"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.
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