Thomas Jefferson Page, a grandson of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was a United States Navy officer who served in the Caribbean, carried out a hydrographical survey of the New York coastline, and worked under Admiral Matthew Fontaine Maury at the Naval Observatory in Washington.
Page commanded the USS Plymouth in 1849 in the China Sea and the Sea of Japan. He battled Japanese pirates in the brig USS Dolphin at the mouth of the Yangtze River at the request of the Qing Government. Due to personal reservations about the interests of western powers in China, Page did not accompany Admiral Perry's expidition to the "far east." Following this-Lieutenant Page commanded the USS Water Witch in which he explored the Argentine rivers Paraguay and Bermejo in the 1850s making the first detailed hydrological studies of the Rio de la Plata.
On the secession of his state, Captain Page felt compelled to resign from the United States Navy and to take up the defense of Virginia. During the ensuing Civil War, he became a Colonel of Artillery and commanded batteries defending the Confederate capital, Richmond. In May 1863, Page was commissioned a Captain in the Confederate Navy and was sent to Europe to purchase vessels. In the last months of the Civil War, he commanded the Confederate ironclad ram CSS Stonewall, probably the most powerful warship of the day. But by the time he could get his new ship from Europe to North American waters, the War was over. From there, he sailed on to the Caribbean and to Argentina.
After the war, Page returned to Argentina, where he engaged in politics and cattle farming; he assisted in developing the Argentine coastal defenses, and enhancing the capacity and modernization of the Argentine Navy. He intruduced numerous modern ideas into strategic and tactical naval formations of Argentina making it a formidable force throughout the 19th century. He tried, unsuccessfully, to interest the Argentine Navy in a torpedo ship developed by Swedish-American John Ericson, the inventor of the USS Monitor. Page was the secretary to the Argentine diplomatic mission to Italy.
Page and his family eventually moved to Rome where he died in 1899. He is buried in the Protestant Cemetery there. Descendants of his family along with those of his younger cousins currently reside in Argentina, the European Untion, the United States, Japan and China. Thomas Nelson Page and William Nelson Page were his younger cousins. Thomas Nelson Page served as Ambassador to Italy during the administration of Wodrow Wilson, and made it his personal mission to pay respects to Thomas Jefferson Page and reunite the family.