Joseph Hemphill in the news after meeting the Kaiser “Admiral Joseph N. Hemphill” Joseph Newton Hemphill was born in 1847 in Ripley. He was the youngest of the prominent Samuel Hemphill family. Joseph was extremely bright and entered the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland at the age of 14.
When the Civil War broke out the Academy was closed and the students left and joined either the Confederate or the Federal Navy. Hemphill entered the U. S. Navy as an Ensign, junior grade and was involved in the search of and the destruction of the infamous Confederate raider, the “CSS Alabama”, off the coast of France.
Hemphill returned to Annapolis after the war and graduated in 1866. His first cruise was on the aboard the “USS Constitution”, ‘Old Ironsides’. He was aboard the “Monongahela” when she wrecked during a West Indies earthquake in 1867. For the next twenty years Joseph was stationed on land at various naval yards but continued to rise through the ranks. He was commander of many of the most important naval facilities in the United States during his career; Boston, New York, and Washington D.C.
In 1899 Joseph was assigned to the cruiser “Buffalo” stationed in the Philippines during the insurrection of 1899. In 1900 he was given command of the cruiser “Detroit” that steamed off the shore of Venezuela during the Andrade-Castro revolution.
After that the “Detroit” took her place back in the North Atlantic Fleet. By this time he was a Commander and in 1901 he was promoted to Captain and given command of the North Atlantic Fleet’s Flagship, “USS Kearsarge”. This was ironic because this modern steel “Kearsarge” that would be the command that Joseph would be remembered for was named after the wooden “Kearsarge” that sunk the “CSA Alabama” at the beginning of his career.
As the flagship of the fleet the “Kearsarge” also carried the Fleet Admiral, Rear Admiral Cotton. On June 23, 1903 the “Kearsarge” steamed into the Kiel, Germany harbor for the celebration surrounding a European yacht regatta. As the “Kearsarge” entered the harbor followed by the American cruisers, “San Francisco”, “Chicago”, and “Machias” Fort Friedrichort at the mouth of the harbor fired a salute. The bands on each of the eight German battleships began playing “America” and the “Stars and Stripes” rose to the top of each German dreadnought’s flag pole in honor of the visiting fleet.
Admiral Cotton and Captain Hemphill toured each German battleship in the next few days and when Emperor William, the Kaiser, arrived on his yacht, “Hohenzollern”, he led an entourage of his admirals to the “Kearsarge”. Captain Hemphill showed the Germans his nearly new cruiser and the ship and man so impressed the Kaiser that he later sent Hemphill a silver punch bowl decorated with the image of the “Kearsarge”.
In 1904 Joseph was promoted to Rear Admiral and named Chief of Staff, North Atlantic Fleet. He held that position until 1906 when Admiral Dewey retired and Joseph took command of the Pacific Fleet.
Rear Admiral Joseph Newton Hemphill retired in 1909 after 47 years of service during which he held most of the highest posts in the American Navy. Hemphill apparently enjoyed his retirement. In a 1914 edition of the New York Times it was reported that Rear Admiral Joseph Hemphill had won the hotly contested Admiral’s Cup trophy in a golf tournament at the Admiral’s Golf Club in Washington D.C. Admiral Hemphill died July 8th, 1931. Small tintype of Rear Admiral Joseph Hemphill.