|Rear Admiral Samuel Francis Du Pont
(September 27, 1803 – June 23, 1865)
He was the fourth child and second surviving son of Victor Marie du Pont and his wife, Gabrielle Joséphine de la Fite de
Pelleport. He was born in New Jersey. Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours, the famous French economist and diplomat,
was his paternal grandfather. Du Pont de Nemours had been an adviser to Louis XVI during the last years of the
monarchy, but during the revolution he had sided with the moderate Girondists. When Robespierre ascended to power,
he was imprisoned and in 1799 made the decision to emigrate with his family to the United States. He planned to found a
company for land and commercial development that would be managed by his two sons, Victor and Eluethere Irénée.
Moving south, he was raised near his uncle's, Eleuthère Irénée du Pont, gunpowder mills in northern Delaware. While
there, Du Pont attended Mount Airy Academy in Germantown, PA.
James Madison appointed him a midshipman in the United States Navy, an aide to Commodore Charles Stewart aboard
U.S.S. Franklin. He was a native of New Jersey, but received his appointment in the navy from the State of Delaware, of
which he was a citizen, in December, 1815. Up to the time of the Port Royal expedition he had spent nearly twenty-two
years in active service at sea, and about eight years in duty on shore, the balance of his time having been unemployed.
Only twelve, Du Pont received his midshipman's warrant in 1815 and embarked on the ship of the line USS Franklin (74
guns) in the European theater. During three years at sea, he visited the Isle of Wight, Italy, and Algeria. After six years
in the service, he moved to the frigates USS Constitution and USS Congress in the West Indies and the coast of Brazil.
A gifted navigator, Du Pont was warranted as a sailing master in 1825 and saw service in the Mediterranean aboard
USS North Carolina. The ship sailed from Hampton Roads in March 1825 with more than 1,000 officers and men.
Although not yet a commissioned officer, he was appointed sailing master. The North Carolina's mission was to assert
American power and prestige in the Mediterranean. On this voyage, Du Pont served under Captain John Rodgers, who
at the time was the Navy's senior officer. On this trip he befriended a fellow midshipman, Alexander Slidell MacKenzie,
the younger brother of John Slidell, who in the 1840s was to serve as both a congressman and emissary to Mexico.
During his service on the North Carolina, du Pont passed his examinations and was promoted to lieutenant. After a year,
he was ordered aboard USS Porpoise. The assignment was brief as he received news of his father's death in 1827 and
returned home. Remaining in Delaware for over two years, Du Pont resumed active duty in August 1829 when he served
aboard the sloop of war USS Ontario in Europe again. He set sail for Constantinople and the Eastern Mediterranean.
After four years, he moved through a series of assignments in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean before returning to the
Mediterranean on USS Ohio.
When du Pont returned home in June 1833 from his voyage on the Ontario, he married his first cousin, Sophie
Madeleine du Pont, the daughter of Irénée.
In June, 1836, he commanded the Warren, attached to the squadron of Commodore A.J. Dallas, cruising in the West
Indies. He then bore the commission of a Lieutenant. He also served on the Constellation and the Grampus. On the
Ohio the flagship of Corn Hull he returned to the Mediterranean squadron where he served through 1841.
Promoted to commander in 1842, he received command of the brig USS Perry with orders to sail for China. This
assignment was cut short due to illness and in 1845 he took command of Commodore Robert Stockton's flagship, USS
In 1845, he commanded the frigate Congress. She was, at that time, the flag-ship of Commodore Robert F. Stockton,
and carried out Mr. Ten Eyck, United States Commissioner to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii).
In 1846 he was Commander of the sloop-of-war Cyane, at the time attached to the squadron of Commodore Shurrick, in
in July 1846, Du Pont embarked Lieutenant Colonel John G. Frémont's California Battalion. He sailed from Monterey for
San Diego, he landed 160 soldiers of Fremont and aided in securing the town. He asked the town's Mexican authorities
to raise the American flag. They refused so he ordered his executive officer Lieutenant Stephen Rowan to take the town.
United States Ship Cyane,
Port of San Diego, Wednesday, July 29th, 1846
Commodore R. F. Stockton, Commander-in-Chief, etc.,
United States Frigate Congress,
I have to report that, after a rapid passage, I anchored here at meridian today, and at 4 o'clock p.m. the American flag
was hoisted by Lieutenant Rowan, and the place immediately garrisoned by the marine guard. So soon as time had
been allowed for this, Brevet-Major Fremont landed with a portion of his troops; the boats having pulled some distance
up the river, it was not possible nor necessary to make a second trip, but all will follow at daylight. Owing to the scarcity
of water, the camp will have to be located near the Presidio. Immediately after our arrival two or three mounted men
appeared at the port, and on the heights, reconnoitring, and soon after a band of horses, some owned by Americans,
were driven off, from near the hide-houses, with great speed. This operation, witnessed from the ship, was performed by
Andreas Pico, a brother to Pio Pico. * * *
I have directed Lieutenant Rowan to secure him, as the possession of his person, besides command any number of
horses, will be of service otherwise; it is thought he will give himself up on parole. Upon an emphatic demand being
made of the Prefect, the horses driven off were brought back in the evening.
I have further to inform you that I arrived just in time to prevent the sailing of the Juanita, hermaphrodit brig, that was
unmooring when we came in. She came in here with a Mexican flag, having been to Mazatlan with a Mexican pass; so
reports her supercargo. Immediately on hoisting our colors she showed the Hawaiian flag; her crew were shipped today;
the second Alcalde of San Diego was on board of her, and Andreas Pico had been down just before we anchored. She
gave out that she was bound to San Pedro; but if the report that Castro is nine miles from here to be true, my
impression is that he was to have embarked in her this afternoon; if not, to go on board of her at some near point on the
coast. She has recently changed owners; her captain is at the Pueblo, according to the supercargo, detained there on
business, but, by the mate's account, by sickness. Altogether being very suspicious, I took upon myself to detain her for
the present, and thus cut off Castro's retreat by sea.
The little chart of the coast I had was of service, though not correct by any means. I intend to have a line of soundings
run. I found this ship very deficient in her supply of charts, Arrowsmith's being very incorrect; fortunately I had the
coarse lithographed one of this part of the coast, procured at the Sandwich Islands, which is more accurate. This was
fortunate, for I had no observations from the day I left until yesterday. We saw a small island northwest by west from San
Miguel, and passed within a mile of it; not laid down on any chart here, and I believe on no other.
This, sir, is the amount of information which the first day's arrival has enabled me to report. I shall avail myself of every
opportunity to inform you of events in this quarter.
I have the honor to be, sir, which great respect, your obedient servant,
S. F. Du Pont,
Commander, United States Navy.
Moving south, Du Pont conducted attacks along the coast of Baja California and captured over thirty Mexican vessels.
He spiked the guns of San Blas, and entered the harbor of Guaymas, burning two gunboats and cutting out a Mexican
brig under a heavy fire. These operations cleared the Gulf of Callfornia of hostile ships, thirty of which were taken or
destroyed. He took possession of La Paz, the capital of Lower California. He was made commander of the California
naval blockade. He saw active service on the Coast of California. On November 11,1847, he aided in the capture of
Mazatlán before taking part in the fighting around San José del Cabo three months later in February, 1848, he landed at
San Jose, with one hundred marines and sailors, and, defeating and dispersing a Mexican force five times as numerous,
rescued a small party under Lieut. Heywood, who had been beleaguered in the mission-house.
Establishment of the Naval Academy
He was a member of the board that established the Naval Academy at Annapolis. In 1849, Secretary of the navy George
Bancroft asked him to help draw up a curriculum for the naval academy at Annapolis. Du Pont briefly served as
superintendent of the new US Naval Academy in 1850. An advocate for modernizing the navy, he pressed for increased
emphasis on engineering and steam power. He was among the leaders who organized
the academy at Annapolis and, under his direction, the curriculum included courses on engineering, mathematics,
steam, and chemistry. He studied using steam to power ships, helped upgrade the Lighthouse Service’s aids to
navigation. Leaving Annapolis later that year, he felt the post should be held by an older officer.
In 1851, du Pont was asked to analyze the impact that steam power was likely to have on America's defense and its
existing system of coastal fortifications. In six months he produced a twenty-eight page Report on the National Defenses,
in which he articulated a strategy for modern naval warfare.
Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations
In 1853, Du Pont was asked to oversee the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations in New York City. A World's Fair-type
of event, the Exhibition was well-received, but failed turn a profit. Promoted to captain in 1855, Du Pont worked to reform
the US Navy.
Naval Efficiency Board
Long an outspoken critic of political influence in the service, Du Pont served on the Naval Efficiency Board and worked
to oust incompetent officers. In 1865 Du Pont persuaded James Dobbin, Secretary of the navy to take action against the
deadwood in the navy. February 1855, Congress passed an act to Promote the Efficiency of the Navy.” Its object was to
professionalize the service by forcing incompetent officers into retirement and promoting young, talented midshipmen.
Secretary James Dobbin asked du Pont to draft a report supporting the legislation, which he did with considerable
enthusiasm. Throughout most of his career, du Pont had been very critical of many of his superior officers, and he saw
that the Navy now had an opportunity to reform itself by installing a merit system of promotion. In June he was appointed
to the fifteen man Naval Efficiency Board, where he became a leading advocate for reform. He served with Cornelius
Stribling, Andrew Foot, Frank Buchanan and Samuel Barron among others. In five months of deliberations, the board
reviewed the careers of 712 officers and recommended that 201 be dismissed. Congress however backtracked and
allowed officers to appeal their cases to a court of inquiry that reinstated sixty-two of them.
The USS Minnesota
After two years ashore in 1856 he received the rank of captain and command of the steam frigate USS Minnesota with
orders to transport William Reed, the new US minister to China, to Beijing. While in Chinese waters, Du Pont witnessed
Franco-British operations during the Second Opium War notably their capture of the Chinese forts on the Peiho.. After
visiting Japan, India, and Arabia, Minnesota returned to Boston in 1859.
du Pont returned to Wilmington where he remained until March 22, 1860. In 1860, a delegation of 76 Japanese men
traveled to the United States on an ambassadorial mission. They were the first Japanese to leave their homeland in
more than 200 years. When the Japanese sent their first ambassador to the United States, he was asked to serve as an
official escort. Together with two fellow officers, Commander Sidney Smith Lee and Lieutenant David Dixon Porter, he
accompanied the ambassador's party on a three-month visit to Washington, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. This trip
proved to be a help in Japanese-American relations and helped open up Japan to U.S. trade and investment. After this
assignment was completed, du Pont was appointed commandant of the Philadelphia Navy Yard, and he assumed that
he would end his career in this position.
The Philadelphia Navy Yard
With his career winding down, Du Pont accepted command of the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Prior to the breaking out of
the rebellion he had command of the Philadelphia Navy yard.
He took the most prompt and energetic measures, on his own responsibility, when communications were cut off with
Washington, sending a naval force to the Chesapeake to protect the landing of troops at Annapolis before overseeing a
board which developed plans for a blockade of the Confederacy. During the summer and early fall of 1861, Du Pont
cemented a close relationship with Assistant Secretary of the Navy Gustavus V. Fox, according to Du Pont biographer
James M. Merrill. Merrill noted that Du Pont began “exercising considerable influence with the Navy Department. Fox had
confidence in his judgment, and the two men commenced a friendship, based on an appreciation of each other’s
qualities.“ DuPont was appointed a senior member of the Commission of Conference to establish naval operations for
the North at the outbreak of the Civil War. Elevated to flag officer, he took command of the South Atlantic Blockading
Squadron in October 1861. This force was tasked with blockading the Confederate coast from Virginia to Key West, FL.
He was then given command of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, the largest fleet ever commanded by a naval
officer up to that time.
Washington, Sept. 18, 1861
To Honorable Gideon Welles,
Secretary of the Navy:
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the Departments order of this date, appointing me to command the
Southern Atlantic Blockading Squadron. This mark of confidence, with its grave responsibilities, was not looked for by
me, but with god's support and direction, I trust I shall not disappoint the Department.
The order of today was doubtless intended to give vigor to the execution of the Department's previous instructions to
me; and I avail myself of this occasion to offer a suggestion in reference to the expeditions ordered by the Department,
which may aid in giving them such efficiency as circumstances will permit.
On the Southern Atlantic coast, the Department is aware that these expeditions cannot have the covering support of our
great steam frigates, as at Hatteras; and which the ships purchased and converted into ships-of-war by the remarkable
energy of the Department are of the utmost value, not only for blockading, but attacking, it would be very desirable that
these should not be the first to come under fire of the forts; not so much because their guns are lighter, but owing to
their very light scantling, ---a point which the practical knowledge of the Assistant Secretary will fully appreciate.
If the Department, therefore, can spare me for a short time the Pawnee, Iroquois, Seminole, and Mohican, carrying as
they do eleven-inch guns, with the three or four gunboats which I earnestly trust will be finished in time, we shall have a
force calculated to stand the brunt of the first attack from the forts.
So soon as the expeditions are through, these valuable vessels can be apportioned to the different squadrons, as the
Department may deem best; remarking only, that the general composition of the Southern Atlantic Squadron should be
of vessels of light draft.
On the receipt of my first orders, the Department kindly promised that a special battalion of three hundred marines
should be attached to my command; and the Colonel Commandant of the corps received orders accordingly. Will the
Department please renew its order, in view of the very short time left us now to be ready.
With great respect, I am, sir, faithfully, your obedient servant,
S. F. Du Pont,
Captain Commanding Southern Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
Port Royal (Capture of Port Royal)
The most brilliant event connected with his name was the capture of Port Royal, in November, 1861. He had bean
consulted by the Secretary of the Navy with reference to the occupation of some central harbor or depot on the
southern coast, and, having recommended Fort Royal, he was put in command of the South Atlantic Blockading
Squadron, and entrusted with the special duty of attacking that place. He sailed from Fortress Monroe, Oct. 29, in his
flag-ship, the Wabash, accompanied by a fleet of fifty sail, comprising the vessels of war of his squadron, and transports
conveying the land forces under Gen. T. W. Sherman. On Nov. 4 and 5 the fleet, after having been scattered by a
violent storm, rendezvoused off Port Royal, and on the 7th, an attack was made upon two strong forts on Hilton Head
and Bay Point, which defended the harbor. After a severe engagement of four hours, in which the squadron, led by the
Wabash, steamed thrice in an elliptical course between the forts, delivering their fire at each, in turn, the enemy
evacuated their works, abandoning everything but their muskets. Flag-Officer Du Pont followed up this advantage with
vigor at different points along the Southern coast, the naval operations against which were invariably attended with
success. He also succeeded in enforcing a more effective blockade than the Union fleets had been able previously to
maintain. Receiving the thanks of Congress for Port Royal, Du Pont then captured Tybee, GA, opening the way for the
capture of Fort Pulaski, as well as secured St. Mary's, Fernandina, Jacksonville and St. Augustine in Florida. In August,
1862, he was nominated by the President one of the nine Rear-Admirals on the active list.
In 1863, however, DuPont, leading a fleet of ironclads, failed to take Charleston and suffered the worst naval defeat of
the war. Though he believed the city could not be taken without putting troops ashore, Du Pont attacked the Charleston
harbor defenses on April 7, 1863. Battling the Confederate guns and difficult currents, Du Pont's ships were forced back
after less than two hours of fighting. Badly out-gunned, the ironclads fired 154 rounds while receiving 2,209 from the
Confederate forts. In the attack, five of the ironclads were badly damaged and one, USS Keokuk, ultimately sank the
following day. (This ship piloted by Robert Smalls.) Though two of Du Pont's monitors captured the ironclad CSS Atlanta
in June, he came under heavy criticism for the failed attack on Charleston. He asked to be relieved of his command and
was, thus ending rather ignominiously a forty-five-year career in the navy. As a result, he was relieved of his command
in July and replaced by Rear Admiral John Dahlgren.
The Admiral wrote a detailed report where the monitor captains had questioned the feasibility of their vessels for the
mission entrusted to them. Du Pont’s correspondence with the department, warning of the perils of Charleston, should
likewise be spread upon the public record. Lincoln replied blandly that much of this information was new to him.” The
President told Davis that “he had begun to suspect that the enterprise was a department pet – something which had
been kept for the navy alone.” Despite these statements, Du Pont was effectively scapegoated for his failure to capture
Charleston. Naval historian William F. Fowler, Jr., wrote: “Du Pont’s decision brought a barrage of venomous attacks in
the northern press and in the corridors of the Navy Department. The Chicago Times reported that Welles and Fox
believed Du Pont to be an “incompetent and a coward.” The Senate and the House demanded that the secretary
forward to them dispatches relating to the failure at Charleston. Du Pont provided evidence, supported by his captains,
that to attack again with the monitors was ‘madness’ and ‘sheer folly.’ Fox and Welles refused to give in, and in both
public and private they continued to aim their barbs at Du Pont.”
The decision was made to replace Du Pont, according to Secretary Welles, who wrote in his diary: “Du Pont is pleasant
in manner and one of the most popular officer in the Navy...” John Dahlgren was not the Administration’s first choice for
the post. William O. Stoddard, an aide to President Lincoln, wrote in an anonymous newspaper dispatch in early June:
“The sending [of] Admiral Foote to relieve Dupont sic in the command of the fleet of Charleston, naturally leads the
public mind to place some reliance on the complaints, which have been so freely made of the old-fogyism and
dilatoriness of the latter. Du Pont certainly has done good service, and accomplished many important undertakings, but
if he cannot keep step with the rapid march of improvement in naval warfare, he must needs give way to some man who
can, His success in the command of the fleet off Charleston is a man in whom the people have great faith, and from
whom they will expect very much.”
Gideon Welles, Diary April 20, 1863
"Received Admiral Du Pont's detailed report with those of his officers. The document is not such as I should have
expected from him a short time ago, but matters of late prevent me from feeling any real disappointment. Fox went last
night to New York in anticipation of such a report. The tone and views of the sub-reports have the ring, or want of ring,
of the Admiral in command. Discouragement when there should be encouragement. A pall is thrown over all. Nothing
has been done, and it is the recommendation of all, from the Admiral down, that no effort be made to do anything. (Du
Pont) has got his subordinates to sustain him in a proceeding that his sense of right tells him is wrong.
I am by no means confident that we are acting wisely in expending so much strength and effort on Charleston, a place of
no strategic importance, but it is lamentable to witness the tone, language, absence of vitality and vigor, and want of
zeal among so many of the best officers of the service. I cannot be mistaken as to the source and cause. A magnetic
power in the head, which should have inspired and stimulated them, is wanting; they have been discouraged instead of
being encouraged, depressed not strengthened."
Gideon Welles, Diary April 21, 1863
"He says he never advised the attack and complains of a telegram from the President more than of the dispatch from
the Department. If he never advised the attack, he certainly never discouraged it, and, until since that attack, I had
supposed no man in the country was more earnest on the subject than he. How have I been thus mistaken? It has been
his great study for many months, the subject of his visit, of his conversation, his correspondence. When Du Pont was
here last fall, Dahlgren sought, as a special favor, the privilege of taking command, under Du Pont, of the attack on
Charleston, --- to lead in the assault."
Gideon Welles, Diary May 25, 1863
Good officers have warned me against him (Du Pont) as a shrewd intriguer, but I have hoped to get along with him, for I
valued his general intelligence, critical abilities, and advice. but I perceive that in all things he never forgets Du Pont. His
success at Port Royal has made him feel that he is indispensable to the service. The modern changes in naval warfare
and in naval vessels are repugnant to him; and to the turret vessels he has a declared aversion. He has been active in
schemes to retire officers; he is now at work to retire ironclads and impair confidence in them. As yet he professes
respect and high regard for me personally, but he is not an admirer of the President, and has got greatly out with Fox,
who has been his too partial friend.
Major General Hunter to the President relative to Rear-Admiral DuPont's refusal to co-operate.
Headquarters Department Of The South, Hilton Head, Port Royal, South Carolina, May 22, 1863.
Dear Sir: It is more than six weeks since the attack by the iron-clads upon Charleston—an attack in which, from the
nature of the plans of Admiral DuPont, the army had no active part.
On the day of that attack the troops under my command held Folly island up to Light-house inlet. On the morning after
the attack we were in complete readiness to cross Light-house inlet to Morris island, where, once established, the fall of
Sumter would have been as certain as the demonstration of a problem in mathematics. Aided by a cross-fire from the
navy, the enemy would soon have been driven from Cumminga's Point; and with powerful batteries of one and two
hundred-pounder rifled guns placed there, Fort Sumter would have been rendered untenable in two days' fire. Fort
Pulaski was breached and taken from Goat's Point, on Tybee island, a precisely similar proposition, with 32-pounder
Parrott guns, 42-pounder James's guns, and a few 10-inch Columbians; the 13-inch mortars used in that bombardment
having proved utterly valueless. I mention these things to show how certain would have been the fall of Fort Sumter
under the fire of the one and two hundred-pounders rifled now at my command.
On the afternoon after the iron-clad attack on Fort Sumter, the troops on Folly island were not only ready to cross Light-
house inlet, but were almost in the act, the final reconnoissance having been made, the boats ready, and the men under
arms for crossing, when they were recalled, as I hoped merely temporarily, by the announcement of Admiral DuPont that
he had resolved to retire, and that, consequently, we could expect no assistance from the navy.
Immediately the admiral was waited upon by an officer of my staff, who represented the forwardness of our preparations
for crossing, the evidently unprepared condition of the enemy to receive us, while any delay, now that our intentions
were unmasked, would give the enemy time to erect upon the southern end of Morris island, commanding Light-house
inlet, those works and batteries which he had heretofore neglected. To these considerations, earnestly and elaborately
urged, the admiral's answer was that "he would not fire another shot."
A lodgment on Morris island was thus made impossible for us, the enemy having powerful works on the island, more
especially at the northern end, out of which we could not hope to drive him unless aided by a cross-fire from the navy. I
therefore determined to hold what we had got until the admiral should have had time to repair his vessels; and to this
hour we hold every inch of ground on Folly and Cole's and Seabrook's islands that we held on the day of the expected
Since then I have exercised patience with the admiral, and have pushed forward my works and batteries on Folly island
with unremitting diligence; the enemy meanwhile, thoroughly aroused to their danger, throwing up works that completely
commanded Light-house inlet, on the southern end of Morris island; so that the crossing which could have been
effected in a couple of hours and with little sacrifice six weeks ago, will now involve, whenever attempted, protracted
operations and a very serious loss of life. And to what end should this sacrifice be made without the co-operation of the
navy? Even when established on the southern end of Morris island, the northern end, with its powerful works and
commanded by the fire of Forts Sumter and Johnson, would still remain to be possessed. The sacrifice would be of no
avail without the aid of the navy; and I have been painfully but finally convinced that from the navy no such aid is to be
expected. I fear Admiral DnPont distrusts the iron-clads so much that he has resolved to do nothing with them this
summer; and therefore I most urgently beg of you to liberate me from those orders to "co-operate with the navy, which
now tie me down to share the admiral's inactivity. Remaining in our present situation, we do not even detain one soldier
of the enemy from service elsewhere. I am well satisfied that they have already sent away from Charleston and
Savannah all the troops not absolutely needed to garrison the defences, and these will have to remain in the works
whether an enemy be in sight or not.
Liberate me from this order to "co-operate with the navy in an attack on Charleston," and I will immediately place a
column of ten thousand of the best drilled soldiers in the country (as unquestionably are the troops of this department)
in the heart of Georgia, our landing and marching being made through counties in which, as shown by the census, the
slave population is seventy-five per cent of the inhabitants. Nothing is truer, sir, than that this rebellion has left the
southern States a mere hollow shell. If we avoid their few strongholds, where they have prepared for and invited us to
battle, we shall meet no opposition in a total devastation of their resources; thus compelling them to break up their large
armies and garrisons at a few points into scores of small fractions of armies for the protection of every threatened or
assailable point. I will guarantee, with the troops now fruitlessly though laboriously occupying Folly and Seabrook
islands, and such other troops as can be spared from the remaining posts of this department, to penetrate into Georgia,
produce a practical dissolution of the slave system there, destroy all railroad communication along the eastern portion of
the State, and lay waste all stores which can possibly be used for the sustenance of the rebellion.
My troops are in splendid health and discipline, and, in my judgment, are more thoroughly in sympathy with the policy of
the government than any other equal body of men in the service of the United States to-day. With the exception of one
brigadier general and one colonel commanding a brigade, there is not an officer of any consequence in the command
who is not heart and soul in favor of prosecuting this war by any and every means likely to insure success. Only once
liberate me from enforced waiting on the action of those who, I fear, are not likely to do anything, and I promise you that I
will give full employment to twice or thrice my number of the enemy; and that while Rosecrans threatens Bragg in front, I
will interrupt his communications, threaten his rear, and spread a panic through the country.
In this connexion, I would ask, if possible, for a regiment of cavalry, and that the brigade sent by me to the relief of Major
General Foster may be ordered back from North Carolina. If no cavalry can be spared, then that five hundred horses
and a thousand saddles and equipments may be sent to me immediately. Also, that the pikes drawn for my chief of
ordnance may be supplied immediately; these weapons being the simplest and most effective that can be placed in the
hands of the slaves who are liberated in our march into the interior.
In conclusion, I would again call attention to my request to be endowed with the same powers entrusted to Adjutant
General Thomas, for raising colored regiments and giving commissions to their officers. I think this of the utmost
importance, as each commission promptly given to a deserving non-commissioned officer or private has the effect of
conciliating the sentiment of the regiment from which the appointee is taken; and it is of the utmost importance that the
experiment of colored soldiers should have the hearty acquiescence of the troops with whom they arc to serve.
I deem this matter of so much importance, and am so weary of inactivity, that I send this letter by special steamer to
Fortress Monroe, and have instructed the captain of the vessel to wait for your reply.
I have the honor to he, sir, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
Major General, Commanding. His Excellency A. Lincoln,
President of the United States.
Flag Ship Wabash,
Port Royal Harbor, S. C., June 3d, 1863
Hon. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy,
Washington, D. C.:
Sir: -- I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the Department's communication on the 14th ultimo, informing me
of the receipt of my several dispatches, accompanied by the reports of the commanding officers who participated in the
attack on the 7th of April last.
The tone of this communication is so different from the one which immediately followed it, dated on the 15th ultimo, and
to which I have already replied by the Arago, that I desire to answer it more at length, and to meet the statements of the
Department, as contained therein, as fully as may be in my power, and with every mark of consideration due to its
I am well aware, as the Department observes, that the results at Charleston were not all that were wished for; and I quite
agree with the Department that there was, nevertheless, much in them that was gratifying; particularly that the loss of life
was so small, and the capacity of the iron-clads for enduring the hot and heavy fire brought to bear upon them, which
would have destroyed any vessels of wood heretofore used in warfare, was made so evident; but I must take leave to
remind the Department that the ability to endure is not a sufficient element wherewith to gain victories; that endurance
must be accompanied with a corresponding power to inflict injury upon the enemy; and I will improve the present
occasion to repeat the expression of a conviction, which I have already conveyed to the Department in former letters,
that the weakness of the monitor class of vessels in this latter important particulars is fatal to their attempts against
fortifications having outlying obstructions, as at the Ogeechee, and at Charleston, or against other fortifications upon
elevations, as at Fort Darling, or against any modern fortifications before which they much anchor, or lie at rest, and
receive much more than they can return. With even their diminished surface they are not invulnerable, and their various
mechanical contrivances for working their turrets and guns are so liable to immediate derangement, that in the brief
through fierce engagement at Charleston, five out of the eight were disabled; and, as I mentioned in my detailed report
to the Department, half an hour more fighting would, in my judgement, have placed them all hors de combat.
The Department refers to its order of the 11th of April, and to a telegram from the President, which directed the
retention of the military forces of the United States near to Charleston in view of operations elsewhere; and the
Department states its impression that these dispatches were not in unison with my convictions; and expresses its regret
that I should have been pained by their nature, when nothing was further from the intentions of the President, or of the
Department, than a design to censure me in those communications.
The letter of the Department, of the 11th of April, was unexceptionable; but I certainly did consider the telegram of the
President as implying a censure upon myself; and I desire most respectfully to submit, as some evidence that such a
belief was not unreasonably entertained by me, that the President, with great kindness, in a second dispatch, and
before he could have know what impression his first had made, took occasion to state, much to my gratification, that he
had not intended to censure me.
In regard to the subject matter of the order of the Department of the 11th of April, and to that of the accompanying
telegram, I desire to state here that the order of the Department of the 2d of April had been received by me on the 9th,
and was so imperative and so fully explanatory of the reasons for making it, that I had, as mentioned in my dispatch, No.
267, proceeded on the 12th, as soon as was practicable, to Port Royal with the monitors, to put them under repairs
before sending them to their new destination. The order of the 11th, and the telegram, found me here in compliance of
this previous order of April 2d.
It was in replying to this telegram, which I then believed to imply a censure upon my action at Charleston, that I deemed
it due to myself to state that I had never advised the attack on Charleston; and I perceive the Department has taken
especial exception to this expression, and has dwelt upon it at considerable length in its letter to which I am now
replying. A reference to my correspondence with the Department, and more particularly to my letters to the Assistant
Secretary of the Navy, will certainly show that I never advised the attack on Charleston at all; but that, if made, it should
be accompanied by a sufficient number of troops to insure success; and an inspection of this correspondence, which,
with the Assistant Secretary, was constantly maintained, and which put him, and, as I supposed, the Department also, in
full possession of my views as to every matter connected with my command, will relieve me, I feel assured, from the
imputation that I did not keep the Department sufficiently advised of my opinions as to the operations contemplated on
this coast. And I beg to refer to the same correspondence, as containing all the information obtained by me from every
source, in regard to the defences of Charleston; and if, after such information, Charleston harbor continued to be a
sealed book to the Department, it was equally so to me.
The Department in continuing its remarks upon the want of such information from me as the admiral commanding,
observes, nevertheless, "that the feasibility and probable results of the demonstrations that were to be made, had been
canvassed and fully understood when I visited Washington last autumn."
The Honorable Secretary will remember how very few words passed on the subject between him and myself. It was,
however, more fully discussed with the Assistant Secretary, who proposed that I should return to my station by way of
Hampton roads, in order that we might further canvass the matter, and he accompanied me that far from Washington.
But nothing was matured, and for the reason that all was still in the vague future. Not a new iron-clad, except the New
Ironsides was yet finished and the original monitor was on the dock in the Washington Navy Yard. The defects of the
New Ironsides were glaring, particularly the contracted size of her pilot-house, and its improper location behind the
enormous smokestack, shutting out all view ahead, and most materially interfering with the management of the vessel in
battle; defects painfully realized in the attack on Charleston.
I remember, however, that in our discussion, the confidence of the Assistant Secretary in the monitor class of vessels
was so profound as to lead him to say that one monitor alone would cause the immediate evacuation of Charleston;
upon which occasion, not entertaining such unlimited faith in the powers of those vessels, nor disposed to underrate an
enemy, I took the liberty of reminding him that one monitor, aided by the Galena and Naugatuck, both iron-clads, with
several wooden gunboats, had failed to take Fort Darling, notwithstanding the great gallantry displayed on that occasion.
The Department will therefore perceive that when I left Washington there was really nothing matured, though i was firmly
impressed with the fixed determination of the Department that Charleston should be attacked, and that, with the iron-
clads, the attack must be successful.
The powers and adaptability of these vessels were as much a sealed book to me as the defences of Charleston to the
Department; but under all the circumstances, to wit, the imperfect knowledge of those defences, and of the powers of
the iron-clads, in which the Department had expressed unbounded confidence, no officer could hesitate to make the
experiment,-- and I gave to it my whole heart and energy, not hesitating to ask the Department for all the iron-clads that
could be spared; and I am happy to say that the Department spared no pains to increase the force of those vessels.
While preparations were making, and the completion of the monitors was going on, the trials in the Ogeechee took
place. As the Department is aware, the results here were most discouraging. Two attacks, successively made by one
monitor, with gunboats and a mortar vessel, had no effect on a fort of seven guns, protected with piling and torpedoes.
This was followed by a bombardment of eight hours with three monitors, with the gunboats and three mortar vessels,
and, as before, with a like result. The injuries to the monitors were extensive, and their offensive powers found to be
feeble in dealing with forts, particularly earthworks.
It may, perhaps, be said that it was my duty to have placed before the Department, in more emphatic terms than were
used by me, the deductions to be drawn from these preliminary trials; for if three monitors, with gunboats and mortar
vessels, following two previous trials on Fort McAllister, with one monitor and the wooden boats, had failed to reach or
take a seven-gun battery, how were eight or nine iron-clads, of all kinds, to capture the defences of Charleston,
consisting of continuous lines of works and forts extending for several miles, and mounting some hundreds of guns of
improved make, and with a more complicated and more formidable system of obstructions? But as these were
deductions patent on the perusal of my dispatches, I did not deem it necessary to do more than lay all the facts of those
trials before the Department for its judgment and decision; and in my dispatch, No. 41, written as early as January 28th,
1863, I expressed myself as follows:
"My own previous impressions of these vessels, frequently expressed to Assistant Secretary Fox, have been confirmed;
viz., that whatever degree of impenetrability they might have, there was no corresponding quality of aggression or
destructiveness, as against forts."
"This experiment also convinced me of another impression, firmly held and often expressed, that in all such operations,
to secure success, troops are necessary."
These facts, however, seemed not to have changed the views of the Department; and, in accordance with its previous
orders, and its well-known determination to effect the capture of Charleston, I determined to make the experiment, and
to risk, and possibly lose, whatever of prestige pertained to a long and successful professional career, in order to meet
the necessities of the war, and the wishes of the Government.
The experiment was made; and, in my opinion, sufficiently, thoroughly, and conclusively. That it did not succeed in
capturing the forts, and the city of Charleston, is a matter of regret as keen and of disappointment as great to myself,
and to those who shared in it, as can be felt by the Department, or by the country. It was not, however, without important
results; for it established anew the supremacy of artillery in forts, as against floating batteries, and confirmed the truth of
the opinions expressed by me, in my previous dispatches, that in all such operations, to secure success, troops are
Had the land forces, on this occasion, been at all adequate to the emergency, the result might have been all the country
desired. With the army in possession of the land approaches to Charleston, the attack from the sea could have been
pushed to desperation, and the sacrifice of some of the iron-clad vessels could then have been properly made, as they
would not have fallen into the hands of the enemy. But, unsupported by operations on shore, it would have been most
culpable waste of material, upon an unjustifiable forlorn hope, to have carried the assault by sea to extremities, with the
prospect of leaving a certain proportion of the iron-clads with the enemy, in condition, perhaps, to be raised and
repaired by him, and afterwards used, from interior lines, most effectively against wooden blockaders.
The Department expresses disappointment at not receiving from me suggestions in regard to future movements.
I stated to the Department in my first report, on the 8th of April, that, in my judgment, to renew the attack would convert a
failure into a disaster, and that Charleston could not be taken by a purely naval attack. In my detailed report of the 15th
of April, I repeated that it was wholly impracticable to take Charleston with the naval force under my command.
In making the above declarations without reserve, with a full knowledge of the responsibility involved, and under a high
sense of duty, regardless of consequences to myself, I thought that I would, at the same time, be relieving the
Department of all embarrassment in reference to any immediate movements, and that the Department would appreciate
my motives in so doing.
I did not, therefore, make any suggestions; but waited to hear from the Department in acknowledgment of my reports;
and I deeply regret to say, that the long and unusual silence maintained by the Department has been to me a cause of
very sore disappointment.
Coming out of a battle of so novel a character as to attract the attention of the world, and being the most momentous
event in the service of this squadron since its victory in this harbor, the admiral commanding feels that he had a right to
look for ordinary official courtesy, if not for approval. The Department has declined to let my countrymen see my official
reports, and to this I submit; but the reasons assigned for this course surely did not preclude me from being honored by
an acknowledgment of the receipt of my dispatches in the usual course of mail. For such acknowledgment, however, I
waited in vain, until six weeks had elapsed after the battle; and I had the mortification of reading European comments
upon it before I received a line from the Department.
The favorable opportunity for the capture of Charleston presented itself when the gunboats first took possession of
Stono Inlet, and the army landed, under their protection, on James Island, which at that time was not strongly fortified.
The attack, however, failed from causes which it is not necessary to mention here, and the opportunity was lost.
James Island has been thoroughly protected since that event, and the labor upon the harbor defences has not ceased
since the fall of Sumter.
When I stated to the Department that, in my opinion, Charleston could not be taken by a purely naval attack, I wished to
be understood in the ordinary acceptation of those terms as used in war, and as conveying the idea of measuring the
importance of the operation with its cost. I do not doubt that there is material enough in the country to accomplish this
result, in time; but nevertheless, obstructions in the way may be made insuperable, and to take a place it must first be
By a siege, and with the aid of iron-clads armed differently from the present monitors, whose turrets could be relied
upon to continue to turn, at least, for a few hours consecutively, and sufficient in number to relieve the disabled ones,
the forts can be gradually reduced so as to get at the obstructions, which cannot be removed at night, or during
daylight, by the monitors while under fire; but the Department will remember how opposed it was to taking Charleston by
siege, whether from Morris Island, or elsewhere.
The season for such joint co-operation is now passing away, as during the summer James Island is said to be too
unhealthy for whites to remain upon it. This, though bad for the enemy, would be fatal to our troops. It is probable,
taking into consideration the number and the strength of the forts upon James Island, that military science would indicate
Bull's Bay as the point from which the army should move. This bay was suggested as available for a base of operations
against Charleston, by the board convened by the Department in 1861.
If a joint operation, on a sufficient scale, is not to be undertaken at this moment, I see nothing to recommend now but to
endeavor to enforce the blockade of Charleston, which notwithstanding the presence there of a larger force than I have
had before it previously, is more evaded than ever.
The safety of the blockading force must also be looked to, and I respectfully and earnestly appeal to the Department to
contemplate the condition of the blockade of the whole coast from North Carolina to Florida. If, as seems probable, it
should have to contend with sea-going iron-clads of the enemy, preparing in their own waters, and abroad, it is to be
greatly feared that the monitors will not be equal to the occasion. They can protect the inside stations, but they are not
adapted for ocean work; and iron-clad vessels, that can cruise and keep the sea, are now absolutely needed. The want
of such vessels will be more imperatively felt as the events of this war continue to develop themselves, and I feel myself
greatly hampered at this moment, because the force under my command, so far as iron-clads are concerned, is
composed of vessels whose necessities require them to be kept in smooth water.
But as I have already called the attention of the Department to this subject in a special dispatch, I need not dwell any
further upon it at present.
Respectfully your obedient servant,
S. F. Du Pont,
Commanding South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
Flag Ship Wabash,
Port Royal Harbor, S. C., June 6th, 1863.
Letter relieving Rear-Admiral DuPont from command of South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
Navy Department, June 3, 1863.
Sir: Your dispatch, No. 267, under date of May 27, is received.
I do not find in this nor in any communication received from you since the 7th of April any proposition for a renewed
attack upon Charleston, or suggestions even for active operations against that place. No acknowledgment of the
dispatch which the President made jointly to yourself and General Hunter has been received at this department.
The government is unwilling to relinquish all further efforts upon a place that has been so conspicuous in this rebellion,
and which continues to stimulate treason and resistance to the Union and the government, and whose reduction is so
essential. I regret that you do not concur in these views, for your long experience upon the coast, the prestige of your
name, with your intelligence, profound skill, and your past success, had induced me to hope that you would lead in this
great measure, and that it might be the crowning achievement of a successful career.
From the tone of your letters it appears that your judgment is in opposition to a renewed attack on Charleston; and in
view of this fact, with your prolonged continuance on the blockade, the department has concluded to relieve you of the
command of the South Atlantic squadron, and to order Rear-Admiral Foote as your successor.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Secretary of the Nary.
Rear-Admiral S. F. Dupont,
Sfc., &fc., Port Royal, South Carolina.
Letter to General Gilmore
Flag Ship Wabash,
Port Royal Harbor, S. C., June 29th, 1863.
Brigadier - General Q. A. Gilmore, Commanding Department
of the South:
General : — I have delayed, until the arrival of the Arago, to reply to your communication of the 26th inst., in reference
to naval assistance and co-operation in proposed movements on your part.
As I expected, the Arago brings the information that I may look this week for my relief, Admiral Dahlgren, who will,
doubtless, bring instructions from the Government in reference to the subject matter of your letter; while I am in entire
ignorance of the same, having received neither orders nor intimations as to what was pending or intended, except that a
large party of workmen, with their superintendents, have been sent with orders to strengthen the monitors in a most
material manner, work which will take twelve weeks, by their estimates.
I have the pleasure to inform you that I have every expectation of getting an iron-clad, the Nantucket, across the Stono
bar at the coming spring tides, in accordance with your request; and shall direct the senior officer of the four vessels in
Stono to give all support and co-operation possible to the army there.
In reference to operations off Charleston, you will at once perceive that such operations, once commenced, could not be
discontinued; and I cannot, in justice to my successor, and in the absence of instructions, engage therein.
General, I trust I need not add how agreeable it would be to me to be associated with you again in operations on this
coast, impressed as I was by your efficiency and success while attached to the expeditionary corps; impressions which
have been much strengthened by your present energy and zeal.
Respectfully your obedient servant,
S. F. Du Pont,
Commanding South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
Final Word to Secretary of the Navy
Flag Ship Wabash,
Port Royal Harbor, S. C., July 5th, 1863.
Hon. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy:
Sir : — As I was preparing to hand over, at an early hour in the morning, the command of the South Atlantic Blockading
Squadron to Rear Admiral Dahlgren, in accordance with the orders of the Department, I received from the latter its
communication of the 27th of June, the latest date which has reached me, referring to the guns of the Keokuk.
Having indulged the hope that my command, covering a period of twenty-one months afloat, had not been without
results, I was not prepared" for a continuance of that censure from the Department which has characterized its letters to
me since the monitors failed to take Charleston.
I can only add now, that to an officer of my temperament, whose sole aim has been to do his whole duty, and who has
passed through forty-seven years of service without a word of reproof, these censures of the Navy Department would be
keenly felt, if I did not know they were wholly undeserved.
Very respectfully your obedient servant,
S. F. Du Pont.
Relieved of Command
Dahlgren received the command because Admiral Andrew Hull Foote, who was to command the Blockading Squadron
while Dahlgren commanded the force attacking Charleston, fell sick from an old wound. Within a month, Foote was
dead. Du Pont was replaced on July 5, 1863. According to naval historian Robert M. Browning, Jr., “The Secretary of the
Navy candidly told Dahlgren that his appointment had been in part made as a result of the wishes of the president. Fox
also likely had some input into the decision. Whereas Fox did not particularly like Dahlgren, he certainly was disgusted
with Du Pont. Fox probably also believed that Dahlgren, who had longed for this command, would be aggressive and
take Charleston. Welles advised Dahlgren that relieving Du Pont under these circumstances ‘involved some risk and
responsibility to both the Department and the recipient’ because this promotion would cause discontent and would not
be ‘lessened by this command.’” Du Pont’s challenge was not overcome by Dahlgren; Charleston did not fall to Union
forces until April 1865.
Army Navy Journal (March 11, 1865)
"So instead of the light-draught iron-clads, intended by the Government, easily built, shot proof against cannon
possessed by the enemy, and admirably calculated to meet the exigencies of the Service with dispatch, Mr. Stimers, who
was devoid of experience as a constructor, in his attempt to achieve distinction by changing Ericsson's plans, has made
himself responsible for the country's having passed through two years of pressing need without a light-draught
Before leaving this disagreeable subject, to which we hope it will be unnecessary again to allude, we must say without
intent to reflect upon Mr. Stimers with unnecessary severity, that his career since he left the original Monitor has inflicted
serious injury to the national cause; his improper conduct, to say the least, toward Admiral Dupont and his officers,
started the crusade against the iron-clads, and deeply injured the Navy Department.
Admiral Du Pont, the hero of one of the earliest and most brilliant naval victories of the war, died suddenly June 23,
1865 in the morning, at the La Pierro House, in Philadelphia. Buried at the du Pont family cemetery in Greeneville, DE,
he was the only member of the family to capitalize the "D" in their last name.
The Death of Rear Admiral Dupont.
Navy Department, Washington, June 23, 1865
General Orders No. 60
The Department announces to the Navy and to the Marine Corps, the death, this morning at Philadelphia, of Read-
Admiral Samuel F. Du Pont, United states Navy, after an honorable career of nearly fifty years in the services of his
This officer was distinguished for ability and acquirements in his profession, and filled with credit may important
positions, both ashore and afloat. He was especially distinguished for his decisive and splendid victory achieved at Port
Royal, S. C. on the 7th November, 1861 for which he received the thanks of Congress.
As a recognition of his distinguished services, and a mark of respect to his memory, it is hereby directed that at the Navy
Yard, Philadelphia, the flags will be hoisted at half mast tomorrow, and continue so until sunset of the day of his burial,
on which day, at noon, thirteen minute guns will be fired at noon.
Secretary of the Navy.
The funeral of Rear Admiral DuPont took place on Sunday last, at 1 p.m., at his residence near Wilmington. The
services were held in the family chapel of the DuPont family, Bishop Lee, of Iowa, officiating, assisted by the Rev.
Messrs. Blake and Coleman. The pall-bearers were Major General George G. Meade; Commodore Lardner, U. S. N.;
Commander thomas Turner, U. S. N.; Commodore Adams, U. S. N.; Surgeon Jonathan Foltz, U. s. N.; Paymaster Petit, U.
S. N.; who slowly accompanied the coffin to the grave, preceded by a battalion of United States marines -- the only
Du Pont Statue
Du Pont's services during the war were commemorated by a statue in Washington, D. C.'s Pacific Circle in 1884. DuPont’
s achievements were finally recognized two decades later. In 1882, Congress renamed a small park in Washington from
Pacific Circle to DuPont Circle and on December 20, 1884 a group of dignitaries that included President Chester A.
Arthur, several cabinet secretaries, a number of admirals, and duPont family members gathered to dedicate a memorial
statue to Samuel Francis duPont. Delaware’s senator, Thomas F. Bayard, gave the dedication address, declaring “time
was his vindication, and the correctness of his judgment was established.” Sculpted by renowned artist Launt Thompson,
the bronze statue depicts duPont in uniform, binoculars in his hands and sword at his side. It stood in DuPont Circle until
it was removed to make way for a memorial fountain. Re-erected in Rockford Park in 1920, it was elevated on a locally
crafted granite base. Carved with anchors, emblems of his naval career, and inverted torches tied with ribbons,
symbolizing death, the base bears an inscription recording the admiral’s worthy service and the sculpture’s peripatetic
history. Though the statue in Washington, D. C. was moved in 1920, the circle became known as Dupont Circle, a name
which remains in use today. The statue is now restored and in Rockford Park in Wilmington Delaware.
|Rear Admiral Samuel Francis Dupont
by Daniel Huntington (1816–1906)
Oil on canvas, 1867–1868
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
|Dupont’s Round Fight (November, 1861)
BY HERMAN MELVILLE
In time and measure perfect moves
All Art whose aim is sure;
Evolving rhyme and stars divine
Have rules, and they endure.
Nor less the Fleet that warred for Right,
And, warring so, prevailed,
In geometric beauty curved,
And in an orbit sailed.
The rebel at Port Royal felt
The Unity overawe,
And rued the spell. A type was here,
And victory of LAW.
|Commander Du Pont
|Dupont in the Mexican-American War
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Thomas Jefferson to P. S. Du Pont de Nemours (Grandfather of
Samuel Du Pont) December 31, 1815
.....By that time I hope your grandson will have become one of
our high Admirals, and bear distinguished part in retorting the
wrongs of both his countries on the most implacable and cruel of
|Statue of Rear Admiral Dupont
in its original position at Dupont Circle in Washington, D. C.
|June 8, 1865
Sinking of the Admiral Dupont
Secretary of the Navy