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 Gideon Welles

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Gideon Welles

Presidential Cabinet Secretary. Born in Glastonbury, Connecticut, to an old family of the state, he completed studies at Norwich Academy in Vermont and turned to journalism and politics. By 1826 he had become part owner and editor of the "Hartford Times". That same year he was elected to his state's legislature, serving there till 1835. A Jeffersonian in his emphasis on individual freedoms and states' rights, he became an early supporter of Andrew Jackson and then was a personal adviser to President Jackson. Although he failed in his first tries at national office, he built up a reputation among a wide circle of influential Americans through his writings and travels. In 1856 he left the Democratic Party to help organize the new Republican Party, all the while promoting a more moderate view as the nation moved toward confrontation. After Abraham Lincoln was elected United States President in 1860, he knew his cabinet had to include at least one New England Republican, so he was appointed Secretary of the Navy, and if he had no experience as a naval man, his able and energetic assistant, Gustavus V. Fox, was a navy man. Together they revitalized a Navy Department which had its few ships spread all over the world; two of its most important navy yards seized by the Confederacy, and many of its men now serving in the Confederate Navy. He was resourceful in securing a blockade fleet but slower to realize the potential of ironclads. Once convinced of their value, however, he pushed for their construction. He also supported development of armored cruisers, heavy ordnance, and steam machinery. Quick to reprimand persons he believed negligent or competent, he thereby angered some high-ranking officers. He also offended politicians who wanted navy installations in their districts. He took a direct part in shaping naval strategy and tactics, and is given deserved credit for the general success of the Federal Navy. He was known not to get along all that well with some of his fellow cabinet officers such as Secretary of War Edward M. Stanton and Secretary of State William Seward, and he would sometimes make policy beyond his naval concerns; as early as July 1861, he was ordering Union naval officers to protect runaway slaves and by that September he was allowing former slaves to enlist in the Navy. Still a Jeffersonian, he was against President Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus, the arrest of Northern Copperhead politician Clement Vallandigham and the suppression of newspapers critical of the government. The same moderation that led him to support President Lincoln's announced plans for reconstruction led him to support President Andrew Johnson even through the impeachment crisis and in opposition to many of his former Republican colleagues. He stayed through President Johnson's administration, working for the modernization of the Navy. After retirement, he continued speaking out on public issues and wrote articles and a book about the Lincoln administration. His most lasting contribution to historians is the 3 volume "Diary of Gideon Welles". The diary is considered by many historians to be an opinionated, brilliant insider's account and analysis of events and personalities of the war years, but was edited by him to reflect favorably on himself.

Bio by: Ugaalltheway


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 24 Nov 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 5993736
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Gideon Welles (2 Jul 1802–11 Feb 1878), Find A Grave Memorial no. 5993736, citing Cedar Hill Cemetery, Hartford, Hartford County, Connecticut, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .