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CONFEDERATE MARINE - Captured at Sailor's Creek

Item NMC-8036
John. D. Simms
Price: $1700.00


Very rare CDV of John D. Simms who served in the United States Marine Corps and the Confederate States Marine Corps.

John Douglas Simms, Jr., was born in Georgetown, D. C. in 1822. the second child and first son of John Simms, Sr., and Eleanor Carroll Brent. His grandfather, Col. Charles C. Simms, was an officer of the Virginia Line during the War of the Revolution and a close friend of Gen. George Washington. His fa­ther, John D. Simms, Sr., served as Chief Clerk to the Secretary of the Navy from April 5, 1827, until his death on March 2, 1843.[1]

As a young man, Simms intended to become a lawyer and, in early 1840, embarked upon the study of law, hoping to earn his license to practice by the end of that year. However, his career as a attorney was short-lived as Simms entered the U. S. Marine Corps on October 7, 1841.[2]

Simms reported to duty at Headquarters on October 8, 1841, and remained at that post until August 24, 1842 when he was assigned as second officer of the Marine Guard serving aboard the U. S. Ship of the Line Columbus. After a cruise that took him to the Mediterranean, Simms reported to duty at Headquarters on August 29, 1843. After short tours of duty at Marine Barracks Boston, Washington, Philadelphia and Brooklyn, he was ordered to command the Marine Guard attached to the U. S. Sloop St. Marys on January 17, 1845.[3]

After war broke out between the United States and Mexico, Simms served under the command of Capt. Alvin Edson, USMC, in an ad hoc battalion of Marines gleaned from the ships of the Gulf Squadron. In the Autumn of 1846, he took part in two successful amphibious assaults which resulted in the capture of the ports of Tabasco and Tampico. With Edson's Marine Battalion forming part of the first wave, Simms also took part in the March 9, 1847 amphibious assault and capture of Vera Cruz. Simms also took part in the capture of Tuxpan, April 18, 1847, and Fort Iturbe, May 15, 1847.[4]

After President James K. Polk accepted Bvt. Brig. Gen. Archibald Henderson's offer of a battalion of Marines to serve with the Army in Mexico, more than a dozen Marine officers were ordered to report to Fort Hamilton, New York, where they formed the nucleus of the organization. The Marine Battalion left Fort Hamilton on June 1, 1847, and arrived at Vera Cruz, Mexico, on the 30th. Simms was detached from St. Marys, and reported to Headquarters on June 2 and, ten days later, was ordered to join the battalion at Vera Cruz. He arrived at Vera Cruz on July 12, and joined Company C, Capt. George H. Terrett, USMC, commanding. On September 13, 1847, Simms took part in the Battle of Mexico City, and was among the handful of Marines that successfully stormed the San Cosme Gate and fought its way into the city. He was promoted to first lieutenant on September 14, 1847, and brevetted captain to rank from September 13, 1847, "For gallant and meritorious conduct at the storming of the castle of Chapultepec, and in the capture of the San Cosme Gate, 13th September, 1847."[5]

Simms remained in Mexico City until April 29, 1848, when he received orders to join Maj. John Harris' battalion of Marines at Alvarado, Mexico. Upon arriving at Alvarado on May 2, he assumed command of Company E. After briefly serving at Alvarado and Laguna, Mexico, Simms was ordered back to the United States, and reported at Headquarters on August 4.[6]

Simms' next post was Marine Barracks, Philadelphia where he served from October 11, 1848 to December 24, 1850. He commanded the Marine Guard aboard the U. S. Sloop of War Germantown from December 1850 to March 1853 when he was detached and sent aboard the Receiving Ship Pennsylvania at the Norfolk Navy Yard. Simms commanded the Marines on the old ship of the line until October 19, 1855 when he was detached and ordered to duty aboard the U. S. Sloop of War Levant. On June 16, 1856, several weeks after reaching the Far East, Simms was transferred from Levant to the U. S. Steamer San Jacinto. [7]

While serving aboard San Jacinto, he commanded the Marines of the West India Squadron that were landed at Canton, November 14-16, 1856, to protect American interests. A week later, on November 23, he commanded the Marines in the storming and destruction of the Canton Barrier Forts. After being relived from occupation duties at the captured forts on December 5, Simms rejoined his ship, but was again sent ashore with his Marines to guard the Naval Hospital at Hong Kong on April 1, 1857. During October-December 1857, Simms was on detached duty on the island of Formosa, ostensibly to locate any missing American or European seamen but also reporting an the island's fortifications and the availability of coal. His outstanding services at the "Barrier Forts" and on the Island of Formosa were most favorably reported to the Navy department by Flag Officer James Armstrong, USN, commander of the East India Squadron[8]

Simms was detached from San Jacinto on August 21, 1858 and, after a two month leave of absence, reported to duty as commander of the Marines attached to the Receiving Ship North Carolina at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on November 5, 1858. On May 31, 1859, he was detached from the Receiving ship under orders to assume command of Marine Barracks, Pensacola, reporting to duty on June 20. Eleven months later, on May 31, 1860, Simms was detached from Pensacola, and took command of the Marine Guard attached to the U. S. SteamerSusquehanna at the Norfolk Navy Yard on August 15. After reaching the Mediterranean Squadron, Simms, on December 15, was transferred to the Marine Guard of the U. S. Steamer Richmond. When war broke out in the Spring of 1861, Richmond was promptly ordered back to the United States. The Washington Evening Star of June 7, 1861 reported Simms' nomination for promotion to captain, USMC, by President Abraham Lin­coln. Simms was, in fact, nominated to the rank of captain on June 5, 1861 to take rank from May 7, and was carried on the muster rolls of the Corps for the months May-July at this grade. However, the promotion was never confirmed by the Senate. Two days after Richmond arrived at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Simms submitted his resignation dated July 5. It was declined by the Navy Department, and he was dismissed from the service as of July 8.[9]

Simms traveled to Richmond and promptly offered his services to the Confederate States. He was commissioned captain of Confederate States Marines to rank from July 15, 1861.[10]

Simms briefly served on recruiting duty at Nashville, Tennessee, during the Summer of 1861. After the September 13, 1861 resignation of Maj. Samuel Z. Gonzalez as Marine Corps Quartermaster, Simms was temporarily assigned to that office. As acting quartermaster, he issued clothing and paid the Marines at Pensacola and Savannah during September-October 1861. Simms was stationed at the Norfolk Navy Yard on November 25, 1861, when he was detailed to command the various companies of armed mechanics and workmen, and drill them as soldiers. With the arrival of Company B from Mobile, Alabama, at Norfolk on March 11, 1862, Simms was assigned to duty as "Commandant of the Post of Marines" at the Navy Yard on March 19. His tenure of office was rather brief. Norfolk was evacuated on May 10, 1862, and Simms, with the Marines once attached to the Navy Yard, was ordered to Richmond.[11]

Almost immediately after arriving at Richmond, Simms was ordered to Drewry's Bluff where defenses were being erected to prevent Federal warships from attacking the Confederate Capital by way of the James River. As se­nior captain, he commanded the provisional battalion of two companies of Marines thrown into action as sharp­shooters against the Federal fleet during the Battle of Drewry's Bluff on May 15, 1862. The heavy guns firing from atop Drewry's Bluff stopped the advance of the Union vessels, materially assisted by the well-aimed fire of the Marine marksmen. Simms' after action report:

Drewry's Bluff Battery
May 16th 1862
I have the honor to make you the following report. On the 15th inst. the enemy's gunboats having made their appearance near the battery at Drury's Bluff, I stationed my command on the bluffs some two hundred yards from them to act as sharpshooters. We immediately opened a sharp fire upon them, killing three of the crew of the Galena certainly, and no doubt many more. The fire of the enemy was materially silenced at intervals by the fire of our troops.
It gives me much pleasure to call your attention to the coolness of the officers and men under the severe fire of the enemy. The companies comprising my battalion were commanded by Capts. Van Benthuysen and Meiere.
Very respectfully
Jno. D. Simms
Capt. C. S. Marines

With the establishment of a permanent Marine post, Camp Beall, at Drewry's Bluff following the engagement of May 15, 1862, Simms was second-in-command to Maj. George H. Terrett, CSMC, commanding the battalion, and served as Inspector and Mustering Officer. After Capt. Alfred C. Van Benthuysen, CSMC, was suspended from rank and command following his courts-martial of October and December 1862, Simms assumed command of Company B. He commanded the battalion of Confederate Marines sent to Charleston, South Carolina, in February 1863 as reinforcements against the ex­pected Federal monitor at­tack. Other than this expedition, Simms seems to have served at Drewry's Bluff until the close of the war. During the absences of Major Terrett, Simms commanded the post at Camp Beall.[13]

Simms was the senior Marine officer captured at the Battle of Sayler's Creek, April 6, 1865. After being confined in Old Capitol Prison and Johnson's Island prison, Ohio, he was released on oath on July 25, 1865. At the time of his release his age was given as 43 years, height as 5'8", light complexion, blue eyes, and light hair. His residence was given as Norfolk, Virginia. With letters of recommendation from Brig. Gen. J. Warren Keifer, USV, who was, for a short time, a prisoner of Simms after the Battle of Sayler's Creek, and Maj. William B. Slack, Quartermaster, USMC, he was pardoned July 6, 1867.[14]

Simms returned to Norfolk following the war and worked as a city policeman, real estate agent, and superintendent of the Norfolk City Cemetery. He married Adeline H. Brent ca.1856. His surviving children were: Addie, born in 1857, Albert, born 1862, and Eleanor, born 1865. Simms died at Norfolk on August 24, 1881. At the time of his death, he was a member of Ruth Lodge #89, AF & AM, Norfolk United Arch. Chapter #1, and Grice Commandery #16, Knights Templar. He was also a member of the Mexican War Veterans and secretary of the organization in 1873. He was buried in Elmwood Cemetery, Norfolk, Virginia.[15]

Simms' brother, Charles Carroll Simms, served as an officer of the United States and Confederate States Navies. half-sister, Emily Douglas Simms married Flag Officer French Forrest, United States and Confederate States Navies. He was distantly related to Robert E. Lee, and to 2d Lt. Daniel G. Brent, CSMC.[16]

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[1]Correspondence between David M. Sullivan and Douglas Simms Stenhouse, great, grandnephew of John D. Simms, Jr. Horace E. Hayden, A Genealogy of the Glassell Family of Scotland and Virginia (), 342ff. Franklin L. Brockett, The Lodge of Washington - A History of the Alexandria Washington Lodge No. 22 - A. F. and A. M. of Alexandria, Virginia, 1783-1876 (), 98, 104. National Intelligencer, Saturday, March 4, 1843, p. 3, col. 5.
[2]E. G. Simms to "My Dear Son, " Washington, January 19, 1840. Letter of Mrs. John D. Simms, Sr., to Charles C. Simms, younger brother of John D. Simms, Jr. Copy provided to the author by Douglas S. Stenhouse. U. S. Navy Department, Register, 1842.
[3]Muster Rolls, USMC.
[4]David M. Sullivan, "John D. Simms, 1st Lt. U. S. Marine Corps, Captain, C. S. Marine Corps," Military Images, (September-October 1992), 20-21.
[5]Muster Rolls, USMC. Sullivan, "John D. Simms," 20-21.
[8]Ibid. Ralph W. Donnelly, "Formosa Spy," Marine Corps Gazette (November 1968), 91-94. Armstrong to Isaac Toucey, Flag Ship San Jacinto, Hong Kong, January 11, 1858, Z File of John D. Simms.
[9]Washington Evening Star, Friday, June 7, 1861, p. 2, col. 2. Navy Department, June 8, 1861, Letters to Marine Officers. Muster Rolls, USMC. Gideon Welles to Jno. D. Simms, Navy Department, June 8, 1861, Letters to Marine Officers.
[10]C. S. Navy Department, Register, 1862.
[11]Treasury Warrants #49, July 17, 1861, and 81, September 23, 1861, Subgroup OV, Miscellaneous. Invoice of Marine clothing issued to Capt. George Holmes at Savannah, Georgia, October 4, 1861, and invoice of clothing issued to Capt. Alfred C. Van Benthuysen at Pensacola, Florida, October 20, 1861, Subfile OV, Miscellaneous and Van Benthuysen Pp. N. O. R., 6:745. French Forrest Letterbook II.
[12]Van Benthuysen Pp. See also Richmond Daily Examiner, Monday, May 19, 1862, p. 1, col. 3, and Saturday, May 24, 1862, p. 1, col. 2.
[13]Staff Officer's File of John D. Simms. Muster and Pay Rolls, CSMC.
[14]Prison and Parole Records. Pardon and Amnesty Records.

Date is from the website: www.colonial-settlers-MD-VA.US