Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/De Kay, James Ellsworth

DE KAY, James Ellsworth, naturalist, b. in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1792; d. in Oyster Bay, L.I., 21 Nov., 1851. He studied medicine at Edinburgh, and there took his degree as a physician. On his return to the United States he married a daughter of Henry Eckford, the naval architect, whom he subsequently accompanied to Turkey, where the latter was appointed superintendent of the naval yards at Constantinople. Dr. De Kay also became intimate with his brother-in-law, Joseph Rodman Drake, Fitz-Greene Halleck, William Cullen Bryant, and other men of mark in literature and science. He was intrusted by Mr. Eckford with negotiations with Brazil and other South American powers, relative to the ships of war that had been ordered by the latter. Upon returning to this country, he settled permanently at Oyster Bay. L. I., devoting himself to the study of natural history and contributing to the New York press. On the outbreak of cholera in the latter city, Dr. De Kay hastened to give his services to the afflicted, although the practice of his profession was repugnant to him. He was subsequently a founder of the Lyceum of natural history, afterward merged into the National academy of science. In 1836 the state ordered a geological survey, making it comprehensive enough to cover botany and zoology, and intrusting those departments to Dr. De Kay. The results of his researches are contained in five volumes of the “Survey” (1842-'9). Besides these, he is the author of “Travels in Turkey” (New York, 1833). — His brother, George Coleman, naval officer, b. in New York city in 1802; d. in Washington, D. C., 31 Jan., 1849. He was prepared for college, but ran away to sea. He became a skilful navigator, and took vessels built by Henry Eckford to South America. He volunteered in the navy of the Argentine republic, then at war with Brazil, and was given command of a brig in June, 1827. After taking several prizes, he accepted a captain's commission, which he had declined on entering the service, preferring to win it by promotion. In an engagement with the brig “Cacique,” commanded by Capt. Manson, that vessel was captured, though twice the size of De Kay's, and much more heavily armed. When returning to Buenos Ayres in June, 1828, his brig, the “Brandtzen,” was driven inshore in the river Plata by a Brazilian squadron. He scuttled the vessel to prevent her capture, swam ashore with his crew, and on reaching Buenos Ayres was made commodore. After the peace he delivered a corvette to the porte for Henry Eckford. He was with him in Constantinople when he died, Eckford at the time being superintendent of the Ottoman ship-yards. Returning to New York, De Kay married in 1833 Janet, only child of Joseph Rodman Drake, the poet. In 1847 he took the U. S. frigate “Macedonian” to Ireland with supplies for the sufferers from the famine, having exerted himself to secure the passage of an act of congress permitting a government vessel to be so employed. See “Outline of the Life of Com. George C. De Kay” by Fitz-Greene Halleck (New York, 1847). — George Coleman's son, Joseph Rodman Drake, soldier, b. 21 Oct., 1836; d. in New York city, 9 June, 1886, served with credit during the civil war on the staffs of Gens. Mansfield, Pope, and Hooker, and won the brevet of lieutenant-colonel for gallantry in several battles. — Another son of George Coleman, George Coleman, soldier, b. 24 Aug., 1842; d. in New Orleans, 27 June, 1862, left his studies in Dresden, Saxony, in 1861, returned to the United States, and entered the National service as lieutenant of artillery, and afterward was on the staff of Gen. Thomas Williams till he received a mortal wound in a fight with bushwhackers at Grand Gulf. — Another son of George Coleman, Sidney, soldier, b. 7 March, 1845; d. in 1890, left school in the second year of the civil war and joined the 71st New York volunteers. He was afterward made lieutenant in the 8th Connecticut regiment, served on the staffs of Gens. B. F. Butler, Devens, and Terry, and received the brevet of major. After the war he went to Crete to assist the Greeks against the Turks. — Another son, Charles, author, b. in Washington, D. C., 25 July, 1848, has published “The Bohemian” (New York, 1878); “Hesperus” (1880); “Vision of Nimrod” (1881); “Vision of Esther” (1882); and “Love Poems of Louis Barnaval” (1883). His best known story is “ Manmatha.”