DR. HENRY ACKLEY was born in Philadelphia PA in 1837 to Thomas and Mary Barclay Ackley. The family moved to Camden’s North Ward in the 1840s. Thomas Ackley was employed from the 1840s through the 1860s as a bank teller. Henry Ackley studied medicine under Professors E. Wallage and William Keating, and graduated from Jefferson Medical College in 1858. He came to Camden, and was a member of the Camden City and Camden County Medical Societies.
Dr. Ackley enlisted in the United States Navy on July 30, 1861, with the rank of Assistant Surgeon. He served un the US steamship Wissahickon in 1861 and 1862, the US steamship San Jacinto in 1863, and on the US Vermont, a receiving ship based in New York harbor, in 1864 and 1865. His time on the Wissahickon was spent on blockade duty against the Confederate Golf ports of New Orleans and Mobile. The Wissahickon, a screw gunboat, was built in 1861 at Philadelphia by John Lynn and was delivered to the Navy on November 12, 1861 at the Philadelphia Navy Yard where she was placed in commission on November 25, with Lieutenant A. N. Smith in command.
Assigned to the West Gulf Blockading Squadron, Wissahickon participated in her first combat action on April 24, 1862 when she passed Forts Jackson and St. Philip with the squadron commanded by Flag Officer David Glasgow Farragut. On June 9, she took part in the attack on the Confederate works at Grand Gulf, Missisippi. Nineteen days later, the gunboat joined in the dash by the Southern batteries at Vicksburg. She remained above the Confederate citadel until July 15, the day that the powerful Southern ironclad ram Arkansas made her successful exit from the Yazoo River and ran through the Union fleet to the protection of Vicksburg’s batteries. That evening, Wissahickon joined Iroquois, Oneida, Richmond, Sumter, and Hartford in re-passing the Confederate stronghold to carry out an attack on the new Southern warship. However, darkness reduced that action to an inconclusive exchange of broadsides as the Federal ships passed the shore batteries and their well-concealed floating foe. Soon thereafter, Wissahickon proceeded downriver to New Orleans and thence to Philadelphia for repairs.
Dr. Ackley’s time on the San Jacinto began in similar fashion, but was far more eventful.
The San Jacinto arrived at Key West FL on January 15, 1863 where she was attached to the East Gulf Blockading Squadron as flagship. Apparently Dr. Ackley joined her crew around this time. However, soon after San Jacinto began this duty, word reached Key West that CSS Florida had escaped through the blockade from Mobile and was at Havana. On January 22, Rear Admiral Bailey ordered San Jacinto to sail for Cuba and blockade the Confederate cruiser if she were in port or to chase and capture or destroy her if the commerce raider had departed. The Union frigate quickly put to sea but found little trace of Florida. She broke her shaft on January 30; sailed north on February 4; and reached the New York Navy Yard on the 16th for repairs.
Again ready for action, San Jacinto departed New York on June 24 and returned to Key West on July 1. She celebrated Independence Day by becoming Rear Admiral Bailey’s flagship, and she performed that duty until relieved by Dale on September 5.
The ship then took up blockade duty off Mobile, Alabama. On the afternoon of the 11th, her masthead lookout reported “black smoke bearing about south,” and San Jacinto set out in pursuit of the steamer. During the chase, the lookout spotted blockade runner, Fox, aground and burning. About dusk, San Jacinto changed course for Mobile, hoping to intercept the fleeing vessel if she attempted to dash into that port. This strategy proved sound for, early the next morning, the Union steam frigate found that her quarry was again within sight; and the chase began again. Near the Chandeleur Islands, San Jacinto anchored in shoal water and sent her first cutter after the steamer. That evening shortly before twilight, the blockade runner—which happened to bear the name of the frigate’s old adversary, Alabama-—ran ashore and was abandoned. Before San Jacinto’s cutter could reach the prize, Union blockader, Eugenie, arrived upon the scene and took possession of the blockade runner.
On the 16th, San Jacinto captured steamer, Lizzie Davis, after a two-hour chase. This blockade runner had departed from Havana laden with lead and was endeavoring to dash into Mobile. On October 6, San Jacinto was within signal distance when United States Schooner, Beauregard, took possession of Last Trial after heavy weather had forced that Southern sloop to seek shelter near Key West. On December 16, Ariel, a tender to San Jacinto, captured Confederate sloop, Magnolia; and, on the 24th, schooner, Fox, another of San Jacinto’s, tenders, took British schooner, Edward, trying to carry salt and lead from Havana to the Suwanee River. On the morning of January 7, 1864, San Jacinto overtook schooner, Roebuck, after a two-hour chase, and deprived the Confederacy of a general cargo including much clothing and lead. In another two-hour chase on March 11, San Jacinto ran an unnamed schooner (formerly called Lealtad) aground. She then took possession of this prize which was laden with cotton and turpentine for export.
Yellow fever again struck the veteran warship the following summer; and San Jacinto—carrying Rear Admiral Bailey, now dangerously ill with the disease— departed Key West on August 7 and sailed north hoping for a quick restoration of the crew to good health. She reached the quarantine area at New York Harbor on the 13th; but, the next day was ordered to fill up with coal and set out in pursuit of Confederate cruiser, Tallahassee. The ship sailed on the 19th and raced as far north as Halifax, Nova Scotia, without finding the Southern commerce raider.
At some point in 1864, probably at the time San Jacinto reached New York, Dr. Ackley left her and joined the crew of the receiving ship Vermont.
The Vermont had an interesting history. A sailing ship, she was ordered as a 74 gun ship of the line, the era’s equivalent of a battleship, in 1816 and her keel laid down in 1818 and completed in 1825. For financial reasons she was not launched until 1848, and then only to make room at the Boston shipyard. Vermont was finally commissioned in 1862, at which point she was obsolete and only of use as a stores and receiving ship, a floating barracks for sailors waiting permanent assignment.
Dr. Ackley died on December 1, 1865, at Philadelphia PA. Henry Ackley had married the former Sallie Wilkins at some point after the 1860 Census was taken. The couple had one child, a son, Henry Wilkins Ackley, who sadly was born and died the same day, January 17, 1865.
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