Cmdr. Melancthon Brooks Woolsey (USN)

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Melancthon Brooks Woolsey

Birthdate: (57)
Birthplace: Sackets Harbor, Jefferson, NY, USA
Death: October 2, 1874 (57) (Yellow Fever)
Place of Burial: Utica, Oneida County, New York, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Cmdr. Melancthon Taylor Woolsey and Susan Cornelia Woolsey
Husband of Mary Louisa Woolsey
Father of Mary Livingston Woolsey; Melancthon Lloyd Woolsey and Elizabeth Morrison Woolsey
Brother of Alida Livingston Woolsey; James Treadwell Woolsey; Robert Henry Woolsey; Susan Cornelia Woolsey; Mary Elizabeth Woolsey and 2 others

Managed by: Private User
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About Cmdr. Melancthon Brooks Woolsey (USN)

Melancthon Brooks Woolsey (11 August 1817 – 2 October 1874) was an officer in the United States Navy during and after the American Civil War. He was commodore of the South Atlantic Station in the 1870s.


Woolsey was the first son of Commodore Melancthon Taylor Woolsey and Susan C. Treadwell; he was born at Sacketts Harbor, New York. His brother James Treadwell Woolsey was born about 1820. M.B. Woolsey entered the Navy as a midshipman on 24 September 1832. After duty at sea and a tour at the Naval School, Woolsey became a midshipman on 16 July 1840.

He progressed through the rank of master to that of lieutenant by 1847. He was placed on the reserve list as lieutenant by the retiring board in September 1855. Lt. Woolsey was called back to active duty in 1861 as a result of the American Civil War.

Assigned initially to the receiving ship at New York, Woolsey assumed command of the steamer Ellen by late 1861 and began patrol duty with the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. During that tour, his ship fought Confederate forces on three separate occasions. In May 1862, he engaged Fort Pemberton at Wapper Creek, South Carolina. On 1 June, his ship repelled a Confederate cavalry attack at Secessionville. Three days later, he commanded Ellen during the attack on James Island.

In July 1862, he was promoted to commander and placed in command of the sloop Vandalia. That duty lasted until early 1863, at which time he was transferred to command of the steamer Princess Royal. That ship was assigned to the West Gulf Blockading Squadron and patrolled the coasts of Louisiana and Texas. On 28 June 1863, Princess Royal helped to defend the town of Donaldsville, Louisiana, against a determined Southern attack, and Comdr. Woolsey received high commendation from his superiors for his ship's contribution to the successful defense of the town. He remained with the blockade through the end of the war and, by July 1866, saw his name returned to the active list in the rank of captain.

Following the Civil War, Capt. Woolsey commanded the sloop-of-war Pawnee on the South Atlantic Station in 1867 and 1868. In 1869, he took command of the South Atlantic Station flagship Guerriere. In 1871, Woolsey was promoted to commodore, probably as flag officer in charge of the South Atlantic Station. His last tour of duty came in March 1873, when he took over as commandant of the navy yard at Pensacola, Florida.

Commodore Woolsey received orders detaching him from command of the navy yard in the summer of 1874. At the time, an epidemic of yellow fever raged at Pensacola, and Woolsey deemed it necessary to remain at his post to prevent panic. Woolsey contracted the highly infectious disease and died at Pensacola in the summer of 1874.


The first USS Woolsey (Destroyer No. 77) was named in honor of his father.

The second USS Woolsey (DD-437) commemorated both him and his father.


This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

^ The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Being the History of the United States Vol. VIII, p. 99. James T White & Co, 1898 (digitized by Google 22 Jun 2007, from original held by New York Public Library)

^ "Died: Woolsey, James Treadwell", New York Times, 5 May 1894, accessed 24 Aug 2010

Entered the navy as a midshipman, 24 September, 1832, attended the naval school a, t Philadelphia, and became a passed midshipman, 16 July, 1840. He was promoted to master, 22 March, 1847, and to lieutenant, 16 July, 1847, and by action of the retiring board he was placed on the reserved list, 13 September, 1855. In 1861 he was assigned to active duty and attached to "the receiving-ship at New York. He commanded the steamer "Ellen," on the South Atlantic blockade, in 1861-'2, in which he engaged Fort Pemberton at Wapper creek, South Carolina, in May, 1862, repelled Confederate cavalry at Secessionville, 1 June, 1862, and participated in the attack on James island, 3 June, 1862. He was commissioned a commander 16 July, 1862, on the reserved list, and commanded the sloop "Vandalia" in 1862-'3, and the steamer "Princess Royal," in the West Gulf squadron, in 1863-'5. He participated in the engagement and repulse of the Confederates at Donaldsonville, Louisiana, on 28 June, 1863, and was highly commended for this victory. He continued to serve on the blockade until the close of the war, and was placed on the active list and promoted to captain, 25 July, 1866, and to commodore, 20 Nay, 1871. On 6 March, 1873, he was appointed commandant of the Pensacola navy-yard. In 1874 Woolsey had orders to go to the north on duty, but he declined to leave his post; when a yellow-fever epidemic appeared, and he died there.

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Cmdr. Melancthon Brooks Woolsey (USN)'s Timeline

August 11, 1817
Sackets Harbor, Jefferson, NY, USA
October 17, 1851
Age 34
January 6, 1855
Age 37
Stamford, Fairfield, CT, USA
Age 39
October 2, 1874
Age 57
Utica, Oneida County, New York, United States