Birth: Aug. 3, 1821
South Carolina, USA Death: Apr. 27, 1869, At Sea [Edit Dates]
John Payne Bankhead, born at Fort Moultrie, South Carolina, 1821; entered the United States Navy, 1838; promoted commander, July 16, 1862, and captain, July 25, 1866; commanded the USS Monitor, September 1, 1862 to December 31, 1862; later commanded the USS Florida; died at Aden, Arabia, April 27, 1869
John Bankhead John Bankhead was born on August 3, 1821, at Fort Johnston, South Carolina. His father was General James Bankhead, a brigadier general who distinguished himself in the Mexican War. Bankhead entered the navy in August 1838 at the age of 17. His first ship was the frigate Macedonian. In 1844 he graduated and served the Coast Survey. While in Vera Cruz during the Mexican War, Bankhead actually served under his father.
During the Civil War, Bankhead was stationed on the Pembina and was sent to Charleston, South Carolina, for blockade duty. In the middle of August the Pembina was ordered to New York for repairs. Flag Officer DuPont wrote a letter on Bankhead's behalf to Captain Gustavus Fox, Secretary of the Navy, requesting that he be transferred to an iron vessel. Bankhead was given the Monitor and took command from Thomas Stevens on September 10, 1862.
Shortly after Bankhead took command the Monitor's boilers and engines were condemned, and on October 3, 1862, the ironclad arrived at the Washington Navy Yard for repairs. By November the ship was finished and returned to Hampton Roads.
Orders were issued on December 24, 1862, for the Monitor to move to Beaufort, North Carolina. There the ship would join the blockade off Charleston. On Christmas Day the Monitor was ready for sea, but bad weather delayed departure until December 29. On December 31, 1862, a storm hit seas off Hatteras, and the Monitor, under tow by the USS Rhode Island, foundered and sank with the loss of four officers and 16 men. Bankhead himself was saved but suffered from exposure. After his recovery he was given command of the side-wheeler Florida and participated in blockade duty off Fort Fisher, North Carolina. In 1864, Bankhead was transferred to the Otsego, but was eventually relieved of command due to poor health. Bankhead ended the war in command of the Wyoming, which was stationed in the Pacific searching for the CSS Shenandoah.
The Wyoming was transferred to the Asiatic Squadron, and Bankhead remained in command until 1867, when due to poor health he requested to be relieved of duty. He died that same year on his way home to the United States.