1792 - March 20, 1856
David E. Conner
1792 – March 20, 1856
A career naval officer, Commodore David E. Conner served in the War of 1812, and commanded the U.S. Home Squadron during the U.S.-Mexico War. He blockaded the Gulf of Mexico, captured the port-city of Tampico in a bloodless amphibious invasion, and led the naval assault on Vera Cruz.
Born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1792, David Conner joined the U.S. Navy on January 16, 1809 at the age of sixteen. Assigned to the frigate President, he spent his first few years as a midshipman. He was subsequently transferred to the Hornet.
Conner fought in the War of 1812 aboard the Hornet. At one point early in the war he was captured by the British. After his brief captivity, the U.S. Navy promoted him to the rank of lieutenant in 1813. He subsequently participated in attacks on the British ships Peacock and Penguin. On March 23, 1815, while capturing the Penguin, Conner sustained a severe hip wound. His recovery took nearly two years, but the U.S. Congress awarded him a medal after the war.
He went on to serve in the Pacific, commanding individual vessels and attaining the rank of commander in 1825, and captain in 1835. His superiors considered him to be brave and capable. By 1841 he was serving on the Board of Navy Commissioners, and a year later became the first Chief of the Bureau of Construction, Equipment, and Repair.
In 1843, Conner assumed command over Home Squadron. Home Squadron consisted of eleven vessels, including frigates, steamers, and sloops, based in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. Conner had many responsibilities as commander. His force was tasked with combing the northern seas for ships in distress, suppressing piracy in the Caribbean, and searching suspected slave ships bound for the U.S.
Months prior to the outbreak of U.S.-Mexico War, U.S. Navy Secretary George Bancroft placed the Home Squadron on high alert in the Gulf of Mexico, anticipating hostilities to escalate. Once the war commenced in May 1846, Conner ordered his ships to blockade the Gulf of Mexico. His efforts successfully disrupted Mexican trade in the Gulf. He positioned most of his ships near the port-city of Veracruz.
On November 14, 1846, Conner captured Tampico. The U.S. Navy had been planning on taking the city in an effort to breach the interior of Tamaulipas. Antonio López de Santa Anna, possibly after receiving misinformation from U.S. spy Anna McClarmonde Chase, ordered the withdrawal of the city's defenses. Through neutral British sailors, Chase contacted Conner and informed him of the withdrawal. Conner took the city without any loss of life.
Conner also participated in the U.S. naval assault on Vera Cruz. At the time, the attack was the largest marine operation in U.S. history. On March 9, 1847, Conner directed the naval attack and landing of 10,000 U.S. troops. The amphibious operation succeeded, and the city fell to General Winfield Scott after a twenty-day siege. Despite Conner's critical contribution to the invasion, the U.S. Navy Secretary relieved him of duty when he fell ill at the end of the siege. Commodore Matthew C. Perry succeeded him as commander of Home Squadron.
After the war ended, Conner took up the command of the Philadelphia Naval Yard. He died in Philadelphia on March 20, 1856, at the age of sixty four.
Bauer, K. Jack. "The Veracruz Expedition of 1847." Military Affairs 20. Autumn 1956.
Conner, Philip Syng Physick. Commodore Conner: A Note on "Maclay's History of the United States Navy," Mexican War. United Service Review, July 1895.
Crawford, Mark, David S. Heidler, and Jeanne T. Heidler. Encyclopedia of the Mexican-American War. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 1999.
Overton Jr., J. W. "Spying and Deception turned the U.S. Invasion of Tampico into the Battle that Wasn't." Military History. Vol. 22. Issue 3. June 2005.
Spencer, Tucker C. The Encyclopedia of the Mexican-American War: A Political, Social, and Military History. Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2012.