Lieutenant John Minor Maury (USN)

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John Minor Maury

Birthdate: (33)
Birthplace: Fredericksburg, Virginia, United States
Death: June 23, 1828 (33)
Immediate Family:

Son of Richard Lancelot Maury and Diana Maury
Husband of Elizabeth Hull Maury
Father of Maj. General Dabney H. Maury (CSA)
Brother of Matthew F. Maury "Pathfinder of the Seas", Commodore (USN), (CSN); Mary Maury Ludlow; Walker Maury; Matilda Maury; Elizabeth Maury and 3 others

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About Lieutenant John Minor Maury (USN)

John Minor Maury (1795 – 23 June 1824) was a lieutenant in the United States Navy.

John's life was saved by David Porter, USN, of the ship, Essex. John and other sailors (five killed by cannibals and two survived) had been marooned on the island of Nuku Hiva (also spelled "Nukahiva" or "Nookahevah") for two years surviving Cannibalism between the wars of the Typees against the Happhas. They had been left on the island to gather sandalwood to sell in China when the war with England broke out and blockaded their ship that was to come back for them.

John was the older brother of oceanographer and naval officer Matthew Fontaine Maury. John Minor Maury's letters of his adventures in the navy that were sent home are considered to be a major reason why Matthew Maury decided on a naval career.

John Minor Maury was also the father of USA and later CSA Major General Dabney Herndon Maury, who founded (1868-9) the Southern Historical Society, worked on it for 20 years, and was appointed to serve as U.S. Minister to Colombia, South America by President Grover Cleveland.

Born very near Fredericksburg, Virginia, to of Richard Maury (son of Rev. James Maury) and Diana (Minor) Maury (daughter of General John Minor). John Minor Maury was appointed midshipman on 16 January, 1809 and commissioned Lieutenant 28 June 1811. He married Eliza Herndon Maury, daughter of Elizabeth Brooke and Fontaine Maury. Sons: William Maury (d.y.) and Dabney Herndon Maury. John Minor Maury was named after his ancestor, General John Minor. It is a name that continues through several generations. Matthew Fontaine Maury also had a nephew named (Lieutenant) John Minor Maury who was on the U S Navy Darien Expedition [1] in 1854.

John served on the Essex and Essex Junior (captured, ex-HMS Atlantic.) He served on the "Essex Jr." in the Pacific, which brought home the survivors including Captain David Porter of the Essex which was destroyed in battle. John Minor Maury was promoted to first lieutenant, 1811; made flag captain to Commodore David Porter's fleet engaged in suppressing West Indian pirates, 1824.

During the War of 1812, he participated in the Battle of Lake Champlain under Commander Thomas McDonough in the complete victory over the British flotilla, which was captured or sunk. John Minor Maury wrote to a friend in Fredericksburg, "We have gained a glorious victory. I hope the most important result of it will be to confirm the wavering allegiance of New York and Vermont to the Union. They have been threatening to secede unless peace be made with England on any terms!"

Soon after the close of the American war with England, the pirates of the West Indies had become a terror to all who sailed those seas. Captain David Porter (naval officer) , then the most energetic and successful of our sailors, was ordered to fit out a squadron for their destruction. He was authorized to select his officers for a service so dangerous. His first choice was Lieut. John Minor Maury to be flag captain of the fleet. This officer, like the adjutant general of the army, gave orders for all the movements. The service was active and severe; the combats were desperate; no quarter was asked or given. The pirates were all destroyed or broken up and scattered.

As a mark of special approbation of his services, Lieutenant John Minor Maury was sent by Commander David Porter to bear to the United States Government his report of the complete success of his operations. John sailed in the store ship Decoy, but died of yellow fever in June 1824, just outside the Capes of Norfolk, and was buried at sea, at the age of thirty one. John Minor Maury had been first lieutenant of a frigate; and at twenty-six he was the flag captain of the fleet, and was considered by Tatnall, Buchanan and other compeers to have been the youngest and smartest young sailor in the American navy.


MAURY, John Minor, naval officer, born near Fredericksburg, Virginia, in 1795; died at sea, near Norfolk, Virginia, 23 June, 1828. He was the son of Richard Maury, of Huguenot descent, who emigrated to Franklin, Tennessee, in 1810. He was appointed midshipman on 16 January, 1S09, served on the United States frigate " Essex " and on the "Essex, Jr.," and became 1st lieutenant on 28 June, 1811. At the age of twenty-seven he was flag-captain of Commander David Porter's fleet, which destroyed the pirates of the West Indies. He died of yellow fever on his return voyage from that service, and was the youngest officer of his rank at that time in the navy.-His brother, Matthew Fontaine, scientist, born in Spottsylvania county, Virginia, 14 January, 1806; died in Lexington, Virginia, 1 February, 1873. In his sixteenth year young Maury entered Harpeth academy, then under the charge of Reverend James H. Otey, afterward bishop of Tennessee. On 1 February, 1825, he was appointed midshipman in the United States navy, making his first cruise in the frigate "Brandywine," on the coast of Europe and in the Mediterranean. In 1826 the "Brandywine" returned to the United States, and Maury was transferred to the sloop-of-war "Vincennes," for a cruise around the world. After the expiration of the cruise he passed with credit the usual examination, and in 1831 was appointed master of the sloop-of-war "Falmouth," then fitting out for the Pacific. He did not complete his cruise in this vessel, being transferred to the schooner " Dolphin," serving as acting 1st lieutenant, until he was again transferred to the frigate " Potomac." in which he returned to the United States in 1834, and published his first work, "Maury's Navigation," which was adopted as a textbook in the navy During this intermission of active service he married Miss Ann Herndon, of Virginia, a sister of Lieutenant William L Herndon, of the navy, who was conspicuous on the occasion of the foundering of the " Central America," which he commanded. In 1837, after thirteen years of service, Maury was promoted to the grade of lieutenant and offered the appointments of astronomer and hydrographer to the exploring expedition to the South seas, then preparing to sail under the command of Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, but declined. In 1839 he met with a painful accident by which he was lamed for life. Being unable for several years to perform the active duties of his profession, he devoted the time to study, to the improvement of the navy, and to other matters of national concern. His forcibly stated views were published first and mainly in the "Southern Literary Messenger," of Richmond, Virginia, over the pen-name of Harry Bluff, and under the general head of "Scraps from the Lucky Bag." These essays produced great reforms in the navy, and led to the foundation of a naval academy. He also advocated the establishment of a navy-yard at Memphis, Tennessee, which was done by act of congress. Under his direction, Lieutenant Robert A. Marr made at that point the first series of observations on the flow of the Mississippi. He proposed a system of observations that would enable the investigators to give information, by telegraph, as to the state of the river and its tributaries, to the captains of steamers and all others who might be interested. He advanced the enlargement of the Illinois and Michigan canal, that vessels of war might pass between the Gulf and the lakes. For this he received the thanks of the Illinois legislature. He suggested to congress, through one of its committees, plans for the disposition of the drowned lands along the Mississippi belonging to the United States government. In the interest of commerce he brought forward and successfully advocated, in a series of papers, what is known as the warehousing system. In 1842 he was appointed superintendent of the depots of charts and instruments at Washington, afterward known as the hydrographical office, and upon the organization and union with it of the national observatory in 1844, he was made superintendent of the combined institutions. To his labors as astronomer of the naval observatory lie added the task of determining the direction of the winds and currents of the ocean. In pursuance of these ob-jeers he collected from the log-books of ships of war, long stored in the government offices, and from all other accessible sources, the material for his purpose. In 1844 he made known his conclusions respecting the Gulf stream, ocean currents, and great-circle sailing, in a paper read before the National institute, and printed under the title of "A Scheme for rebuilding Southern Commerce" (1851). They were also embodied in the " Wind and Current Charts" and " Sailing Directions" issued by the observatory. With the accumulation of material the need was felt of systematizing the observations and records themselves, particularly as ships of different nations used different methods of observation and registry. Lieutenant Maury accordingly suggested a general maritime conference, which, at the request of the United States government, assembled at Brussels in 1853, and recommended a form of abstract log to be kept on board ships-of-war and merchant vessels. The first fruits of his investigations on the winds and currents of the sea, with its currents and its atmosphere, appeared in 1856 in his work "The Physical Geography of the Sea," which, translated into the languages of France, Germany, Holland, Norway, Spain, and Italy, made its author well known throughout Europe. By Humboldt, Maury was declared to be the founder of a new and important science, and France, Austria, Prussia, Russia, Denmark, Belgium, Portugal, Sweden, Sardinia, Holland, Bremen, and the Papal States bestowed orders of knighthood and other honors upon him. The academies of science of Paris, Berlin, Brussels, St. Petersburg, and Mexico received him into membership. [n his works he was the first to give a complete description of the Gulf stream, and to mark out specific routes to be followed in crossing the Atlantic. Maury also instituted the system of deep-sea sounding, and was the first, to suggest the establishment of telegraphic communication between the continents by cable on the bed of the ocean, and the existing cable was laid along the line indicated by him. There are letters from him to Cyrus W. Field on this subject in the observatory at Washington, D.C. In 1855 he was promoted to the rank of commander. When Virginia seceded, Maury resigned his commission in the United States navy, and was selected as one of a council of three to assist the governor, so serving until the army and navy of Virginia were incorporated with those of the Confederacy. When it became known in Europe that he had resigned from the United States service, he was invited to Russia and to France, to continue in either of those countries the work to which his life had been devoted. These offers, from a sense of duty, he declined. He entered the Confederate navy on 10 June, 1861, served on the court-martial of Captain Josiah Tatnall, of the "Merrimac," and in October, 1862, established at Richmond the naval submarine battery service. Before the torpedo bureau was far advanced, Commander Maury was sent to Europe to continue his experiments. While abroad he invented an ingenious method of arranging and testing torpedo mines, which he was about to put into use at Galveston, Texas, against blockading vessels, when General Lee surrendered. He had been appointed one of the Confederate navy agents in Europe, and while serving in this capacity purchased and fitted out armed cruisers abroad. At the close of the war, in anticipation of a large emigration from the southern states to Mexico, with the view of aiding his countrymen, he went to that country, and was cordially received by the Emperor Maximilian. who appointed him to a place in his cabinet. Thence he was sent on a special mission to Europe. The revolution terminating his relations with Mexico, he resumed, as a means of support, his scientific and literary labors. During this period the University of Cambridge gave him the degree of LL.D., and the emperor of the French invited him to the superintendency of the imperial observatory at Paris. He finally accepted the chair of physics in the Virginia military institute. While connected with the institute he prepared and published "The Physical Survey of Virginia" (Richmond, 1868) in connection with the establishment of through routes by rail, and of a great and free water-line uniting the east and west, and this again in connection with foreign commerce by his familiar pathways on the sea, the perfecting of a system of observations and reports of the crops of the world, tending to reduce the fluctuations and to destroy the oppositions of trade in the staple productions of agriculture. Subsequently, with William M. Fontaine, lie published "Resources of West Virginia" (Wheeling, 1876). In September, 1872, he addressed the Agricultural society of Norfolk, Massachusetts, and in October the State agricultural society of Missouri, at its annual fair at St. Louis. He reached the Virginia military institute on 23 October quite ill, and lingered until 1 February, 1873, when he died. Besides the works mentioned, he published "Letters on the Amazon and the Atlantic Slopes of South America" (Washington, 1853) ; "Relation between Magnetism and the Circulation of the Atmosphere," in the appendix to " Washington Astronomical Observations for 1846" (1851); "Lanes for Steamers Crossing the Atlantic" (1854); and a series of geographies; "Manual of Geography : Mathematical, Civil, and Physical Geography" (1870); a "Physical Geography of the Sea and its Meteorology" (New York, 1853): and smaller works on geography. His life has been written by his daughter (London, 1888).--John Minor's son, Dabney Herndon, soldier, born in Fredericksburg, Virginia, 21 May, 1822, was graduated at the University of Virginia in 1841, and at the United States military academy in 1846, assigned to the mounted rifles, and brevetted 1st lieutenant for Cerro Gordo, Mexico, where he was severely wounded. For his services there he was also presented with a sword by the citizens of Fredericksburg and the legislature of Virginia. He was assistant professor of geography, history, and ethics at West Point from 1847 till 1850, assistant instructor of infantry tactics in 1850-'2, and then served on frontier duty in Texas. In 1858 he was made superintendent of the Cavalry-school for practice, Carlisle, Pennsylvania He was assistant adjutant-general in New Mexico from 1 June, 1860, till 24 Nay, 1861, then became adjutant-general in the Confederate army, and was sent to the Trans-Mississippi department in February, 1862, as chief of staff to General Earl Van Dorn, and promoted to brigadier-general after the battle of Pea Ridge. He led a division at Corinth, where he was made major-general, served in the operations around Vicksburg, and participated in the defence of Mobile, commanding the Department of the Gulf. On 12 May, 1865, General Maury and the Army of Mobile were paroled prisoners of war under the terms of surrender made by General Richard Taylor and General Edward S. Canby. He organized the Southern historical society in 1868, and originated the movement for the reorganization of militia of the nation in 1878. In 1886 he was appointed United States minister to Colombia. He has published "Skirmish Drill for Mounted Troops" (Washington, 1859).--Matthew Fontaine's cousin, Ann, author, born in Liverpool, England, in September, 1803; died in New York city in January, 1876, was the daughter of James Maury, United States consul to Liverpool, in 1789-1837. She was a descendant of Reverend James Fontaine, whose autobiography, with other family manuscripts and an original journal of travels in Virginia and New York in 1715-'16, she published under the title of " Memoirs of a Huguenot Family" (New York, 1853). The appendix of this book contains a translation of the edict of Nantes and other historical documents.--Her sister-in-law, Sarah Mytton, author, born in Liverpool, England, 1 November, 1803; died in Virginia in October, 1849, was graduated at a school in Liverpool in 1821. Her maiden name was Hughes and she married William, the eldest son of James Maury. She came to the United States in 1846 on a packet-ship that was crowded with steerage passengers, among whom the small-pox had broken out on the third day from Liverpool. Upon her arrival she labored successfully for the passage of an act of congress requiring that sanitary provision should be made on emigrant vessels, and on her return to England she procured the passage of a similar act of parliament. She was the author of "Etchings from the Caracci" (Liverpool, 1842); "The Englishwoman in America" (1846); "The Statesmen of America in 1846" (Philadelphia, 1847); and "Progress of the Catholic Church in America" (1847).--Dabney Herndon's third cousin, Francis Fontaine, surgeon, born in Danville, Kentucky, 9 August, 1840; died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 4 June, 1879. He was graduated at Centre college, Kentucky, in 1859, and attended lectures at the medical department of the University of Virginia, and Jefferson medical college, Philadelphia, from which he received his degree in 1862. He practised in Philadelphia, devoting his attention to surgery. Among his operations were a successful amputation at the hip-joint, the first operation for gastrotomy in this country, for stricture of the oesophagus, excision of the brachial plexus of nerves for painful neuroma of the skin, for exstrophy of the bladder, and two extirpations of the thyroid gland. For two years he edited the " Photographic Review of Medicine and Surgery," and he published numerous reports of medical and surgical cases. He was a surgeon to Jefferson medical college hospital, and the Philadelphia hospital, and during the civil war had charge for a time of an army hospital. For many years he was a lecturer on venereal and cutaneous diseases in Jefferson medical college, and was a fellow of the College of physicians, and a member of other medical societies.

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Lieutenant John Minor Maury (USN)'s Timeline

Fredericksburg, Virginia, United States
May 21, 1822
Age 27
Fredericksburg, VA
June 23, 1828
Age 33