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Brooke, John M.

Brooke, John M.

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Commander, Confederate States Navy, (1826-1906)

John Mercer Brooke was born at Tampa Bay, Florida, on 18 December 1826, the son of an Army officer. He became a U.S. Navy Midshipman in 1841, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1847 and achieved the rank of Lieutenant in 1855. His Navy career was marked by sea duty and scientific assignments. While stationed at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., during the early 1850s, he developed a device for accurately mapping the deep sea floor. He also took part in surveying and exploring expeditions in the Pacific during the middle and later parts of the decade and helped instruct officers of the fledgling Japanese Navy.

As the secession crisis deepened, Brooke resigned his commission in April 1861 and "went south", joining the Confederate Navy soon after as a Lieutenant. He was deeply involved in the conversion of the burned steam frigate Merrimack into the ironclad CSS Virginia and in the design and production of heavy rifled guns for the Southern war effort. Promoted to Commander in September 1862, he became Chief of the Confederate Navy's Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography in March 1863 and served in that post until the Civil War ended more than two years later.

After the war, Brooke became a professor at the Virginia Military Institute, at Lexington, Va., while continuing his technological pursuits. After a long career of teaching, he retired in 1899 and made his home in Lexington until his death on 14 December 1906.

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