He served in the Pacific during the war with Mexico and commanded the party that cut out the Malek Adel at Mazatlan in 1847. Promoted commander on 14 September 1855, he assumed command of frigate USS Cumberland in 1861. Promoted captain 16 July 1862 and commodore 24 April 1863, he served on court-martial duty at Fort Monroe.
As commanding officer of New Ironsides in the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, Commodore Radford led the ironclad division of Admiral Porter’s squadron—the largest task force of the Civil War—during two attacks on Fort Fisher, defending Wilmington, North Carolina in December 1864 and January 1865.
In action on Christmas Eve, Admiral Porter reported that New Ironsides “took her position in the most beautiful and seamanlike manner, got her spring out, and opened deliberate fire on the fort which was firing at her with all its guns . . . they were silenced almost as soon as the New Ironsides opened her terrific battery . . . Commander Radford has shown ability of a very high order, not only in fighting and manoeuvring his vessel, but in taking care of his division. His vessel did more execution than any other in the fleet, and I had so much confidence in the accuracy of his fire that even when our troops were on the parapet he was directed to clear the traverses of the enemy in advance of them. This he did most effectually, and but for this the victory might not have been ours.”
Following the war, on 25 July 1866, Commodore Radford was promoted rear-admiral. He commanded the European Squadron from 1869 until his retirement 1 March 1870.
Rear Admiral Radford died in 1890.