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Ward, James H.

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Commander, USN, (1806-1861)

Commander James H. Ward, USN, (1806-1861)


James Harmon Ward was born at Hartford, Connecticut, on 25 September 1806. He became a Midshipman in the U.S. Navy in March 1823 and served during the following years on board ships in the Mediterranean, off Africa and in the West Indies. He also took a leave of absence to pursue scientific studies, was an instructor in ordnance and gunnery at the Naval School at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and authored a book on that important subject. In 1845 Lieutenant Ward became executive officer at the newly opened U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, also teaching gunnery and steam engineering there. His later scholarly endeavors including writing a textbook on naval tactics and a popular work on steam engineering.


During the last part of the war with Mexico, Ward commanded the frigate Cumberland, and, in 1848-1850, the steam gunboat Vixen. During the next decade he had shore duty at the Washington and Philadelphia Navy Yards, was promoted to the rank of Commander, and commanded the sailing sloop of war Jamestown off Africa. At the beginning of the Civil War Commander Ward planned an expedition to relieve Fort Sumter and then was placed in charge of a small squadron operating on the Potomac River. With USS Thomas Freeborn as his flagship, Ward's force engaged the Confederates at Aquia Creek, Virginia, in late May and early June 1861. In another engagement, at Mathias Point on 27 June, Commander James H. Ward was mortally wounded while aiming Thomas Freeborn's bow gun. He was the first U.S. Navy officer killed in action during the Civil War.


USS Ward (Destroyer # 139, later DD-139 and APD-16), 1918-1944, was named in honor of Commander James H. Ward.


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USS Thomas Freeborn (1861-1865).