Col. Henry Charles DeAhna, (USA)

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Col. Henry Charles DeAhna, (USA)'s Geni Profile

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Col. Henry Charles DeAhna, (USA)

Birthplace: Bavaria, Germany
Immediate Family:

Husband of Augusta DeAhna
Father of Fannie DeAhna; Edward DeAhna; Helena DeAhna; Rosalia DeAhna and William DeAhna

Occupation: Civil Engineer and Soldier
Managed by: Tamás Flinn Caldwell-Gilbert
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Col. Henry Charles DeAhna, (USA)

H.C. DeAhna was a collector of customs for the United States Department of the Treasury, and from August 14, 1877 to March 26, 1878 was the highest-ranking federal official in the Department of Alaska, making him the de facto governor of the territory.

Mott replaced Henry C. DeAhna, a former Union army officer, who had been appointed Collector of Customs by President Hayes in October 1877. Henry DeAhna was a man of dubious reputation, and consequently was never confirmed by the United States Senate. However, before final action by the Senate, DeAhna travelled to Alaska to assume his duties. The Treasury Department advanced him the enormous sum of $1,250 “for collection of revenue,” the equivalent of $25,000 today. When he arrived at Sitka, DeAhna was reportedly appalled by the conditions he encountered. He left after just one day on the job and apparently kept the advance. In his official report, Special Agent, William G. Morris, of the United States Treasury Department stated of DeAhna: “[He] knows as much about the collection of the revenue in the district of Alaska as Sitting Bull does about the Sermon on the Mount.”

Henry C. De Ahna was a German officer who was given a colonelcy of an Indiana regiment at the start of the Civil War. His superior was General John C. Fremont, and when the imperious De Ahna tried to enter his even more imperious commander’s headquarters, he was stopped by the sentinal and told he was not on the approved entry list. He indignantly forced his way past anyway, and for this rather minor infraction was court marshaled for conduct unbecoming a gentleman. He was convicted, but that verdict was overturned on appeal by the Judge Advocate and the overturning concurred in by Gen. Winfield Scott. President Lincoln pardoned him, the reason being, as noted by John Hay in his journal, that De Ahna had “suffered sufficiently for having lifted his recalcitrant heel against the dignity of the General’s [Fremont’s] Body Guard.” Then De Ahna, through his friendship with the Blair family, somehow got the President to nominate him for brigadier general. The Senate refused to confirm, one senator calling De Ahna a foreign adventurer. Gen. Frank Blair again intervened, asking Lincoln to make De Ahna a member of member of General McClellan’s staff. That never happened, and Lincoln, initially in sympathy with De Ahna, may have ended up seeing him as tiresome.

On August 10, 1863, Lincoln was a busy man, metting with General Hooker and with abolitionist Frederick Douglass. John Hay recorded, “[Douglass] intends to go south and help the recruiting among his people.” The President acknowledged that “Douglass is…a loyal, free, man, and is, hence, entitled to travel, unmolested. We trust he will be recognized everywhere, as a free man, and a gentleman.” Lincoln also found time for a brief visit from De Ahna that day. But this time De Ahna did not olny come pleading for a job, but to tell the President a tale involving a Confederate attempt to bribe Union generals to betray their commands and surrender. He came with $2000, the supposed down payment of bribe money. This promised to be a long meeting, Lincoln apparently thought as De Ahna began, and the President had neither time nor inclination to hear him out. Since there was money involved, Lincoln pawned De Ahna off on Secretary of the Treasury Chase.

Autograph Note Signed, Washington, August 10, 1863, to Secretary Chase. “Hon. Sec. of the Treasury, Please see & hear Gen. De Ahna.”

So as not to step on toes, Chase contacted Secretaray of War Stanton, who agreed Chase should see De Ahna, which he did. Chase recorded the details of his meeting with De Ahna in his diary in the entry for Thursday, October 1, 1863. “General called with strange story. He says a letter came from Richmond with $3000 from [Judah] Benjamin. The money was to be used by Charles d’Arnaud, formerly of Fremont’s staff, to corrupt Percy Wyndham, an officer of one of our cavalry regiments & induce him to betray his command to the enemy. This letter came to a Mrs. Van Camp, wife of Mr Van Camp, said to have the confidence of the President…and through some mistake in identity this letter of Benjamin came to De Ahna.” Chase continued, “He showed me Benjamin’s note which promised compensation for ‘articles’ meaning I suppose ‘horses.’ He also paid over to Hogan [a Treasury detective] $2000 of the money sent by Benjamin which I directed Hogan to deposit with Jay Cooke & Co. De Ahan was told to discover, if he could, what was being done in complicity with the rebels & advise me or the Secretary of War.” In December 1864 Congress ordered the money given over by De Ahna be confiscated by the United States.

Om January 31 1864, De Ahna wrote Lincoln a lengthy letter in which he refered to his meeting with Chase. The letter complained that Chase had not believed him despite evidence, and that nothing had been done to follow up on this serious matter. If Lincoln ever replied, it is not recorded. Although clearly Lincoln, Chase and Seward were not worried, there was a real letter from Benjamin and $2000 in cash with more promised. The real truth behind the matter was never determined. As for De Ahna, he ended up as Collector of Customs at Sitka, Alaska.

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Col. Henry Charles DeAhna, (USA)'s Timeline

Bavaria, Germany
July 1871
Age 45
Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, United States
July 1872
Age 46
Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, United States
February 1883
Age 57
Nevada, United States