War Period Signature With Rank
(1803-65) Appointed a midshipman in 1815. He fought prominently during the Mexican War, operating on the Pacific coast where he quickly showed his skill as a naval combat commander, taking or destroying thirty enemy ships and clearing the Gulf of California in the process. Du Pont transported Major John Fremont’s troops to San Diego, where they captured the city. Du Pont then continued operations along the Baja coast, including the capture of La Paz, and burnt two enemy gunboats in the harbor of Guaymas under heavy fire. He led the main line of ships that took Mazatlán on November 11, 1847, and on February 15, 1848, launched an amphibious assault on San José del Cabo that managed to strike three miles inland and relieve a besieged squadron, despite heavy resistance. He was given command of the California naval blockade in the last months of the war and, after taking part in further land maneuvers, was ordered home. Du Pont served most of the next decade on shore assignment, and his efforts during this period are credited with helping to modernize the U.S. Navy. He studied the possibilities of steam power, and emphasized engineering and mathematics in the curriculum that he established for the new United States Naval Academy which he was appointed superintendent of. He was an advocate for a more mobile and offensive Navy, rather than the harbor defense function that much of it was then relegated to, and worked on revising naval rules and regulations. After being appointed to the board of the United States Lighthouse Service, his recommendations for upgrading the antiquated system were largely adopted by Congress in a lighthouse bill. Du Pont was appointed commandant of the Philadelphia Naval Yard in 1860, and expected to retire in this post, but the outbreak of the Civil War altered not only his plans but the course of history. When communication was cut off with Washington at the start of the Civil War, Du Pont took the initiative of sending a fleet to the Chesapeake Bay to protect the landing of Union troops at Annapolis, Maryland. In June 1861, he was made president of a board in Washington formed to develop a plan of naval operations against the Confederacy. He was appointed flag officer serving aboard the steam frigate Wabash as commander of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, leading from Norfolk, Virginia the largest fleet ever commanded by an American officer at that time. On November 7th, Du Pont led a successful attack on the fortifications at Port Royal harbor in South Carolina. This victory enabled Union naval forces to secure the southern waters of Georgia and the entire eastern coast of Florida, and an effective blockade was established. Du Pont received commendations from U.S. Congress for his brilliant tactical success, and was appointed rear admiral on July 16, 1862. Towards the end of 1862, Du Pont became the first U.S. naval officer to be assigned command over armored "ironclad" warships. Though he commanded them ably in engagements with other ships, they performed poorly in an attack on Fort McAllister, due to their small number of guns and slow rate of fire. Du Pont was then given direct orders from the Navy Department to launch an attack on Charleston, South Carolina which was the site of the first shots fired in the Civil War with the fall of Fort Sumter and the main area in which the Union blockade had been unsuccessful. Though Du Pont believed that Charleston could not be taken without significant land troop support, he nevertheless attacked with nine ironclads on April 7, 1863. Unable to navigate properly in the obstructed channels leading to the harbor, his ships were caught in a blistering crossfire, and he withdrew them before nightfall. Five of his nine ironclads were disabled in the failed attack, and one more subsequently sank. The Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, blamed Du Pont for the highly publicized failure at Charleston, and made him the scapegoat. Du Pont himself anguished over it and, despite an engagement in which vessels under his command defeated and captured a Confederate ironclad, he was relieved of command on July 5, 1863, at his own request. Though he received the help of Henry W. Davis, a U.S. Congressman from Maryland, to get his official report of the incident published by the Navy, an ultimately inconclusive congressional investigation into the failure essentially turned into a trial of whether Du Pont had misused his ships and misled his superiors. Du Pont's attempt to garner the support of President Lincoln was ignored. However, subsequent events vindicated Du Pont's judgment and capabilities. A later U.S. naval attack on the city failed, despite being launched with a significantly larger fleet of armored ships. Charleston was finally taken only by the invasion of General Sherman's army in 1865. Du Pont died on June 23, 1865.
War Period Signature With Rank: 4 1/2 x 2 3/4, in ink, Respectfully Yrs., S.F. Du Pont, Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy. Affixed to a 5 x 7 1/2 album page. This came directly out of an 1865 dated autograph album whereby prominent Union generals, admirals and politicians sent their autographs to be sold for charity for widows, orphans and the poor.