Josiah Tattnall was born on 14 June 1794 at Bonaventura, near Savannah, Ga. He was appointed midshipman on 1 January 1812 and attended the Naval School at Washington, D.C., until 1 August when he was assigned to the frigate, Constellation. When his ship tried to slip out to sea, the strong British squadron operating in the Chesapeake Bay forced her to put into Norfolk, Va. Constellation remained bottled up in Hampton Roads for the duration of the War of 1812, but Tattnall and his comrades still managed to get into the fray. He was among the 100 or so Sailors and Marines assigned to the shore battery on Craney Island. On 22 June 1813, the British attempted to carry the island by storm in preparation for an attack on nearby Norfolk. Tattnal's battery and a force of American boats gave the attackers a sound rebuff that deterred the British from further attempts to take the city.
In April 1814, Midshipman Tattnall was detached from Constellation and, by 24 August, was in command of a force of employees from the Washington Navy Yard. He led them into battle at Bladensburg in an unsuccessful effort to stop the British advance on the American capital. On 14 October, he was ordered to Savannah for duty in Epervier. In May 1815, that sloop sailed for the Mediterranean with Commodore Stephen Decatur's squadron to chastise the Algerine pirates. On 17 June, she participated in the capture of the frigate Mashuda and, two days later, of the brig Estedio. In July, when Epervier was ordered back to the United States with dispatches, Tattnall remained in the Mediterranean in Constellation. In January 1817, he transferred to Ontario and returned in her to the United States.
Promoted to lieutenant on 1 April 1818, Tattnall was assigned to the frigate Macedonian on 30 June, and he sailed in her for the Pacific in November. He was detached from Macedonian on 30 August 1820 and returned to the United States. Ordered to Norfolk on 26 December 1822, he joined Commodore David Porter's squadron in schooner Jackall. Lt. Tattnall served in the West Indies on an expedition to suppress piracy until he was detached on 4 May 1823. On 23 June 1824, Tattnall was ordered to Constitution for Mediterranean service. In March 1826, he transferred to Brandywine and returned home in her in May. On the 15th of that month, he was granted six months leave, which was later extended into 1828.
Tattnall served in Erie from October 1828 to August 1829 and then went on to survey the Tortugas until March 1830. Lt. Tattnall took command of schooner Grampus on 15 April 1831 and cruised the West Indies and the Gulf of Mexico. In August 1832, he captured the Mexican schooner, Montezuma, which had boarded and robbed an American ship on the high seas. He was detached from Grampus in September 1832 and went on leave awaiting orders for almost four years before being ordered in, July 1836, to recruit men for Capt. Thomas ap Catesby Jones' survey and exploration expedition.
Tattnall was promoted to commander on 25 February 1836 and, in April, reported for a three-year tour of duty at the Boston Navy Yard. Following service with the Mediterranean and African sauadrons, Comdr. Tattnall joined the Mosquito Division in the Gulf of Mexico in 1846, commanding the steam gunboat, Spitfire. During the Mexican War, he took part in the attacks on Vera Cruz, San Juan d'Ulloa, and Tuxpan, and he suffered an arm wound. For his gallantry before Vera Cruz, the state of Georgia presented him with a sword.
In 1848 and 1849, he returned to shore duty at the Boston Navy Yard. On 5 February 1850, he was commissioned captain and, the following month, was given command of Saranac. Next, he commanded the Pensacola Navy Yard from July 1851 to June 1854. From August 1854 to November 1855, Capt. Tattnall was flag captain in Independence to Commodore Mervine on the Pacific Station. At Hong Kong on 29 January 1858, he relieved Commodore Armstrong taking command of the East India Squadron, breaking his flag in San Jacinto. During his two years in the Far East, Commodore Tattnall came to the assistance of a British squadron under fire from the Barrier Forts at the mouth of the Pei Ho River and, on his return voyage early in 1860, carried the first diplomatic embassy from Japan to the United States.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Capt. Tattnall held command of the Sackett's Harbor Station. Though he opposed secession, Tattnall resigned his commission on 21 February 1861. A week later, Governor Joseph E. Brown commissioned Tattnall as the senior flag officer of the Navy of Georgia. On 26 March 1861, he received his commission as a captain in the Confederate Navy. Tattnall commanded Southern naval units during the defense of Port Royal until the harbor was captured by Union forces on 7 November 1861. From there, he moved to overall command of the defense of Virginia's waters early in March 1862. Tattnall, by then a flag officer in the Confederate Navy as well as the Navy of Georgia, directed CSS Jamestown and other warships in captures of Federal merchantmen off Sewell's Point in April 1862.
On 11 May 1862, in the face of advancing Federal forces, Flag Officer Tattnall ordered the destruction of his flagship, CSS Virginia (ex-Merrimack). He was later acquitted by a court martial of all charges stemming from that action. He resumed command of the naval defense of Georgia on 29 May 1862 and retained it until 31 March 1863, when he turned over command of forces afloat to Comdr. Richard Page and concentrated upon the shore defenses of Savannah. When Savannah fell to General Sherman's troops, Tattnall became a prisoner of war. He was paroled on 9 May 1865 and, soon thereafter, took up residence once more in Savannah. Capt. Tattnall died there on 14 June 1871 and was buried in Bonaventura Cemetery.
The first Tattnall (Destroyer No. 125) was laid down at Camden, N.J., on 1 December 1917 by the New York Shipbuilding Corp.; launched on 5 September 1918; sponsored by Miss Sarah Campbell Kollock; and commissioned on 26 June 1919, Comdr. Gordon Wayne Haines in command.
Following trials off the New England coast, Tattnall sailed for the eastern Mediterranean. She arrived at Constantinople on 27 July and, for almost a year, operated in Turkish waters. During that time, she also visited ports in Egypt, Greece, Russia, and Syria transporting passengers and mail. In June 1920, the destroyer began her return voyage to the United States. During the voyage home, she was designated DD-125 on 17 July 1920 when the Navy adopted the alphanumeric system of hull designations. She stopped at ports in Italy and France before entering New York harbor on 22 July. Following overhaul, Tattnall put to sea to join the Pacific Fleet. After port calls along the southern coast of the United States and at ports in Cuba, Nicaragua, Mexico, and the Canal Zone, she reached San Diego on 17 December. The warship operated along the California coast until 15 June 1922, when she was decommissioned and placed in reserve at San Diego.
On 1 May 1930, Tattnall was recommissioned, Comdr. A. M. R. Allen in command. The warship served with the Battle Force along the west coast until 1931. By 1 July of that year, she had been transferred to the east coast for duty with the Scouting Force Destroyers as a unit of Destroyer Division 7.
A year later, Tattnall's activity was curtailed by her assignment to the rotating reserve. On 1 January 1934, the destroyer resumed a more active role with the Fleet when she began a year of duty with the Scouting Force Training Squadron. Following another period of relative inactivity in rotating reserve, she rejoined the Training Squadron late in 1935. During the latter part of 1937, the Training Detachment, United States Fleet, was established; and Tattnall and the other units of the Scouting Force Training Squadron joined the new organization. The destroyer continued her training duties until November 1938.
On the 17th, she and J. Fred Talbot (DD-1B6) relieved Dallas (DD-199) and Babbitt (DD-128) as units of the Special Service Squadron. Based in the Canal Zone, Tattnall helped to exert the steadying influence of American seapower in Latin America until the squadron was disbanded on 17 September 1940. The warship, however, continued to operate in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea out of her home port at Panama. After the United States entered World War II, Tattnall began escorting coastwise convoys in her area of operations, frequently through the Windward Passage between Cuba and Hispaniola, one of the most dangerous areas during the height of the Caribbean U-boat blitz. Though she made many sonar contacts and depth charge attacks, Tattnall registered no confirmed kills.
Early in July 1943, the destroyer escorted her last Caribbean convoy north from the Windward Passage to Charleston, S.C. She arrived on the 10th, began conversion to a high-speed transport at the navy yard, and was redesignated APD-19 on 24 July. On 6 September 1943, the day following the 25th anniversary of her launching, Tattnall completed conversion. She finished her shakedown cruise in mid-September. Following post-shakedown repairs and alterations in late September, the high-speed transport began amphibious training-first, at Cove Point, Md., and later, at Fort Pierce, Fla.
In April 1944, Tattnall was designated flagship of Transport Division (TransDiv) 13, the only high-speed transport division in the Atlantic theater. On 13 April, she departed the east coast for Oran, Algeria, in company with Roper (APD-20), Barry (APD-29), Greene (APD-36), and Osmond Ingram (APD-35). TransDiv 13 joined the 8th Fleet at the end of April, and Tattnall moved to Corsica to practice for her first assignment, the capture of Elba and Pianosa Islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea. However, before the invasion and during her training period, Tattnall was called upon to feign a landing near Civitavecchia, Italy, north of Rome, to draw off German reinforcements headed south to turn back the American forces breaking through at Monte Cassino and heading for Rome. The ruse apparently worked. The reinforcements never reached Monte Cassino; and, on the following day, German radio announced an Allied invasion north of Rome.
On 17 June, the invasion troops went ashore on Elba and Pianosa. Tattnall's boats came under machinegun fire, but suffered no serious damage. After the landings in the Tyrrhenian Sea, the high-speed transport began convoy duty between Italian, Sicilian, and North African ports. Following that duty, she resumed amphibious operations, this time with members of the American-Canadian 1st Special Service Force embarked. Their mission was to capture the heavily fortified Hyeres Islands, located just east of Toulon, and hold them during the main landings in the invasion of southern France. On 15 August, the five ships of TransDiv 13 rapidly put 1,600 troops ashore; and the islands were secured within three days. During the next two weeks, Tattnall and her sister transports shuttled reinforcements and supplies into southern France and evacuated Allied wounded and German prisoners of war. For the remainder of the year, the high-speed transport escorted convoys between ports in the Mediterranean Sea.
Tattnall returned to the United States at Norfolk on 21 December and began a month-long availability period before heading for the Pacific. She got underway from Hampton Roads on 31 January 1945. After transiting the Panama Canal early in February and making stops at San Diego, Pearl Harbor, Eniwetok, and Ulithi, the fast transport reached the Okinawa area on 19 April.
The high-speed transport remained in the Ryukyus through the end of the month. During that time, she stood guard on several of the screen stations which circled Okinawa to protect the units of the fleet from attack by kamikazes, Japan's final suicidal attempt to stem the American tide in the Pacific. Tattnall fired at enemy planes several times in the days preceding the night of 29 and 30 April; however, it was not until that night that she drew Japanese blood.
Three red alerts before 0200 failed to materialize into enemy attacks; however, at about 0215, bogies began closing her from the west. A twin-engined plane crossed Tattnall astern about 3,000 yards distant, and her 40 millimeter gun crews took him under fire. The attacker retired to the fast transport's starboard quarter with one engine ablaze, but only to renew his attack. Again, he dove at Tattnall. This time, her gunners finished the job they had begun on his first pass, and he plummeted into the sea. Soon thereafter, a kamikaze approached the warship from her starboard quarter and dove at her. Tattnall, her engines at full speed, turned hard to port to evade the attacker. He splashed into the sea close aboard Tattnall's starboard bow. Debris rained down on the ship and pierced her hull above the waterline. Fortunately, she suffered neither casualties nor serious damage.
The following day, Tattnall departed Okinawa and headed for the Mariana Islands and convoy escort duty. She arrived at Saipan on 3 May and returned with a convoy to Okinawa on the 20th. The warship resumed picket duty but experienced no more action like that of the night of 29 and 30 April. To be sure, her crew stood long watches and, on 25 May, was at general quarters for 18 hours straight. On that day, two of her sister ships from TransDiv 13, Barry and Roper, were hit by kamikazes. Barry later sank, and Roper was sent to a rear area for repairs.
Early in June, Tattnall was ordered to report for duty with the Philippine Sea Frontier. She stopped at Saipan on 13 June and reached Leyte on the 17th. Through the end of the war and for almost a month thereafter, she conducted patrols in the Philippines and escorted convoys to Ulithi and Hollandia. On 13 September, Tattnall headed back to the United States. After stops at Eniwetok and Pearl Harbor, the fast transport arrived in San Francisco on 30 October.
From there, she was routed north to the Puget Sound Navy Yard and disposition by the Commandant, 13th Naval District. Tattnall was decommissioned at Puget Sound on 17 December 1945. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 8 January 1946. She was sold to the Pacific Metal & Salvage Co., of Seattle, Wash., on 17 October 1946 and subsequently was scrapped.
Tattnall received three battle stars for her World War II service.