Willard's Top Matches
About Willard Herbert Brownson
Rear Admiral Willard Herbert Brownson, USN (July 8, 1845 – 16 March 1935) was a United States Navy officer whose career included service against pirates in Mexico, and service during the Spanish-American War. He also served a term as Superintendent of the United States Naval Academy.
Early Life and Career
A native of Lyons, New York, Brownson graduated from the Naval Academy in 1865. He served in the North Atlantic Squadron until 1868 when he was assigned to the Pacific Fleet. In 1870, during his tour of duty on Mohican, Brownson and a detachment of men fought the Battle of Boca Teacapan against the pirate ship Forward in Mexican waters. During the fighting American marines and sailors captured the enemy ship and defeated a superior force of pirates positioned at a shore battery.
In 1872, he reported for duty at the Navy Academy's Department of Mathematics. Three years later the young Lieutenant was sent to the Asiatic Fleet. Brownson returned to the Naval Academy in 1878 as Assistant Commandant of Cadets. In 1881, he was ordered to the Coast and Geodetic Survey as a Lieutenant Commander where he commanded the ship Blake until 1884. After brief duty as executive officer of Powhatan, he was named Inspector of Hydrography for the Coast Survey.
From 1889 to 1894 he commanded several ships, and was promoted to Commander in 1891. He commanded the protected cruiser Detroit (C-10) at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, during the revolution of 1893–94. During which Brownson protected American commerce by firing on the rebel cruiser Trajano in a short naval engagement which earned him notoriety as a bold leader. After a return to the Naval Academy as Commandant of Cadets, Brownson served for two years on the Board of Inspection and Survey. He commanded Yankee and participated in the Battle of Guantánamo Bay during the Spanish-American War. In it two Spanish gunboats and a few infantry companies attempted to resist an American and Cuban capture of the bay. The result was an important victory for Cuban and United States Navy forces.
In 1899 he achieved the rank of Captain and command of the battleship Alabama (BB-8), and from 1902 to 1905 was Superintendent of the Naval Academy.
Brownson was promoted to Rear Admiral in 1905, when he hoisted his flag on board West Virginia (ACR-5) as Commander, 4th Division, North Atlantic Fleet. He served as Commander, Special Service Squadron in Central American Waters and became Commander-in-Chief of the Asiatic Fleet 15 October 1906.
In 1907, he was assigned as Chief of the Bureau of Navigation, which handled the Navy's personnel matters. In July of that year, he was transferred to the retired list, but continued to serve in his post at the Bureau of Navigation until December. That month, President Theodore Roosevelt decided to give command of hospital ships to Navy doctors, against the advice of Brownson, who then resigned from the Navy. A storm of protest arose from within the Navy and from the public, but Brownson's active Naval career was over.
Brownson married Isabella Roberts in July 1872. Their first child, Henry was born in 1874 and died in 1876 shortly after his father left for the Asiatic Station. The following spring his daughter Harriet was born. In 1878 another son, Roswell was born and in 1894 a second daughter Caroline, was born. Caroline Brownson married Thomas C. Hart, later Admiral and the last Commander-in-Chief of the Asiatic Station. Harriet married Admiral Charles Lincoln Hussey who as an Ensign received the Navy Cross during the Spanish-American War.
Brownson died at Washington, D.C., 16 March 1935.
Two destroyers have been named USS Brownson in his honor.