Hiram Paulding was born in Cortland, New York. His father, John Paulding, had been a militiaman in the Revolutionary War. He was involved in the 1780 capture of British spy John Andre, an event that led to the discovery of Benedict Arnold’s plot.
Young Hiram Paulding was eager to dedicate his life to serving the young country his father had helped found. He was appointed to the Navy as a midshipman at the tender age of 14, shortly before the start of the War of 1812. He was on board the USS Ticonderoga during the 1814 Battle of Plattsburgh, also called the Battle of Lake Champlain.
After the war, Paulding served in the Mediterranean and the Pacific before taking leave to enroll at Alden Partridge’s fledgling military academy in 1821. This was over 30 years before the United States Naval Academy would be established at Annapolis, and Paulding was not the only prominent naval officer to receive a citizen soldier’s training under Partridge’s tutelage. Now a lieutenant, Paulding completed his studies in 1823, the year before future Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles would arrive in Norwich.
Paulding continued to serve with distinction throughout the relative peacetime of the mid-19th century. In the 1840s he served as executive officer of the New York Navy Yard, and took command of the Washington Navy Yard in 1851. When the Civil War broke out, President Lincoln requested his assistance with strengthening the Union’s naval fleet, and he was once again placed in charge of the New York Navy Yard. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles appointed him to the Ironclad Board, which oversaw the creation of the new ironclad fleet, including the famous USS Monitor.
Paulding was one of ten officers to receive the grade of Rear Admiral upon its creation in 1862. Having served his country in the Navy for over 50 years, he died in 1878.
Contact the Norwich University Archives to learn more about the life and legacy of Rear Admiral Hiram Paulding.