Skip to main content
Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

Lincoln’s Tragic Admiral: The Life of Samuel Francis Du Pont

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Thursday, June 3, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1K0110
Select Your Tickets

"Samuel Francis Du Pont" (detail) by Daniel Huntington (National Portriat Gallery, Smithsonian)

Samuel Francis Du Pont, an Admiral in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War, was lauded for helping to win an early Union victory in South Carolina. But his career and reputation were destroyed following the failed ironclad attack on Charleston in April 1863. He lost his command and was pilloried in the press.

But there is more to the story of “Lincoln's Forgotten Admiral.” According to Kevin J. Weddle, a professor of military theory and strategy at the U.S. Army War College, Du Pont, a champion of technological innovation, had vehemently opposed using the ironclads. His objections caused him to clash with the powerful secretary of the navy, Gideon Welles. Du Pont’s objections were overridden, the attack using the modern vessels failed, and his career was finished. 

Weddle exposes this historical misunderstanding, while also pinpointing Du Pont's crucial role in the development of United States naval strategy and his work in modernizing the navy between the Mexican War and the Civil War. He also touches on larger historical questions such as civil-military relations, attitudes toward slavery, innovations in military strategy and organization, and the introduction of new military technology in wartime.

Patron Information

  • If you register multiple individuals, you will be asked to supply individual names and email addresses so they can receive a Zoom link email. Please note that if there is a change in program schedule or a cancellation, we will notify you via email, and it will be your responsibility to notify other registrants in your group.
  • Unless otherwise noted, registration for streaming programs typically closes two hours prior to the start time on the date of the program.
  • Once registered, patrons should receive an automatic email confirmation from
  • Separate Zoom link information will be emailed closer to the date of the program. If you do not receive your Zoom link information 24 hours prior to the start of the program, please email Customer Service for assistance.
  • View Common FAQs about our Streaming Programs on Zoom.
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.