Samuel Francis Du Pont (1803-1865)
Samuel Francis Du Pont, the son of Victor Marie Du Pont de Nemours, was born at Bergen Point, N.J., on 27 September 1803, and died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 23 June 1865. He was appointed a midshipman in the navy from the state of Delaware in December 1815, his first sea service being on the Franklin, in the European squadron. In 1821 he served for a year on the Constitution, after which he was attached to the Congress in the West Indies and on the coast of Brazil. He was in the Mediterranean in 1824 on the North Carolina, of which vessel he became sailing master, four months of this cruise being spent on the Porpoise, to which he was ordered soon after his promotion as lieutenant, 28 April 1826.
He was attached to the Ontario in 1829, made another' three years' cruise in European waters, and from 1835 till 1838 was executive officer of the Warren and of the Constellation, and commanded the Grampus and the Warren in the Gulf of Mexico. In the latter year he joined the Ohio, the flagship of Corn Hull, in the Mediterranean squadron, his cruise ending in 1841. He was promoted commander in 1842, and sailed for China on the Perry, but a severe illness forced him to give up his command and return home. In 1845 he was ordered to the Pacific as commander of the Congress, the flagship of Corn. Stockton. When they reached California the Mexican war had begun, and Du Pont was at once assigned to the command of the Cyane, 23 July 1846. With this vessel he captured San Diego, took possession of La Paz, the capital of Lower Callfornia, 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 part, in the capture of Mazatlan under Com. Shubrick, 11 November 1847, leading the line of boats that entered the main harbor. On 15 February 1848, he landed at San Jos6 with a naval force, and engaged a large body of Mexicans, marching three miles inland and successfully relieving Lieutenant Heywood's detachment, which was closely besieged in the Mission house and about to surrender. Later he led, or sent out, various expeditions into the interior, which cooperated with Colonel Burton and Lieutenant (afterward General) Henry W. Halleck, who were moving southward, clearing the country of hostile troops and taking many prisoners. He was ordered home in 1848, became captain in 1855, and two years later went on special service to China in command of the Minnesota, witnessing while there the naval operations of the French and English forces, notably their capture of the Chinese forts on the Peiho.
After visiting Japan, India, and Arabia, he returned to Boston in May 1859. Placed in command of the Philadelphia navy yard, 31 December 1860, 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. In June 1861, he was made president of a board convened at Washington to elaborate a general plan of naval operations against the insurgent states. He was appointed flag officer in September and led the expedition that sailed from Norfolk in the following month, no American officer having ever commanded so large a fleet. On 7 November he successfully attacked the fortifications defending Port Royal harbor, which were ably planned and skillfully executed.
This engagement is justly regarded as one of the most brilliant achievements of naval tactics. His unarmored vessels, divided into main and flanking divisions, steamed into the harbor in two parallel columns. The flanking division, after engaging the smaller fort and driving back the enemy's ships, took position to enfilade the principal work, before which the main column, led by the flagship Wabash, passed and re-passed in an elliptic course, its tremendous fire inflicting heavy damage. Du Pont actively followed up his victory. Tybee was seized, giving a base for the reduction of Fort Pulaski by the army; a combined naval and military force destroyed the batteries at Port Royal ferry; the sounds and inland waters of Georgia south of the Savannah, and of the eastern coast of Florida., were occupied; St. Mary's, Fernandina, Jacksonville, and other places were captured: Fort Clinch and the fort at St. Augustine were retaken, and fourteen blockading stations were established, all thoroughly effective save that off Charleston, where the vessels at command were insufficient to cover the circuit of twenty-three miles from Bull's Bay to Stono.
In recognition of his services, Du Pont received the thanks of congress, and was appointed rear admiral, to rank from 16 July 1862. Toward the close of the year several armored vessels were added to his command, mostly of the monitor type, one of which destroyed the Confederate steamer Nashville, under the guns of Fort McAllister. Being the first officer to whom the monitors had been assigned, he carefully tested their offensive powers by several attacks upon this work, on which they were unable to make any impression on account of the small number of their guns and the slowness of their fire. Assuming immediate command of his nine armored vessels, mounting thirty-two guns, Du Pont made a resolute attempt, on 7 April 1863, to take Charleston.
Unable to maneuver in the tortuous channels, filled with obstructions, that led to the harbor, the ironclads were exposed to a terrible crossfire from a hundred guns of the heaviest calibres, and, darkness approaching, the ships were wisely withdrawn, one sinking soon afterward and five others being disabled. This action was fought pursuant to express instructions from the navy department, its probable result not having been unforeseen by the admiral, who had given it as his opinion that the cooperation of troops was necessary to secure success. Time has fully confirmed the entire correctness of Du Pont's judgment; his able successor, with a larger force of armored ships, was no more fortunate, and Charleston only fell on the approach of Sherman's army.
In June the ironclad ram Atlanta coming out of Savannah, Du Pont sent two monitors to intercept her, one of which, under Captain John Rodgers, succeeded in capturing her after a brief engagement. This was the last important incident of Admiral Du Pont's command, from which he was relieved on 5 July 1863. During the intervals of more than twenty-five years of service at sea he was almost constantly employed on duties of importance. He was a member of the board that prepared the plan of organization for the United States Naval Academy, and was one of the officers that in after years revised and extended the system then adopted. He served on the lighthouse board, took part in two revisions of the rules and regulations for the navy, and was a member of the naval retiring board of 1855.
Admiral Du Pont was the author of various papers on professional subjects, including one on corporal punishment in the navy, and one on the use of floating batteries for coast defense, which has been republished, and is largelv cited by Sir Howard Douglas in his work on naval gunnery.
(From The American Civil War).