Captain John T. Lowe, U.S.N.
(1838 - 1930)

Captain John Lowe was born on 11 December 1838 in Liverpool, England. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1860. He joined the Second Ohio Regiment in 1861, but was transferred to the Navy with the rank of third assistant engineer after being injured in the Firt Battle of Bull Run. Captain Lowe married Josephine L. Dyer in 1867. He retired from the Navy in 1900 and died 28 August 1930.

While in the Navy, John Lowe served as follows:

1861 to 1864 Duty on USS Huron, South Atlantic Blockading Squadron
1864 to 1866 Duty on USS Shawmut, North Atlantic Blockading Squadron
1867 to 1868 Duty at U.S. Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.
1870 to 1873 Duty on USS Palos, Assiatic Squadron
1874 to 1876 Duty on USS Intrepid
1876 Duty on USS Despatch
1882 Duty at U.S. Capital
1883 Promoted to Chief Engineer
1884 Duty on USS Bear, Greely Relief Expedition
1885 to 1886 Duty on USS Dolphin, South Atlantic Station
1887 to 1889 Duty on USS Thetis
1892 to 1895 Duty on USS New York
1896 Duty as fleet engineer, Pacific Station
1898 First naval officer to have duty in submarine service
1899 Promoted to Captain
1900 Retired from the Navy
1911 Promoted to Rear Admiral, retroactive to 1900

On 25 June 1898, the secretary of the Navy, John D. Long granted permission for Chief Engineer John Lowe to be "present at, and witness the trial of the Submarine Torpedo Boat HOLLAND" and instructed him to "submit to the Department a report of [his] observations, together with notes on such matters of professional interest as may come under [his] notice."

On 19 July 1898, Chief Engineer Lowe reported:

"I went down in the Holland and remained in her, during the entire trip of more than one hour; at least half of which was under water. At this time I have only two facts to report, viz:
(a) That she made several dives to a depth of (12) feet, and that she did so at the will of the operator.
(b) That at the surface, under a very low impellant pressure, without making smoke or noise, or otherwise making known her presence: she fired a dummy dynamite shell, to a distance (me judice) of about 400 yards.
I argue from this, that she can do this in Havana Harbour; that is so, she might under god, save much human Life in the reduction of that place, and that therefore, she ought to go in readiness for that event as early as possible."6

Following the official trials of 12 November 1898, John Lowe reported:

"Furthermore (in my judgment), development [of the submarine torpedo boat] has already proceeded far enough to warrant the conclusions following:
(a) Whatever a common above water torpedo vessel is, a submarine torpedo vessel is that, and much more.
(b) Not forgetting the under water shot received by the Kearsarge; nevertheless, it is safe to say that a submarine vessel is safe from above water artillery.
(c) A submarine vessel can at any time, day or night, deliver a perfectly concealed attack at a respectable speed.
(d) She can mine or countermine, without let or hindrance from anyone.
(e) She can at any time, enter any harbor upon reconnaissance.
(f) The mere fact of her existence and presence would make her adversaries very nervous men.
(g) Until a party can be discovered, submarine warfare will become exceedingly formidable and likely to create as great revolution in naval methods as that wrought by the Monitor.
It is not to be asserted that the "Holland" is a perfect vessel of her kind, but neither has any vessel yet built approached anywhere near perfection, but the "Holland" is so good a vessel as to deserve consideration from the Navy Department, and to my mind the policy which drove the Hotchkiss gun, with other inventions, from native to foreign shores for development should not in the "Holland" be repeated."3

Captain Lowe was an active and willing participant in the trials of the USS Holland. In November 1899, John Lowe and Arthur MacArthur [second commanding officer of the USS Holland] spent 15 hours on the bottom of Little Peconic Bay with Frank Cable and crew while a severe storm passed over them without their knowledge.

John Lowe’s notebooks which include letters, the original Holland and Type 7 specifications, details of battery manufacturing and newspaper clippings, are now part of the manuscript collection at the Library of Congress.

The following documents were found in the "John Lowe Manuscript":

  1. "Letter from the Secretary of the Navy to John Lowe dated 25 June 1898"
  2. "Letter to the Secretary of the Navy from John Lowe dated 19 July 1898"
  3. "Report to the Secretary of the Navy from John Lowe dated 14 November 1898"
  4. "Letter to the Secretary of the Navy from John Lowe dated 19 July 1899"
  5. "Report to the Secretary of the Navy from John Lowe dated 7 November 1899"
  6. "Letter to the Secretary of the Navy from Elihu Frost dated 23 November 1899"
  7. "Specification of the Holland VI dated 23 November 1899"
  8. "Specification for the improved Holland submarine dated 23 November 1899"
  9. "Description of the Battery of the Holland"
  10. "Operating Instructions for the 2 cylinder 45 hp Otto gasoline engine"

Ó1999,2000 Gary McCue