Du Pont, Samuel Francis, 1803-1865

Alternative names
Birth 1803-09-27
Death 1865-06-23

Biographical notes:

Samuel Francis DuPont commanded the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron from September 1861 to June 1863. During this period he directed many successful operations including the campaign which resulted in the fall of Port Royal, SC, on November 7, 1861.

From the description of Letter, March 28, 1862. (Naval War College). WorldCat record id: 46326546

U.S. rear admiral commanding the blockading squadron.

From the description of ALS : Port Royal Harbor, S.C., to Lt. H. L. Howison, 1863 June 8. (Hagley Museum & Library). WorldCat record id: 123466565

American Naval Officer.

From the description of Telegram signed : Washington, D.C., addressed to General Henry Du Pont, 1865 Mar. 3. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270742379

DuPont was commander of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron during the Civil War.

From the description of General order, April 26, 1862. (Naval War College). WorldCat record id: 704364745

Samuel Francis Du Pont was born in Bergen Point, N.J. (now Bayonne) on September 27, 1803. He was the fourth child and second surviving son of Victor Marie du Pont and his wife, Gabrielle Josephine de la Fite de Pelleport. Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours, the famous French economist and diplomat who emigrated to the United States in 1799, was his paternal grandfather.

Samuel Francis Du Pont spent his first eight years living at Louviers at Eleutherian Mills, the du Pont's Wilmington, Delaware residence which was attached to the family's black powder mills. In 1815 he embarked upon a naval career and was assigned to the Mediteranean Fleet where he served under the command of Captain John Rodgers.

In June of 1833 Samuel Francis Du Pont married his first cousin, Sophie Madeleine, the daughter of Eleuthère Irénée du Pont, the founder of the family's black powder mill business.

In the years before the Mexican War, Du Pont was given several assignments in the Gulf of Mexico and in Europe. These were the years in which the American naval was making the transition from sail to steam and Du Pont, while still a young commander, was part of this modernization effort. He was an advocate of professionalization and discipline and by 1843 was becoming increasingly impatient with the old line navy officer corps.

In October 1845, Du Pont was assigned to Commodore Stockton's Pacific Ocean Squadron. When the Mexican War broke out he was given the responsibility of transporting General John Frémont's battalion to San Diego. During the last eighteen months of the war he was put in charge of the California blockade.

After the war, Du Pont began a decade long tour of shore duty. In 1849, Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft asked him to draw up a curriculum for the new Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. In 1850, he was appointed Superintendent of the Naval Academy. In 1853, he became Superintendent of New York Crystal Palace exhibition - America's first world's fair.

In February of 1855, Du Pont was appointed to the Naval Efficiency Board which Congress set up in order to investigate the officer corps and modernize the navy. Later that year he was promoted to the rank of Captain and assigned to the Pacific fleet which was beginning to open China to western trade and investment.

In the spring of 1860, he returned to the United States to serve as official escort for the first Japanese ambassador. After this assignment was completed he was appointed Commandant of the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

When the Civil War began Du Pont was placed in charge of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. Du Pont led the successful attack on the Confederate forts at Port Royal, S.C., on November 7, 1861. Operations along the coast from South Carolina to Florida continued through 1862. Port Royal became Du Pont's headquarters and the he witnessed the influx of Northern teachers and missionaries to the area, who were attempting to carry out an ambitious reform program in the Sea Islands after the white planters fled. Du Pont was promoted to the rank of rear admiral in July 1862.

The success of the MONITOR at Hampton Roads led Secretary Gideon Wells and the Navy Department to favor the use of ironclads against the remaining Confederate strongholds. In January 1863 Du Pont was ordered to prepare a naval assault on Charleston, S.C., the chief Atlantic port still in Confederate hands. The attack began on April 7, but the Union ironclads proved unable to force their way past Fort Sumter. Du Pont decided not to renew the battle the following day, making it the worst defeat for the Union Navy during the entire war.

Du Pont was relieved of his command and became embroiled in a controversy with the Navy Department over apportioning blame for the defeat. He returned to Washington to face a series of Congressional inquiries. Du Pont died in Philadelphia on June 23, 1865.

From the description of Papers, 1812-1865. (Hagley Museum & Library). WorldCat record id: 122503472

Samuel Francis Du Pont (1803-1865) was the grandson of the famous French economist and diplomat, Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours. 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 War Du Pont was put in charge of the California blockade.

After the Mexican War Du Pont began a decade long tour of shore duty. He was an advocate for naval modernization. In 1849 he drew up the curriculum for the Naval Academy in Annapolis. In 1855 he was appointed to the Naval Efficiency Board which was investigating nepotism and incompetence in the officer corps.

During the Civil War Du Pont was put in charge of the South Atlantic blockading squadron. He met with initial success as forces under his command seized the South Carolina Sea Islands in July of 1862. In April of the following year he began the attack on Charleston, S.C., but after the failure of the Union ironclads to pass Fort Sumter, Du Pont was forced to relinquish his command and retire.

From the description of Log books, 1817-1859 [microform]. (Hagley Museum & Library). WorldCat record id: 122568014


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  • Somers Mutiny, 1842
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  • Monterrey, Battle of, Monterrey, Mexico, 1846
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