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Colby, Henry Gillette


Age: 0, credited to Richmond, VT
Unit(s): USN
Service: comn 8/1/63, USN, Acting Assist. Paymaster; on bark Gem of the Seas (East Gulf Squadron), 64-65; Assistant Paymaster, steamer Don 7/66; Past Assistant Paymaster, 8/68; sloop Cyane, 70; Paymaster, 78; steam sloop Tuscarora, 80.

See Legend for expansion of abbreviations


Birth: 1839, Richmond, VT
Death: 1923

Burial: Prospect Cemetery, Vergennes, VT
Marker/Plot: Not recorded
Gravestone researcher/photographer: Alan Lathrop
Findagrave Memorial #: 42113973


Alias?: None noted
Pension?: Yes, widow Eliza S., ../../...., VT
Portrait?: Unknown
College?: Not Found
Veterans Home?: Not Found
(If there are state digraphs above, this soldier spent some time in a state or national soldiers' home in that state after the war)

Remarks: None


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Prospect Cemetery, Vergennes, VT

Check the cemetery for location/directions and other veterans who may be buried there.

Henry G. Colby

Henry Gillett Colby was born in Richmond, Vermont, in 1839, the son of Safford Colby (1809-1899) and Lucy/Lucia Maria Gilette/Gillett (1815-1889). In 1860 he was living in Richmond with his parents. He received an appointment as Acting Assistant Paymaster, U.S. Navy, on 22 June 1863, and was commissioned 1 August.

In 1864 and early 1865, he was on the bark 'Gem of the Sea' in the East Gulf Squadron, commanded, at least on 1 January 1865, by Acting Rear-Admiral C. K. Stribling.

The bark Gem of the Sea captured the British schooner George in the Sanibal River 29 July 1863; and sloop Richard fell into her hands in Peace Creek 31 August. In an expedition up the same creek 5 September, she destroyed the buildings and four boats of noted blockade runner Johnson. Thereafter she captured British schooner Director 30 September and sloop Matilda 21 October. From 24 to 30 December 1863, she was part of an expedition up the Myacca River, transporting refugee rangers from Useppa Island to the mainland. She spent her remaining career patrolling off Charlotte Harbor, Fla. She joined her tender Rosalie in capturing steamer Emma off nearby Malco Inlet 11 June 1864. She departed Charlotte Harbor 2 February 1865 and entered the Philadelphia Navy Yard the 22d. She decommissioned 24 February and was sold G May 1865 to A. C. Purvis & Sons, Philadelphia, Pa.

By 4 August 1865, Colby was attached to USS Essex, and 'was one of eleven paymasters detached from vessels in the Mississippi Squadron and 'ordered to report by letter to the Department for settlement of their accounts.'

On 4 May 1864 Essex proceeded to Memphis, Tenn., where she remained as a guardship for the duration of the war. On 27 April 1865, following the massive boiler explosion in steamship Sultana, Essex's boats help rescue 60 people from the water. Essex was decommissioned at Mound City, Ill., on 20 July 1865, and sold on 29 November 1865.

In the draw down of the Navy after the war, Colby was discharged on 4 December 1865, but subsequently reappointed Assistant Paymaster, onboard the steamer 'Don' on 23 July 1866.

Don remained at New York until 28 October 1865 when she joined the North Atlantic Squadron to cruise on the coasts of the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, and in the West Indies. She returned to New York 11 May 1868, was decommissioned there 18 May 1868, and sold 29 August of the same year.

Colby was promoted to Passed Assistant Paymaster on 9 April 1868, and was attached to the sloop 'Cyane' in 1870.

Cyane was employed on the coasts of North and South America until decommissioned and placed in ordinary at Mare Island Navy Yard 20 September 1871. This probably explains why he is missing from the 1870 Census.

Around 1873, he married Mary C. Bronson of Ohio. They had two children, Safford K. (1874- ) and Frederick B. (1879- ), were born in California, according to the 1880 Census. Colby had been promoted to Paymaster on 6 September 1878, then assigned to the steam sloop Tuscarora in 1880, still in California, (Tuscarora was homeported in at Mare Island Navy Yard, San Francisco, where Colby was enumerated in the 1880 US Census).

Tuscarora had been recommissioned at Mare Island in early 1878 and assigned special oceanic survey work off the coasts of Central and South America. She returned to Mare Island Navy Yard in San Francisco on 21 April 1880 and was decommissioned there on 31 May for repairs, which were never completed, and she was struck from the Navy list in 1883. (DANFS)

On 23 April 1899 he was promoted to Pay Inspector. In 1900, Henry and Mary Colby, who had been married for 27 years, were living in Baltimore, Maryland, his occupation listed as U.S. Navy. The 1900 census included the number of children born to a marriage and those remaining alive at the time of the census. Strangely, Henry and Mary are not credited with having any children! Their son Safford K. Colby, an 1894 graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY), was living in Brooklyn, NY. There is no evidence found of their second son, Frederick, in the 1900 census.

By 1910, Colby was living in Vergennes, Vermont with his 2nd wife of four years, Eliza. Since he had no occupation listed, he was probably retired by this time. However, he was also enumerated as a lodger at the Hotel Nottingham, on Huntington Avenue, in Boston, Massachusetts, where his occupation was listed as a U.S. Naval officer. By 1920, now 81, Colby was living in Vergennes with Eliza.

There is currently no further information on Henry G. Colby.

Bibliography to date:

- Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellioin, Series I, volume 27, p. 329
-U.S. Census for 1860 (Vermont), 1880 (California), 1900 (Maryland), 1910 (Vermont/Massachusetts), 1920 (Vermont)
- Ancestry World Tree entries for Henry G. Colby on from contributions by Deborah Colby, Ronald Colby, Robin, James Sergent, Lowell Frank Hammons 2nd, and Alice Volkert.
- Revised Roster
- Dictionary of American Navy Fighting Ships,
- A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875, Senate Executive Journal, volume XLI, and volume XIV, Part 2,



Henry G. Colby

Henry G. Colby, a retired naval officer, died at his house in this city Wednesday Feb. 21, after a brief illness of pneumonia.

Captain Colby was born in Richmond, Vt., March 4, 1839, and had therefore nearly completed his 84th year. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Safford Colby, and his early years were spent on a farm. In 1862 he was appointed from civil life to a position of volunteer assistant paymaster through the influence of United States Senator Solomon Foot. During the war he was attached to the Atlantic, the Gulf and the Mississippi squadrons under Admirals Lee, Bailey and Porter. He entered the regular service in 1866, and retired in 1901. During his long service he visited all parts of the world, and had spent much time with the Atlantic squadron in China.

Capt. Colby was twice married, his first wife being Miss Mary C. Bronson of Ohio. Two sons were born of this union, both if whom survive. They are Safford Colby, head of a manufacturing concern located at Niagara falls, N. Y., and Commander Fred B. Colby, U. S. N., chief of the bureau of naval supplies and accounts, with headquarters at Washington. In October, 1904, Capt. Colby was united in marriage with Miss Liza Stevens of Vergennes, and since had made his home in this city.

Funeral services will be held at the house Friday afternoon at 2 o'clock. The remains will be placed in the vault, later to be interred in Prospect cemetery.

Source: Vergennes Enterprise and Vermonter, February 22, 1923
Courtesy of Tom Boudreau.