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Benjamin F. Sands

Rear-admiral United States Navy, b. at Baltimore, Md., 11 Feb., 1812; d. at Washington, D.C., 30 June, 1883. His parents were non-Catholics and he became a convert in 1850, having married a Catholic, Henrietta M. French, sister of Major-General William H. French, U.S.A. He was appointed a midshipman in the navy from his native state, 1 April, 1828, and passed through the successive grades of promotion until he received the rank of rear-admiral, 27 April, 1871, and was placed on the retired list on reaching the age of 62 years, 11 February, 1874. During the Civil War he held several important commands with conspicuous success, and in 1867 was made superintendent of the Naval Observatory at Washington. During his incumbency of this office, which lasted until 1874, he advanced the observatory to a place equal to the most celebrated in Europe. For many years he was a member of the Catholic Indian Bureau in Washington. Notes he left were compiled by his son, F. B. Sands, into the book "From Reefer to Rear Admiral". His son George H. graduated at West Point and served in the U. S. Army. Three others, William F., F. B., and James H., also served in the navy; a daughter, Rosa, became a Visitation nun.

James Hoban Sands

Rear-admiral U.S.N., son of foregoing; b. at Washington, D. C., 12 July, 1845; d. there 26 October, 1911. Following the footsteps of his father he achieved a high reputation in the naval service for daring and seamanship. Appointed to the Naval Academy from Maryland in 1859, from which he graduated four years later, he served with the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron during the Civil War. While only an ensign he was twice recommended by boards of admirals to be advanced in grade for gallantry. After the war he had commands in the West India Squadron, and later had charge of the Brooklyn, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington Navy Yards. He was made rear-admiral, 11 April, 1902, and commanded at the Naval Academy, 1906-07, introducing a much needed reform in spite of opposition in many quarters. This was his last active duty as he retired in 1907 after a sea service of eighteen years and four months and a shore duty of twenty-two years. His example as a Catholic was a strong influence in the navy in developing a spirit of tolerance towards Catholics in the service, and in making religious practices of whatever creed more respected. His wife was Mary Elizabeth Meade, of the famous Philadelphia family of that name, who became a convert. His son William Franklin was United States Minister to Guatemala, and two of his daughters, Clara and Hilda, became Religious of the Sacred Heart.


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