John Russell Bartlett was born in New York, New York (date unknown). He was appointed to the US Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, from Rhode Island, and entered the Class of 1863 from that State on November 25, 1859. Ordered into active service in May 1861, during the Civil War, he was commissioned Ensign on September 8, 1862, before graduation, and subsequently received the following promotions: Lieutenant, February 22, 1864; Lieutenant Commander, July 25, 1866; Commander, April 25, 1877; and Captain, July 1, 1892. He was retired in the rank of Captain on July 12, 1897, for incapacity resulting from the service, and was later (1902) advanced to the rank of Rear Admiral on the Retired List.
During the Civil War he served on board the steam sloop Brooklyn in 1862 and until May 1863, and participated in attacks on Forts Jackson and St. Philip, the assault on New Orleans in April 1862, destruction of Donaldsville, Louisiana, and the first engagement at Vicksburg, Mississippi. He was aboard when the Brooklyn took part in the bombardment of Galveston and capture of Mobile, Alabama, and the combined attack on Fort Morgan in Mobile as a unit of the West Gulf Squadron and South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, being detached in June 1864.
In July 1864 he joined the 1st rate, paddle-wheel vessel Susquehanna at New York, and remained at sea until October 1867. He next had a tour of duty at the Naval Academy, and on May 25, 1869, reported to the frigate Sabine for a special cruise. From July 1870 until August 1871 he was a member of the Tehuantepec and Nicaragua Surveying Expedition, commanded by Captain R.W. Shufeldt, using the 2nd rate ship Tennessee and 4th rate Kansas and Mayflower, and a crew of more than fifty. He was assigned Special Duty upon his return, and on February 15, 1872, left for a period of leave in Europe.
During the years 1873 through 1875 he had Ordnance Duty at the Navy Yard, Boston, Massachusetts, and from March 1876 until late that year was at home in Providence, Rhode Island. He was assigned to the Hydrographic Office, Navy Department, Washington, DC, in 1877 and 1878, and on October 23, 1878 assumed command of the Coast survey steamer Blake. In November 1882 he again reported for duty in the Hydrographic Office, and from June 30, 1883, until June 1, 1888, served as Officer in Charge of the Hydrographic Office.
Following another leave of absence, he had preparatory orders to the Marion, repairing at the NAVY YARD, Mare Island, on December 1, 1890, later serving on board that vessel, assigned to Asiatic Station, until July 1893. He then returned home to await orders and on April 2, 1894, assumed command of the Atlanta, 2nd rate, partially protected cruiser of the Atlantic Fleet. Granted sick leave on December 23, 1894, he reported on November 5, 1895, for duty as a member of the Light House Board.
His last command, commencing on December 10, 1896, was the double-turret monitor Puritan, completed at the Navy Yard, New York, and held in Reserve until his retirement became effective, July 12, 1897.
After retirement, Rear Admiral Bartlett resided in Lonsdale and Providence, Rhode Island. He died in St. Louis, Missouri, on November 22, 1904.
Rear Admiral Bartlett had the Civil War Medal for service on board the Brooklyn in 1862-1864.