Monday, July 5, 2010

The Establishment of the U.S. Navy Bureau of Ordnance

John A. Dahlgren, commander of the Washington Navy Yard, certainly knew his way around naval weaponry and was a natural first choice to head the new Bureau of Ordnance. The Bureau was formerly known as the Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography, but a July 5, 1862 law reassigned the hydrographic duties to the newly established Bureau of Navigation, leaving solely ordnance functions and the necessity of a new name. The responsibilities of the Bureau of Ordnance included the procurement, storage, and issue of ordnance and related equipment along with the production of ordnance and operation of storage facilities. On July 23, Dahlgren was officially appointed Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance. On August 5, he was promoted to captain. Interestingly, his commission was antedated, retroactively making his rank captain when he became Chief less than two weeks prior. At this time, Captain Andrew A. Harwood took over as commandant of the Washington Navy Yard. It can be presumed that since Harwood was the former commander of the Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography, the July changes to the bureau system displaced him. Therefore, his and Dahlgren’s jobs were essentially switched at that time.

The Washington Navy Yard was an important part of the Bureau of Ordnance. In an 1866 series of pictures taken by Brady & Company there are several shots of the ordnance foundry and ordnance yard as well as several buildings bearing Bureau of Ordnance shields.

This photo looks east-southeast and shows the Washington Navy Yard’s ordnance yard in June of 1866. Old guns can be seen half-buried in the ground for decorative and marking purposes. There are large mortars, round shot, and Dahlgren guns stacked in the yard. The ordnance foundry is the large building to the right.

Henry Hibben, “History of the Washington Navy-yard,” Naval History and Heritage Command, (accessed June 30, 2010).
“Records of the Bureau of Ordnance,” The National Archives, (accessed June 30, 2010).
United States Navy. "Photo # NH 57941 Picture Data." Naval History and Heritage Command. (accessed June 30, 2010).

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting this. I spend a lot of time researching naval and army ordnance of the Civil War era, and appreciate new perspectives on the subject.