Sons of Union Veterans of The Civil War
Department of New York
Admiral John L. Worden Camp 150

The Life and Adventures
Of
John L. Worden

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Rear Admiral John L. Worden, USN
(1818-1897)

     John Lorimer Worden was born on March 12, 1818 in the Town of Mt. Pleasant, in Westchester County, NY. Today, the location where his boyhood home stood is in the Town of Ossining. A State Historic Marker sits on the site, along Route 9 just south of Scarborough Road, and a nearby residential cul de sac bears the name of Admiral Worden Court. As a small child, he moved, with his family, to the area of Fishkill, NY in Dutchess County where his parents were farmers. After his initial schooling, he became a U.S. Navy Midshipman in 1834 at the age of 16 and spent the next several years at sea in the Brazil, Mediterranean and Pacific Squadrons and ashore at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.

     Promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in 1846, he served in the storeship Southampton off California during the war with Mexico. Later he returned to the Mediterranean on the USS Cumberland before making another Naval Observatory tour in 1850-52. During the remainder of the 1850s and into the early 1860s he was assigned to the Home Squadron and to the New York Navy Yard.

     As the secession crisis moved toward civil war in early 1861, Lieutenant Worden was sent to Pensacola with secret instructions for the local Naval Commander. While returning to Washington, D.C. by rail, he was arrested by Southern authorities and held as a prisoner of war for several months, an experience that badly damaged his health. He was eventually exchanged for a Lt. Sharpe of the Confederate Navy and returned to New York to recover his health in the care of his wife Olivia Toffey and her family for about seven months in the Quaker Hill area of Dutchess County.

     In February 1862, upon resuming active duty, he was given command of the revolutionary ironclad USS Monitor and took her into the historic battle with the CSS Virginia (often still called the Merrimack) on March 9, 1862. Receiving serious eye injuries in the action, he had to relinquish command. Reportedly, Worden bore the powder marks from his facial wound for the rest of his life, as well as some loss of sight. However, this battle made him a major war hero in the North..

     While recovering, Worden was promoted to Commander in July of 1862. Further promoted to Captain, he commanded the Monitor-class Montauk during the first months of 1863, bombarding Fort McAllister, Georgia in January, destroying the Privateer Rattlesnake in February, and participating in the April 7, 1863 attack to recapture Fort Sumter. Captain Worden spent the remainder of the Civil War on the important duty of supervising the construction of new ironclads.

     Following the end of the great conflict, Worden commanded the USS Pensacola in the Pacific. He received the rank of Commodore in 1868 and the next year began five years as Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, during which time he was promoted to Rear Admiral.

     John L. Worden fathered a daughter Grace, a son Daniel, and his eldest John Lorimer Worden, Jr., who served in the U.S. Army during the Civil War as a 2nd Lieutenant and later Captain with the 6th NY Heavy Artillery as well as the 13th Heavy Artillery.

     In 1875-77, Worden commanded the European Squadron. He then had shore duty until retiring from active duty in late 1886. Rear Admiral John L. Worden died in Washington, D.C., on October 18, 1897. He is buried, along with his wife Olivia, and several family members, in the Pawling Rural Cemetery in Pawling, NY.

The above biography was assembled from a variety of sources including the internet and local newspapers.
Many thanks to those who did the original research and made this information available online.

 

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