From Virginia. Became a U.S. Navy midshipman in 1839 and made lieutenant in 1854. Dismissed from service in April 1861 after Virginia seceded and was briefly an officer in the Virginia State Navy until commissioned a 1st Lieutenant in the Confederate States Navy in June 1861.
He first commanded the CSS George Page and then the CSS Rappahannock. He then commanded the CSS Appomattox on the North Carolina coast until that ship was scuttled in February 1862. Then he was an officer on the ironclad CSS Virginia in its operations March to may 1862 in the Hampton Roads area.