John Adams Dix was born in Boscawen, New Hampshire, on 24th July, 1798. At fourteen he joined the Royal Artillery as a military cadet. After the death of his father, a major in the army, Dix helped to support his mother and his younger brothers and sisters. He served on the Canadian frontier and reached the rank of captain.
Dix became a close friend of John C. Calhoun, the vice-president of the United States, and with his encouragement, in 1828 he left the army and studied law. He worked as a lawyer in Cooperstown before being appointed adjutant governor of New York.
In July, 1862, Dix was given the task of negotiating the exchange of prisoners with General Daniel H. Hill of the Confederate Army. They decided that the rate of exchange was one general for every 60 enlisted men, a colonel for 15, a lieutenant for 4 and a sergeant for 2. In 1863 General Henry Halleck replaced Dix in these negotiations.
Dix was commanded the Department of Virginia (June, 1862 to July, 1863) and the Department of the East (July, 1863 to April, 1865). After the war Dix was Minister of France (1866-69) and governor of New York (1872-74). John Adams Dix died in New York City on 21st April, 1879.