|Albert Kautz in 1870|
While not as famous as his brother August, Albert would serve with some distinction during the Civil War and beyond.
Albert Kautz was born in Georgetown, Ohio on January 29th, 1839, one of seven children of Johann Georg and Dorothea and the youngest son. When Albert was five, the family moved to Levanna (near Ripley, Ohio) where they grew grapes on the hills for wine and tobacco on the river bottoms.
Albert entered the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland at the age of fifteen in 1854 and graduated as the Civil War began in the spring of 1861. He received a leave and returned to Brown County to visit family and friends. While home some local families asked Albert to teach their daughters how to properly use firearms. Being so close to the Ohio River and the slave state of Kentucky many people thought everyone should be able to defend themselves and their property. Kautz became enamored with and later married one of the ladies he was teaching, Mary Ester Hemphill, of Ripley. She was the sister of Joseph Hemphill who would also become an admiral in the U.S. Navy.
On June 20th, 1861, Kautz was serving on the USS Flag. The Flag was part of the naval blockade off the coast of Savannah, Georgia. The Flag captured the Confederate blockade runner Hannah Balch and Kautz was ordered to sail her to Philadelphia as a prize of war. On June 25th, the Hannah Balch was in turn captured by the more powerful Confederate privateer, CSS Coffee. Albert and his six crewmen were taken as prisoners of war and held until November of 1861. Only 22 years old at the time of his capture, Kautz developed a system of exchange that would allow the return of Union prisoners for Confederate prisoners and vice versa. He received a parole and had talks with the leaders of both sides, including Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln. He eventually put in place the exchange policy that would free thousands of prisoners throughout the war. In his case, Kautz was released with 368 enlisted men and two other officers for the similar number of Confederate prisoners. One of the other Union officers was Lieutenant. John L. Worden of USS Monitor vs. CSS Virginia fame.
Kautz's next duty was aboard Admiral Farragut’s flagship the USS Hartford in the Gulf of Mexico. Kautz took an active part in the attack and surrender of New Orleans. He was part of the landing party when Farragut ordered the mayor (John Monroe) to lower the Louisiana state flag from the top of the Customs House roof. Monroe refused, citing fear of the angry crowd as his reason. Kautz volunteered to remove the flag and with the escort of marines pushed their way through the ‘howling crowd’. Once atop the Customs House, Kautz lowered the Louisiana flag and replaced it with the United States flag. In Kautz’s words, “The crowd grew more active and as our landing party only numbered three officers, fifteen sailors, and a dozen marines we were victorious but retreated hastily to the Hartford.”
Kautz was given his own command and promoted to lieutenant commander shortly after the New Orleans adventure. As master of the steam sloop Juniata he captured the much larger British steamer Victor off Havana, Cuba on May 28th, 1863. The Victor was carrying supplies bound for the Confederate Army.
His next promotion was as the commander of the USS Winooski. The Winooski was in Farragut’s fleet that attacked Mobile Bay on August 5th, 1864.
After the Civil War, Kautz continued climbing through the ranks at several naval installations and aboard several ever increasingly powerful warships. In 1898 he was a rear admiral in the Pacific Fleet and was in command of the American forces in the Samoan Islands. He was instrumental in suppressing the insurgent forces under the native leader, Mataafa, and securing a lasting peace on the islands. Kautz’s success in Samoa propelled him to his promotion to Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet with the battleship USS Iowa as his flagship. He served in that position from early 1900 until his retirement in 1901.
During his many years of service his wife lived in her family home, the brick Hemphill House, which still stands on Front Street in Ripley. Albert returned to that house when on leave but upon his retirement the couple moved to Florence, Italy. The admiral died on February 6th, 1907, and in March of that year the cruiser USS Baltimore returned his ashes to the United States. Rear Admiral Albert Kautz is buried in Arlington National Cemetery beside his wife, his brother August, and their close friend, Phillip Sheridan.