Selim E. Woodworth
(November 27, 1815 – January 29, 1871) was an officer in the United States Navy
Selim Edward Woodworth was born in New York
State, the second son of poet and dramatist Samuel Woodworth
. At the age of twelve he set out with a rifle to cross the continent to the Pacific, but was intercepted after walking 300 miles and sent home. In 1834 he sailed as captain's clerk in the ship "Margaret Oakley," in which he was shipwrecked off Madagascar. He lived on the island with the natives, but eventually reached Mauritius, whence he returned home after an absence of four years.
U.S. Navy career
Appointed a midshipman on 16 June 1838
, he was ordered to duty with the Wilkes Exploring Expedition
. However, the order was sent to Norfolk, Virginia
and was not forwarded to him. When he finally reported in response to a duplicate order, the expedition had already sailed. As a result, he was sent on 20 November
to the Mediterranean Sea
for duty in the ship of the line Ohio
. On 3 August
, he was detached from Ohio
for a three-month leave; he requested and received an additional leave of three months to visit Milano
. On 24 December
, Woodworth was ordered to Falmouth
, fitting out at New York.
While he was serving in Falmouth, news reached him at Pensacola, Florida, of the death of his father. He obtained leave, returned to New York, and became attached to the receiving ship, North Carolina. He next served on Lawrence in September before entering the Philadelphia Naval School on the 29th of that month. On 20 May 1844, Selim Woodworth was warranted a passed midshipman. After a leave of six months, he reported to the new sloop-of-war Jamestown and served in her on the coast of Africa, helping to suppress the slave trade. He was transferred to Truxtun, detached on 24 November 1845, and granted a three-month leave.
At that time the United States was on the brink of war with Mexico. Passed-Midshipman Woodworth was appointed to carry dispatches regarding naval participation in the anticipated hostilities overland to the Pacific Squadron in Oregon. He set out from Independence, Missouri, with two companions on 14 May 1846 and arrived in Oregon on 19 August, just 98 days after setting out.
Time in early California
Woodworth reported to naval authorities at the mouth of the Columbia River, where he remained until 18 January 1847, when he left for San Francisco
. Shortly after his arrival news reached the settlement that a group of overland emigrants -- the Donner Party
-- was trapped and starving in the Sierra Nevada. Woodworth received permission from his naval superiors to command the rescue efforts and on 7 February, set sail for Sacramento with a load of supplies. Although Woodworth trekked into the mountains with men and provisions, he failed to meet the rescue parties when expected. Donner Party survivors and rescuers regarded him as a braggart who had let them down.
Woodworth arrived back in San Francisco on 1 April 1847 and reported on board sloop-of-war Warren at Monterey Bay, California on 17 May 1847. On 8 October, he requested a leave of absence in order to make a trip across the southern part of South America with permission to join the squadron on the coast of Brazil or in the United States. Permission was to be granted whenever he could be spared. He left Warren on 16 February 1848 to take command of the bark Anita. From 5 June 1848 until 1850, naval registers carry him as attached to the Pacific Squadron; however, no record of him has ever been found.
On 11 February 1850, Selim E. Woodworth resigned. For a little more than a decade, he lived in San Francisco, California and took a prominent part in the development of the state of California. He and his brother were among the organizers of the vigilance committee, and Selim Woodworth was the group's first president.
Civil War service
After the outbreak of the American Civil War
, Woodworth returned to the east coast and reentered the Navy on 10 September 1861
as an acting lieutenant. On 13 January 1862
, he assumed command of John P. Jackson
, a former ferry boat, converted to a steam gunboat
. This vessel was assigned to the Mortar Flotilla
raised by Comdr. David D. Porter
to support Flag Officer David Farragut
's conquest of New Orleans, Louisiana
and the lower Mississippi River
. While in command, he assisted in the capture of Forts Jackson
and St. Philip
in April and participated in operations around Vicksburg, Mississippi
in June and July. Porter commended Woodworth for these services, and President Abraham Lincoln
recommended him to Congress
for special thanks. On 29 September 1862
, at his own request, he was detached from command of John P. Jackson
and allowed to return to the North. Later that autumn, he was assigned to the Mississippi Squadron
and reported at Cairo, Illinois
, for duty.
On 1 January 1863, he was given command of the "tinclad," stern-wheel steamer, Glide. On 24 January, Porter—now a Rear Admiral—recommended Woodworth for appointment to the regular Navy. Woodworth was commissioned a commander in April 1863, to date from 16 July 1862. After Glide was burned, he commanded the ram General Price from 7 February 1863 through August. After months of commendable fighting up and down the Mississippi River, Comdr. Woodworth was detached from General Price and sent to the Pacific where he took command of the bark Narragansett on 7 October 1863. After having brought Narragansett around the Horn, he arrived in New York on 18 March 1865. Monocacy, a double-ended gunboat, was his last command, which he assumed on 30 November 1865.
Later years and legacy
Comdr. Selim E. Woodworth resigned from the Navy on 2 March 1866
and returned to San Francisco, where he resided with his family until his death in 1871.
USS Woodworth (DD-460) was named for him.