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Samuel Francis Du Pont letters to Charles G. Halpine (photocopies)

Accession: 0934


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). The two letters from du Pont to Charles G. Halpine (1829-1868) are written during the Civil War and relate to ironclads and the evacuation of Charleston, South Carolina.


  • 1863-1865



2 item(s)

Physical Description

Photocopy transcripts.

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.

Biographical Note

Charles Graham Halpine (1829-1868), a New York author, journalist, military officer, and politician, was born Charles Boyton Halpin in Oldcastle, County Meath, Ireland, the son of a Church of Ireland clergyman and editor of the Dublin Evening Mail. Having studied medicine and law at Trinity College and written for various newspapers in Dublin and London, he emigrated to New York in 1851. He became the co-editor of The Carpet-bagger, worked at the New York herald and The New York times, and in 1857 became the principal editor of The leader. Halpine then left journalism to enter politics. He served as private secretary of Stephen A. Douglas, and became a member of the general committee of Tammany Hall. In April 20, 1861 Halpine enlisted in Company D of the 69th New York State Militia. Since August 1861 he held various positions with the General Volunteers and obtained a staff position with General David Hunter. He assisted Hunter in organizing the first troop of Negro soldiers to be mustered into Federal Service. Throughout his military service, he continuted to write for northern newspapers (often under the guise of his invented character Private Miles O'Reilly). Halpine was twice breveted for gallantry and distinguished service and ended the War as a brigadier general. He then returned to New York City politics, led a reform ticket in city government, an assumed the editorship of The Citizen, a reform newspaper.

Scope and Contents

Photocopies of two letters from Samuel Francis du Pont (1803-1865) to Charles G. Halpine (1829-1868). The first letter, May 27, 1863, commends Halpine for his article about the ironclads. The second letter, June 15, 1865, concerns the evacuation of Charleston, South Carolina, and the vindication of du Pont's course of action that it afforded.

Location of Originals

Originals held at the Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

Access Restrictions

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

Use Restrictions

Not to be reproduced. Permissions must be obtained from the Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

Related Materials

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

Language of Materials


Additional Information

Related Names


Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Samuel Francis Du Pont letters to Charles G. Halpine (photocopies)
John Beverly Riggs
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Revision Statements

  • 2021: Ashley Williams

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA