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Samuel Francis Du Pont letters (photocopies)

1845-1861
 Collection
Identifier: 0125

Abstract

Samuel Francis du Pont (1803-1865) was an Admiral in the United States Navy and fought in the Mexican-American War and the Civil War. He was the fourth child and second surviving son of Victor Marie du Pont (1767-1827) and his wife, Gabrielle Joséphine de la Fite de Pelleport (1770-1837). These five photocopied letters are related to his term in the Navy, four from his time in the Pacific, and one dealing with the South Atlantic blockade during the Civil War.

Dates

  • 1845-1861

Creator

Extent

6 item(s)

Biographical Note

Samuel Francis du Pont (1803-1865) was an Admiral in the United States Navy and fought in the Mexican-American War and the Civil War.

Samuel Francis du Pont was born at Bergen Point (now Bayonne), New Jersey, on September 27, 1803. He was the fourth child and second surviving son of Victor Marie du Pont (1767-1827) and his wife, Gabrielle Joséphine de la Fite de Pelleport (1770-1837).

In 1815, du Pont received a commission as midshipmen in the United States Navy. During the next thirty years he rose steadily within the ranks, becoming a commander attached to the Pacific squadron in 1844. During the Mexican-American War he earned distinction for his defense of the California blockade. After the Mexican War, du Pont began a decade-long tour of shore duty attempting to improve naval and marine affairs and serving as a member of the board that established the Naval Academy at Annapolis. In 1855, he was appointed to the Naval Efficiency Board which was investigating nepotism and incompetence in the officer corps.

At the start of the Civil War du Pont was appointed a senior member of the Commission of Conference to establish naval operations for the North. du Pont was put in charge of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron and broke his flag on the U.S.S. Wabash. In November of 1861 he lead a successful campaign that captured Port Royal in South Carolina. Because of the success of this operation, du Pont was promoted to rear admiral in July 1862. The Union remained in control of Port Royal which was the headquarters of du Pont's blockading squadron. By late 1862 there was considerable tension building between Port Royal and Washington as pressure mounted for an attack on Charleston. The plan was to have the new ironclad monitors lead the assault. In 1863 du Pont's fleet of ironclads were unsuccessful at taking Charleston. This defeat, in one of the most highly publicized naval battles of the Civil War, was a tremendous blow to the Union. Blame was placed on du Pont, who was immediately relieved of his command.

Upon his return to Washington, du Pont was ostracized. During the summer of 1863 he exchanged a series of barbed letters with Secretary Gideon Welles (1802-1878) and enlisted Henry Winter Davis (1817-1865), the acknowledged leader of the congressional opposition, to serve as his spokesman on Capitol Hill. When the Navy refused to publish du Pont's report on the Charleston attack, Davis thought that it would be politically advantageous to criticize the administration over this issue. He secured a joint congressional resolution calling upon the Navy Department to produce all of du Pont's reports and correspondence. When Welles did so, the tables were turned. Charged with misusing the monitors at Charleston and misleading his superiors, du Pont was virtually put on trial before Congress. After the congressional hearing, du Pont appealed to Abraham Lincoln for vindication. When the president refused to meet with him, he retired to his home at Louviers. In March 1865 he returned to Washington to serve on a board that was set up to recommend distinguished naval officers for promotion. On June 23, 1865, while on a visit to Philadelphia with his wife, he died.

Scope and Contents

Five photocopy letters of Samuel Francis du Pont (1802-1865) to George Bancroft (1800-1891), Secretary of the Navy, and Gardiner H. Shaw (1819-1867), of Boston. The four letters to Bancroft date from September 25, 1845 to October 17, 1845, concern preparations for the cruise of the U.S. Frigate Congress to the Pacific. The letter to Shaw, dated December 30, 1861, pertains to the blockade of the South Atlantic coast of the United States.

Location of Originals

Originals are held by the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, Massachusetts.

Access Restrictions

No restrictions on access; this collection is open for research.

Related Materials

Samuel Francis du Pont papers (Accession WMSS:IX), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Language of Materials

English


Additional Information

Related Names

Creator

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
Samuel Francis Du Pont letters (photocopies)
Status:
Author:
John Beverly Riggs
Date:
1970
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
English
Script of description:
Latin

Revision Statements

  • 2021: Ashley Williams

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Contact:
PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA
302-658-2400