The Samuel Francis Du Pont Papers

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The Samuel Francis Du Pont Papers chronicles the nineteenth-century U.S. Navy through the experiences of one of its best-known officers, a man who served during the navy’s change from sail to steam. The record of Du Pont’s career, covering five decades, is a revealing resource for students of U.S. naval history and the Civil War.

Du Pont began his career as midshipman in 1815 and, in the Mexican War, earned command of the California blockade. After the war, he concentrated on modernizing the U.S. Navy, becoming commandant of the Philadelphia Naval Yard in 1860. The outbreak of the Civil War saw him recalled to active duty and promoted to admiral. He was placed in charge of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, which in 1863 attacked Charleston and sustained the worst Union Naval defeat of the war. Du Pont became the subject of a congressional inquiry; but, never officially vindicated, he died on June 23, 1865.

In lieu of keeping a private journal at sea, Du Pont addressed over 400 letters to his wife, which offer a detailed account of his assignments. The most extensive body of materials is from the Civil War period; these letters and dispatches deal first with the planning and operation of the blockade and later, after the defeat at Charleston, document the political furor and private anguish accompanying the investigation. The printed guide includes a biographical essay, notes on the provenance of the papers, and a full sender an recipientd index.

Number of reels: 48



  • Michael Nash