Russell, John Henry was born on July 4, 1827 in Frederick, Maryland, United States. Son of Robert Grier and Susan Hood (Worthington) Russell.
Graduated from the United States Naval Academy, 1848.
Commissioned midshipman United States Navy, 1841. Assigned to North Pacific Exploring Expedition as acting navigator and Lieutenant in sloop Vincennes under Cadwalader Ringgold, 1853. Commissioned master, 1855, Lieutenant, 1855.
Ordnance duty Washington (District of Columbia) Navy Yard, 1857-1861, 64. Sent to Norfolk (Virginia) Navy Yard to assist in saving Union Vessels from capture by Confederates, 1861. Commanded boat expedition, destroyed privateer Gudah, Pensacola, Florida, 1861.
Given command of steamer Kennebec in Rear Admiral David Farragut’s Squadron, 1861, participated in all operations of Farragut’s squadron up Mississippi River to Vicksburg, 1861-1862. Commissioned lieutenant commander, 1862, commanded Kennebec in blockade of Mobile and Pontiac in South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. Commanded ship Cyane, 1865.
Promoted commander, 1867, captain, 1874, commodore, 1883, rear admiral, 1886. Rescued shipwrecked passengers and crew of steamer Continental in Gulf of California, 1869. Command Mare Island Navy Yard, 1883-1886.
Married Cornelia Pierpont Treadway, 1864, 3 children.