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Friday, December 4, 2009

Sepia Saturday = Rear Admiral Sampson

William Thomas Sampson
Rear Admiral, United States Navy
1840 - 1902

Best known for his victory in the Battle of Santiago de Cuba during the Spanish-American War

He was appointed to the US Naval Academy in 1857, and graduated at the head of his class in 1861. He subsequently earned an LLD degree from Harvard in 1899.

He was promoted to Master, 1861 and commissioned as a Lieutenant in 1862. He was Executive Officer on the ironclad USS Patapsco when it was blown up by mine in Charleston Harbor. He was blown into water, but then rescued.

Advanced to Lieutenant Commander, 1866, Commander, 1874, Captain, 1889. He was Superintendet of the Naval Academy, 1886-90. An expert on ordnance, torpedoes, etc. With Lieutenant Joseph Strauss, he devised-perfected superimposed turrets introduced into the Navy in 1898. He was President, Board of Inquiry as to cause of the destruction of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor, 1898, and after a declaration of war with Spain he commanded the North Atlantic Squadron with the rank of acting Rear Admiral. Promoted to Commodore, 1898, Rear Admiral, 1899.

During the Spanish-American his command numbered 125 vessels, the strongest ever organized for hostile purposes. His fleet captured many Spanish merchant vessels and blockade runners and finally defeated the Spanish fleet under Admiral Cevera. Appointed, 1898, one of three commanders to Cuba. Resumed command of North Atlantic fleet, later that year. Commandant, Boston USN Yard, Oct 14, 1899.

In 1865-67 he served on the USS Colorado in European Squadron, advancing to Lieutenant Commander, 1866. Again at USNA 1868-71, and, after service on the USS Congress in 1872 and European station in 1873 and promotion to Commander in 1874, he returned for third tour, 1874-78, as head of Physics Department. 1879-82 he commanded USS Swatara in the Asiatic Squadron, after 2 years as Assistant Superintendent of the Naval Observatory in Washington, DC, during which time was delegate to International Prime Meridian Conference, 1884, he commanded the Naval torpedo station at Newport from 1884 to 1886. In 1886 he was named Superintendent of the Naval Academy.

Promoted to Captain in 1889, he left the Academy in 1890 to command the USS San Francisco. 1893-97 he was Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance, where under his leadership much progress was made in such matters as introduction of smokeless powder and improvement of gunnery training. In 1897, he was given command of new battleship Iowa, joining the North Atlantic Squadron as senior Captain. During February-March 1898 served as president of the Naval Board investigating the sinking of the Maine in Havana harbor. In the latter month he was advanced to acting Rear Admiral, and named to succeed the ailing Montgomery Sicard in command of the North Atlantic Squadron.

On declaration of war against Spain in April, he proceeded from Key West to institute a blockade of northern coast of Cuba, his own plan to attack Havana directly having been overruled by the Navy Department. In May while location of the Spanish fleet under Admiral Cevera was yet unknown, he made a cruise east to Puerto Rico and on May 12 bombarded San Juan. He then returned to blockade and joined by "Flying Squadron" , who, though technically his senior, was placed under his command for the campaign.He sent Schley to reinforce the blockade of the southern coast, particularly at Cienfuegos and Santiago. Schley was tardy in movements, and Cevera slipped undetected into easily defended harbor at Santiago. When he was finally discovered there, Sampson concentrated his forces outside the harbor. He supported landing of Shafter's army at Daiquiri, June 22, and the capture of Siboney next day, and the subsequent advance to Santiago. During September-December 1898 in Cuba he served as 1 of 3 US commissioners. He was made permanent Rear ADmiral in March , and resumed command of his squadron until October 1899. He commanded the Boston Navy Yard until October 1901, until his retirment in February 1902.

He died on May 6, 1902 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. His wife, Elisabeth Susan Buring Sampson is buried with him, as is his son, Commander Ralph E. Sampson and Ralph's wife, Marjorie L. Sampson and his son, William Thomas Sampson II, Lieutenant Colonel, United States Army.

*****

Rear Admiral William T. Sampson is the second cousin to

Martha Sampson Johnsen, The Mister's maternal grandma!

The picture hangs with many other ancestors up the

staircase to The Mister's loft office.

21 comments:

  1. Good Evening Betsy ~~ A few minutes at the computer before falling into bed. My feet are not use to be in boots and standing all day!

    Love the picture, and your story about the picture wonderful to read.

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  2. Very impressive lineage!
    What treasures your mister has in his office! Interesting read.
    Blessings!

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  3. After a full life of service he was only retired from February to May before his death? Oh my goodness, his poor wife. I bet she was terribly disappointed not to have a little longer with him after all that time apart.

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  4. What a beautiful picture and lovely story.

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  5. Oh my word, Betsy!

    My mother has a saying, "A list as long as your arm." This was indeed a catalogue of achievements from a distinguished and refined looking gentleman. Wow!

    I wonder, did he happen to have a couple of "daiquiris" to drink along the way. hee hee.

    Kat

    P.S. Did we have that discussion about us both having been born in '61?

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  6. So much information and how impressive that you are related to this handsome and important man.;)
    Have a great Saturday,
    xo

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  7. I just find ancestors and history so fascinating. It's wonderful that you have all of this information on Admiral Sampson!!!!

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  8. what a cool tale betsy...these sapia saturdays are bring out a lot of family history...that is really cool. hope you have a great weekend!

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  9. Steviewren ~ I thought the same thing when I read that...so sad that he died shortly after finally retiring!

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  10. Kat ~ 1961...a very good year! :)

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  11. This is SO fascinating!! Why have you NEVER mentioned this before? Being the genealogist, that I am, I MUST add this to your family tree, in my files!!!

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  12. Willow ~ I don't know how you didn't know this! I guess we always talk our geneaology and not the spouses!
    I think it's so fascinating that his navy boat was blown up and he was thrown out in the water...not only survived, but served another 40 years!

    And don't you see the long, lanky look of the Johnsen men in him? Must be from the Sampson side.

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  13. That is a very impressive relative to have on your family tree! Does anyone have any personal items or relics from him??

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  14. Betsy, what a really cool story! A very interesting read. I hope there is more to come. :)

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  15. Otin ~ we have a silver souvenir spoon with his face on the handle, but that is all!

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  16. What a neat connection, Betsy! Wow, all sorts of things are coming up on Sepia Saturday! I love the photo.

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  17. I love genealogy and have so many stories but won't mention them here. this is so interesting. thanks to the good sir for letting you post on this. Great photo, as usual.

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  18. This is such a fascinating history and a splendid photograph. Is there any likeness to the Mister?

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  19. A very impressive lineage has your Mister Betsy! Call me Sillie Millie, but the second I saw the Rear Admiral's image I thought straight up of the late, great George Harrison, there is a real likeness.
    Millie ^_^

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