Standley served with the Asiatic Fleet. He obtained his first command, a cruiser, in 1915 and took command of his first battleship four years later. He attended the Naval War College in 1920–1921. Known as a resolute leader, Captain Standley was boosted to flag rank ahead of several other captains who were higher on the selection list when he became rear admiral in 1927. He became vice admiral five years later....

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Ulloa, Antonio de (12 January 1716–05 July 1795), Spanish naval officer and governor of Louisiana, was born in Seville, Spain, the son of Bernardo de Ulloa y Sousa, an economist, and Josefa de la Torre Guiral. He was educated by private tutor. In 1733 he joined the Guardias Marinas, an elite naval unit....

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Warren, Sir Peter (10 March 1703–29 July 1752), British admiral and politician, was born in Warrenstown, County Meath, Ireland, the son of Michael Warren, a country gentleman, and Catherine Aylmer. As Catholics, both Peter’s father and his maternal grandfather, Sir Christopher Aylmer, were Jacobites. Seeking government preferment, young Peter embraced Anglicanism and entered the British navy as a seaman in 1716. Here, his own abilities and family interest promised a speedy advance. His uncle Matthew, Lord Aylmer, Lord of the Admiralty, and Aylmer’s son-in-law, Admiral Sir John Norris, actively promoted Warren’s career. By 1727 he was captain of the ...

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Williams, John Foster (12 October 1743–24 June 1814), officer in the Massachusetts State Navy and the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, was born in Boston, Massachusetts. The identities of his parents are unknown, although he is believed to be a descendant of Roger Williams...