Going South: U.S. Navy Officer Resignations & Dismissals On the Eve of the Civil War
Library of Congress Catalogue No. 81-85072.
While still less than a hundred years old in 1861, the nation stood on the brink of catastrophic civil war as states in the lower south followed South Carolina in seceding from the Union. These dire times confronted officers of Southern origin in the country's military service with an agonizing decision whether to remain under the "Old Flag" or leave and follow their section. Local, state and family ties ran very deep. Men of the highest principles from young midshipmen at the Naval Academy to the most senior officers who had devoted their lives to the Navy---Raphael Semmes, Josiah Tarnall, Matthew Fontaine Maury, for example, resigned their commissions to cast their lot with the Confederacy.
In this unique and interesting study, Dr. William S. Dudley of the Naval Historical Center has examined in depth how President Lincoln, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, and the Navy Department reacted to and handled the almost 400 Navy and Marine Corps officers who resigned to "Go South." The author has included a comprehensive appendix listing the name of each officer by rank. The Naval Historical Foundation is deeply indebted to Dr. Dudley for making the results of his invaluable research available to the Foundation members.
J.L. HOLLOWAY, III
Admiral, USN (Ret.)
During the two years that this study has been in preparation, several individuals have contributed their time and effort toward its completion in various ways, leaving me much in their debt, and I gratefully acknowledge their assistance. Rear Admiral John D.H. Kane, Jr., Director of the Naval Historical Center, has consistently encouraged me to complete the study for publication. Dr. William J. Morgan, Head of the Historical Research Branch, Naval Historical Center, has provided the benefit of his long editorial experience and deep knowledge of naval history. My colleague George K. McCuistion diligently corroborated and added to the research that forms the basis for this article. Mrs. Jane Huie, another colleague, contributed her superb secretarial skills, particularly appreciated in the typing and proofreading of the Tables and Appendix. Professor James O. Breeden, a former colleague in the Department of History, Southern Methodist University, provided a critical reading of the first draft and made many helpful suggestions. During 1980, earlier versions of this article were read to the Harrisburg Civil War Round Table and to the University of Richmond's Mid-Atlantic Maritime History Conference. Stimulating comments made at each meeting were considered during the completion of this study. Finally, I appreciate the willingness of the Naval Historical Foundation to provide a forum for my thoughts in "Going South." Naturally, I assume sole responsibility for the opinions expressed and any flaws discovered are of my own making.
The question of civil war inevitably raises issues of patriotism and treason, of loyalty to nation, state, region, or ideology. Conflicting loyalties were the heart of the matter in the American Civil War. As the debate over slavery, combined with mounting sectionalism, brought this nation to the brink of civil war, it could not fail to affect the feelings and expressed attitudes of those who had chosen to serve in the Unted States armed forces. There are many cases of agonizing decisions made by officers of southern birth and up-bringing who searched the depth of their souls to discover where lay the higher loyalty. Colonel Robert E. Lee's case is the best known. He was offered command of both armies and had the unique dilemma of choosing between them.1 Captain David G. Farragut did not have such prestigious offers to consider, but as a southerner, he chose to serve the Union.2 There were, however, hundreds of other officers in the United States Navy, Marine Corps, and Army who faced the same decision. When forced to choose, many elected to "go South," to leave the service they had sworn a legal oath to uphold.
When considering the bonds of kinship and regional sentiment, one can understand why the officers "went South," but equally understandable was the hostile reaction of the Lincoln administration. The personal dilemmas of these officers have received surprisingly little attention from historians of the Civil War.3 The purpose of this study is to provide a clearer view of the dimensions of the problem by focusing on commissioned and warrant officers of the Navy from the time southern secession commenced in late 1860 to the end of the following year, with particular emphasis on the events of March, April, and May, 1861 as they affected the Navy Department.
A preliminary survey of the records of the commissioned and warrant officers who chose to resign when war appeared imminent indicates that some were allowed to resign with impunity. Others, however, were not allowed this privilege: they were summarily dismissed, some names were stricken from the Navy's records, and several were dismissed with the resounding phrase "by order of the President." Thus, the claim arises that these officers were treated disparately.
An analysis of the resignations and dismissals of these officers, against the background of the war's outbreak and the first calls to battle, will provide an explanation of this paradoxical treatment of naval personnel. It has been easy for many to take sides on the basis of philosophical and juridical views. Those sympathetic to the cause of secession would say that all officers should have been allowed to resign without prejudice and to choose freely whether they would bear arms for the Confederacy or perhaps not fight at all. For others, however, the question goes deeper than volition and the rights of the individual. They would inquire into the value of an oath sworn and ask if a nation cannot depend on its officer
corps in a time of national crisis, when can it depend on them?
From an exploration of these issues, it is hoped that a better understanding will arise with respect to the peculiar crisis to which military institutions were subjected during the Civil War. It is worthwhile to consider if there were any patterns to the tempo and number of resignations and the reaction of two successive presidential administrations to these unprecedented acts. Beyond the military sphere, there is the Lincoln administration's perception of the issue of loyalty throughout the government, for the issues affected civilian office holders as well. The policy of the Navy Department under Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles reflected the manner in which the Lincoln government determined to deal with the problem of demoralization at the heart of the nation at a time for critical choices.
A discussion of the origins of the Civil War is beyond the bounds of this study, but it is necessary to set the scene for an analysis of disloyalty in the Navy. The resignations and dismissals were intimately linked to those key acts which threatened to dissolve the union: secessions of the southern states. South Carolina's secession, in the wake of Abraham Lincoln's election to the Presidency, took place on December 20, 1860. During January, there followed the states of Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas on the first of February. These states of the "lower South" grounded their secession on Northern "aggression" against their "domestic institutions." Four states of the "upper South," Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina did not secede at that time, though they warned against any Federal attempt to coerce the states. On February 4, representatives of the seceding states met in convention at Montgomery, Alabama, framed a constitution and set up a provisional government. Less than a week later, Jefferson Davis was elected provisional President with Alexander Stevens as provisional Vice President. They were inaugurated on the eighteenth to serve until regular elections could be held in November, 1861.
While the legal groundwork for a separate government was being established, the seceding states had taken possession of most of the federal military installations from Charleston to the Rio Grande. These included arsenals and navy yards, as well as forts. They would become sources of needed arms and important posts for defense if the secession crisis should lead to war.4 Naval officers played key roles in several of these incidents, where officers resigning held posts of strategic importance.
As early as November 15, 1860, Lieutenant Thomas A. Craven, commander of U.S. naval forces at Key West, had foreseen the need for preventive measures. He advised Secretary of the Navy Isaac Toucey that "due to the deplorable condition of affairs in the Southern States" he had taken steps to forestall the seizure of Forts Taylor and Jefferson by "bands of lawless men." Craven, commanding USS Mohawk, had stationed himself at Fort Jefferson, while ordering Lieutenant Fabius Stanly in USS Wyandotte to defend Fort Taylor. These actions enabled the Union forces to retain command of two vital Key West posts which were of immense strategic importance, commanding easy access routes to the Gulf of Mexico.
At other southern ports, however, the Union did not fare as well. January 1861
was a disaster, and war had not yet broken out. On the 5th, Fort Morgan, at the mouth of Mobile Bay, Alabama, was seized by Alabama militiamen. On the ninth, the U.S. steamer Star of the West was fired on by South Carolina troops at Fort Moultrie and Morris Island in Charleston harbor as she attempted to bring in supplies and relief for the federal garrison at Fort Sumter where Major Robert Anderson had retired with his troops following South Carolina's secession. Louisiana state troops took Forts Jackson and St. Philip near the mouth of the Mississippi and seized the U.S. Arsenal and Barracks at Baton Rouge on January 10. On the next day, they occupied the U.S. Marine Hospital two miles below New Orleans.
At Pensacola, Florida and Alabama militiamen seized Fort Barrancas and the Pensacola Navy Yard, which was commanded by Captain James Armstrong, USN. Union troops escaped to Fort Pickens, across the Bay on Santa Rosa Island, which remained in Union hands throughout the hostilities. On January 20, a fort on Ship Island, Mississippi, was seized by rebel troops. Meanwhile, the Navy Department ordered USS Brooklyn, commanded by Captain William S. Walker, to sail for Fort Pickens with Marines and troops on board.
The pressure on federal authorities to compromise led to an agreement between Washington and Florida officials.5 They agreed that if the United States did not reinforce Fort Pickens, Florida, troops would not attack. The Secretary of the Navy consequently ordered Captain Walker not to land his troops unless Fort Pickens were attacked. U.S. Navy ships that arrived later with reinforcements were obliged to remain offshore. The troops in Brooklyn, Sabine, Macedonia, and St. Louis remained on board until April 12.
Confederate efforts to create a navy proceeded simultaneously with the establishment of other governmental institutions.6 In February, the Confederate congress
Fort Pickens in late 1861.
called for all persons versed in naval affairs to consult with their Committee on Naval Affairs, and in his inaugural address President Davis stated: "I ... suggest that for the protection of our harbors and commerce on the high seas a Navy adapted to those objects will be required ... "7 Two days later, on February 20, the Confederate Congress established a Navy Department and President Davis then appointed Stephen R. Mallory of Florida, formerly Head of the Senate Naval Affairs Committee, to be the Secretary of the Confederate States Navy. Thus, within two months of South Carolina's secession, several other states had followed suit, attacks on federal military and naval installations had commenced and the Confederacy had established a Navy Department. Its Navy would soon follow, raising the question of how the Confederate Navy would obtain its officers.
One possible source was the large number of U.S. naval officers of southern birth. A few had resigned as early as December 1860, and their resignations were quickly accepted by Secretary Isaac Toucey. At that early date, letters of resignation usually did not state reasons. There was no legal requirement that they do so. But as most of the officers resigning were from the states of the middle to lower south, a fair inference may be made that sectional loyalties had something to do with their motives. The Secretary of the Navy's acceptance of a naval officer's resignation was the nineteenth-century version of an honorable discharge. If the resignation was not acceptable for some reason, the step was taken to dismiss the officer in question. The action could take one of three forms: simple dismissal, the "striking of the name" from the rolls of the Navy, and dismissal or striking the name "by order of the President." The last action was considered the most severe, as it was final and could not be revoked, nor could there be an appeal through court martial.8
An early reflection on the sectional motives that were prompting resignations can be seen in Captain Samuel Dupont's letter to Commander Andrew Hull Foote on January 25 concerning the deterioration of morale in the naval service because of the impending conflict:
What made me most sick at heart, is the resignations from the Navy. I had occasion to go to Washington the last week in November, and was astounded to see the extent of the demoralization, not only in every department of the government, but among the officers of the Navy. I spoke out plainly, I tell you; told them I had never believed I had been serving two masters; that I had been nourished, fed and clothed by the general government for over forty years; paid whether employed or not; and for what? Why, to stand by the country whether assailed by enemies from without or from within; that my state had no part or lot in this support; that my oath declared allegiance to the United States as one to support the Constitution. I stick by the flag and the national government as long as we have one, whether my state does or not, and well she knew it.9Congress became alarmed over the circumstances under which federal military installations were being seized and the frequency with which naval officer resignations were taking place. A special committee of the House of Representatives was formed to investigate and report on "facts material to the national security and national honor."10 On February 18, the Committee approved a report made by
Naval Yard at Pensacola as seen from Fort Pickens in 1861.
Henry L. Dawes of Massachusetts who had investigated the disposition of the Navy's ships and officer resignations. He was critical of the Secretary of the Navy for not having taken steps to have more warships available on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts to prevent such injuries to the government as had already occurred. "The failure to take these necessary steps at such a critical time," he stated, "is without justification or excuse. "11
Dawes was particularly astonished at the alacrity of the Navy Department in accepting the resignations of officers whose southern proclivities had been clearly demonstrated. He described the case of Lieutenant J.R. Hamilton of South Carolina who sent in his resignation from USS Wyoming at Panama. Dated December 1, 1860, the letter did not reach the Department until two weeks later.12 When it did, Secretary Toucey accepted it without any kind of inquiry. Lieutenant Hamilton immediately thereafter published a circular letter in various newspapers addressed to all southern naval officers, urging them to resign and to join the navies of their states. Those in command of vessels, he suggested, should bring them into Southern ports and surrender them to rebels already in arms and take new commissions from their states. "Such conduct is nothing less than treason," the committee majority reacted, "and has no parallel since the attempt of Benedict Arnold to deliver over important military posts to the enemies of this country."13
Some naval officers acted on behalf of the Confederacy even before their resignations were received and acted upon by the Department. Captain V.M. Randolph, USN, a native of Alabama who had been excused from active service for two or three years for reasons of health, sent in his resignation from Montgomery on January 10. He was one of the Navy's senior officers, having joined the service during the War of 1812. Prior to noon on January 12, recounted Congressman Dawes, "he appeared at the gates of the Pensacola Navy Yard at the head of an insurgent force, and demanded its surrender. The Yard ... was unconditionally surrendered to him; and he is now its commandant." The dispatch of the late commandant, who
had been taken prisoner, informing the Secretary of the surrender, arrived at the Department on the evening of January 13. The resignation of Captain Randolph, who on the 12th was the leader of the insurgents, did not reach the Secretary until the 14th. "... when, without inquiry or delay, it was immediately accepted."14
Two other U.S. Navy officers were implicated in this apparent conspiracy to deliver the Pensacola Navy Yard to the rebels. Commander Ebenezer Ferrand, an Alabamian, was the Yard Executive Officer, and Lieutenant Francis B. Renshaw, a Floridian, was the Yard First Lieutenant. They both participated in the takover and enrolled themselves under the insurgent leader, Captain Randolph. Subsequently they continued to carry out their duties, but under the Confederate States banner. News of the Yard's surrender arrived at the Navy Department before their resignations, but they were accepted without hesitation.
Several other cases, in a similar vein, were included in the Special Committee's report. It concluded:
RESOLVED: that the Secretary of the Navy, in accepting without delay or inquiry, the resignation of officers of the Navy, who were in arms against the Government when tendering the same, and of those who sought to resign, that they might be relieved from the restraint imposed by their commissions upon engaging in hostilities to the constituted authorities of the nation, has committed a grave error, highly prejudicial to the discipline of the service, and injurious to the honor and efficiency of the Navy, for which he deserves the censure of this House."15The two minority members of the Committee, both Southerners, raised objections to this report and resolution, but to no avail. The Special Committee's Resolution censuring Secretary of the Navy Toucey passed the House by a vote of 95 to 62, on March 2, 1861.
When Lincoln's choice for Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, took over his post on March 7, 1861, he faced a distressing situation. His officer corps was coming apart at the seams, some naval bases and installations in the south had already
(l. to r.) The Honorable Isaac Toucey, Secretary of the Navy 1857 to 1861, and his successor, the Honorable Gideon Welles.
been lost and the Navy at his disposal was inadequate to the tasks facing it. There were forty-two vessels in commission in the United States Navy; twelve of them were assigned to duty with the Home Squadron, only four of which were based on Northern ports. But, beginning with the return of the Powhatan to New York, and Pocahontas and Cumberland to Hampton Roads on March 23, the Department moved to recall all but three ships from foreign stations, to meet the requirements of the government at home.
As March passed, the government's need to reinforce Major Anderson's garrison at Fort Sumter pressed home. The relief of the Fort had become an essentially naval problem; President Lincoln, Gideon Welles and former Commander Gustavus Fox strained to put together a viable relief force from among the scarce ships at their disposal.16 Fox's plan, forwarded to the President on March 21, consisted of sailing a large steamer with troops on board, in company with two light draft tugs and two armed escorts. At the same time, another plan, sponsored by Secretary of State Seward was put in motion to relieve and reinforce Fort Pickens.
To carry out these complex naval plans and to prepare for the defense of Washington, Secretary Welles had to identify officers whose loyalties he trusted. A large number of the experienced officers in the middle ranks, lieutenants and commanders, were of southern origin. Welles' anxieties in this regard were clearly expressed in his diary. He wrote:
When I took charge of the Navy Department I found great demoralization and defection among the officers. It was difficult to ascertain who could and who were not to be trusted. Some belonging to the Barron clique had already sent in their resignations. Others, it was well understood were preparing to do so. Some were hesitating, undecided what step to take. Barron, Maury, Porter and Magruder were in Washington and each and all were during that unhappy winter courted and caressed by the Secessionists who desired to win them to their cause. I was by reliable friends put on my guard as respected each of them.17
The Honorable Gustavus Fox -- Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury, CSN
(l. to r.) Commander Sidney Smith Lee, Captain Samuel F. DuPont, and Lieutenant David Dixon Porter, circa 1855.
Despite the dispatch of a naval force to relieve Fort Sumter, the Confederate bombardment commenced before its arrival on April 12, and Gustavus Fox was unable to carry out his mission.18 Major Anderson surrendered the Fort on April 13; with these events, the Civil War began in earnest.
During the next two weeks, there were tremendous shifts in public sentiment.19 President Lincoln's conception of his own decision-making role strengthened, and his cabinet officers gradually became aware of the immense pressures that war would bring. The two most immediate problems were those of mobilizing the nation's manpower and of finding the financial resources to support a war. A third, related problem for Lincoln's government was literally, "the enemy within." It is in this light that the question of naval officers' loyalty can be reviewed.
Before the war, Lieutenant David Dixon Porter was one of those suspected of pro-southern sympathies, but soon after the firing on Fort Sumter, he chose the Union and became one of its staunchest defenders. In his later years, he set down an anecdote that exemplifies how deeply divided were the loyalties of naval officers in Washington:
A short time before Fort Sumter was fired upon, the Commandant of the Washington Navy Yard [Captain Franklin Buchanan] gave a large party at his headquarters, on the occasion of the marriage of his daughter, to which the President and his cabinet were invited. A number of disloyal officers were present, and the house was everywhere festooned with the American flag, even to the bridal bed; yet just after Sumter was fired on, the Commandant, including his new son-in-law [Lt. Julius E. Meiere, USMC], resigned their commissions and left the Washington Navy Yard to take care of itself.20Secretary Welles appointed Commander John Dahlgren to succeed the departing Buchanan. Dahlgren became a trusted consultant for Welles and the President on naval aspects of the defense of Washington and the build-up of the Navy. Few positions, however, were so aptly and quickly filled, and the issue of naval officer resignations came to generate considerable heat.
Captain Franklin Buchanan, USN -- Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren, USN
Gideon Welles had taken office only five days after his predecessor Isaac Toucey had been censured by the House of Representatives for his gentle treatment of resignations. That lesson was not lost on a man of Welles' years and experience. If there were numerous resignations before the fall of Fort Sumter, many more followed. After Sumter, the momentum toward war increased with President Lincoln's call for 75,000 volunteers on April 15, Virginia's secession on April 17, and Lincoln's proclamation of insurrection and blockade of the lower South on April 19.
The psychology of war arrived with all of its mental baggage: romantic excitement for those unbloodied in combat; anger and determination for those ideologically committed to one side or the other; and fear among those not committed to ideas and whose prime concern was personal safety and avoidance of violence. All
Washington Navy Yard, Washington, D.C., circa 1862.
of these emotions ran rampant through Washington during that spring when the war was new. For those in charge of government departments, disloyalty was no longer a potential danger, it had become a virulent disease, infecting many employees of long standing and spreading through the body politic.
Frederick Seward, in his biography of his famous father, conveyed a feeling of justified paranoia. During March, "nearly every day was bringing intelligence of some military or naval officer, or some civil funtionary of southern birth who deemed that his primary allegiance was due to his seceding state and not the Federal Government."21 Later, Seward quoted General Winfield Scott on similar problems in the Army: "'There are few who have had command in the field even in a brigade,' said the General, 'but ... there is excellent material in the army to make generals of. There are good officers. Unfortunately for us, the South has taken many of those holding the higher grades. We have captains and lieutenants that with time and experience, will develop, and will do good service.'"22
The war psychosis was generated not only by office holders in Washington, but by their friends and constituents, as well. Thus Gideon Welles received a letter from Albert Smith in Boston, who wrote on April 15:
Confidential. My Dear Mr. Welles: There are still Navy officers remaining in the Service, who would decline orders to a ship destined to a Port of the so-called "Southern Confederacy" for a blockade or any hostile operations. They will continue in the Navy until they get orders for duty on such service, and then, if they cannot get relieved, they will resign. This I know from their own declarations. An officer has been relieved from the Minnesota, on that ground (perhaps not ostensibly).The following letter to Welles from Emily Thorn shows a kind of whispering campaign underway in Washington parlors:
My Dear Sir: The undersigned from a sense of duty to herself and to her country has undertaken the task of unmasking a nest of Traitors, who are trying to imitate the illustrious Traitor Benedict Arnold. It so happened recently that I paid a visit to the house of Major [Henry B.] Tyler of the Marine Corps. While there I heard and saw enough to convince me that there was not any dependence whatever to be placed in Major Tyler. He stated plainly that he would not fire a single shot against his Southern Brethren, and that in case Virginia went out of the Union, he would resign and join his fortunes with the Noble Sons of the South. He also stated that he would not go alone, that nearly every officer of the Marine Corps who was from the southward would bear him company.24Two weeks or so later, a Mr. Hamlin wrote from New York City, saying: "My Dear Sir: There is a good deal of talk amongst the intelligent men in the community
on what should be done with Army and Navy officers who resign. The general sentiment is that they should all be put under arrest. I am confident that course would be applauded by the public. I believe it is the current course."25
Yet, this was not the "current course." It actually took the government some time to decide how to deal with officers who chose to resign their commissions. In fact, the decisions on how to react to resignations appear to have been left to the various departments, as there was a range of reactions in meting out acceptances or dismissals. The following analysis of naval officer resignations will consider their number, frequency, and timing as well as the changing reaction of the Navy Department.
In proceeding, one should remember that southern officers had been resigning for apparent sectional motives since at least December, 1860. Secondly, none of the officers who resigned before the month of April were dismissed from the U.S. Navy either at that time or later. Thirdly, it was only after the arrival of Gideon Welles as Navy Secretary and the firing upon Fort Sumter that any of those who proferred resignations were dismissed. But it was not merely Welles who changed the picture. After Welles took over the department on March 7, many resignations were sent in by Acting Midshipmen, then students at the Naval Academy. He accepted all of them. There apparently was a policy of "business as usual" in effect until April. Despite provocations to the department, clearly enunciated by the Special Committee of the House of Representatives, resigning officers were not asked to explain themselves or to justify their actions. They requested, and in effect received "honorable discharges."
Despite exhaustive searches of the documentary and legal record, no specific written order from the President or the Secretary of the Navy has been found that says "change this policy." Yet, as will be seen, there was a major shift in the Navy's
Lieutenant Hunter Davidson, CSN, Commander Confederate Provisional Navy, Captains George Hollins and French Forrest, CSN.
Midshipman William E. Evans -- Midshipman Charles W. Read
handling of resignations during April. It seems safe to assume that the President orally encouraged his department heads to take steps to purge their officer corps of southern sympathizers when opportunities arose.
To support this hypothesis, it is necessary to examine the number and sequence of resignations submitted and the Navy Department's reaction. Three tables are provided to assist in this analysis. Those interested in the name, rank, and background of each officer may consult the Appendix at the end of this study. During the first eleven days of April (see Table I), two lieutenants resigned and two were dismissed, and the resignations of four other officers who resigned during the same period, a passed assistant surgeon, a paymaster, an acting midshipman, and an assistant engineer, were accepted. This treatment shows some toughening in Welles' attitude. The time of testing was drawing near. There was a pause in the submission of resignations during April 12, 13, and 14, as officers apparently waited to hear the outcome of the bombardment at Charleston.
When officers sympathetic to the South realized that there would be no yielding on either side, and that there would be war, the resignations that began as a trickle in early April became a flood during the second half of the month. One resignation was sent on the 13th and 15th, three on the 16th, four on the 17th, thirteen on the 18th, seven on the 19th, twenty-two on the 20th, four on the 21st, fifteen on the 22nd, twelve on the 23rd, five on the 24th, sixteen on the 25th, two on the 26th, none on the 27th and 28th, and four on the 29th. During the month, 114 officers "went South," and approximately 41 per cent of those resigning were dismissed. This reflects a radical change in Navy Department policy toward resigning officers.
It is notable almost all of the dismissals occurred after the firing on Fort Sumter. Many of those resigning and dismissed during April were line officers in the ranks of commander and lieutenant. The only other large group resigning during April was made up of 38 midshipmen from the Naval Academy, but they were dealt with leniently. As with the midshipmen who resigned before Fort Sumter, their resignations
were accepted. If one subtracts these midshipmen from the total number resigning, the percentage of those dismissed in April goes up accordingly, to 62 per cent. This is appropriate, for in the eyes of the Navy Department, the seasoned line officers were those upon whom the Navy depended for the accomplishment of most tasks, and they were the future source of the Navy's senior commanders.
From December to the end of April, 222 officers whose loyalty apparently lay with the Confederacy, had resigned (see Table II). These officers represented almost two thirds of the total who would eventually resign on these grounds.26 The sum of officer departures during 1861 was 373, representing approximately 24 per cent of the 1,554 officers who were serving in the U.S. Navy as of December 1860 (see Table III). Of those who resigned, 157 were dismissed. This indicates that over the entire year 41 per cent of those who resigned were dealt with harshly, but many would say, justly. To summarize, 108 officers had resigned during the months December through March, with only one dismissal. During April, 114 resigned and 47 (or 41 per cent) of those were dismissed. From May through December 1861, 151 resigned and 106 (or 70 per cent) of those were dismissed. In other words, any officers who had waited until May to resign were very likely to be dismissed.
One of the factors that probably accelerated the resignations in addition to the outbreak of fighting and the prospect of many more months of it, was the requirement of the Lincoln administration that an oath of loyalty be sworn to the United States government. Civilian employees were required to take this oath, perhaps for the first time, and officers of both services were required to reaffirm their oath of loyalty to their service and country. In the Navy, loyalty oath forms were printed and sent to all ships and stations where commanding officers demanded compliance. Refusal to comply resulted in a virtually forced resignation. In their letters of resignation, a few officers stated their objections to having their loyalty questioned. But when they later "went South," these protests tended to lose their moral force.
Commander Catesby A.P. Jones, CSN. -- Commander William L. Maury, CSN.
United States Navy Officer Resignations & Dismissals
April 1861 by Days
United States Navy Officer Resignations & Dismissals
Year 1860-1861 by months
Proportions of Officers "Going South"
Sources: The information on which Tables I, II, and III are based has been compiled from Register of the Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the Navy of the United States including Officers in the Marine Corps and others for Year 1861 (Washington, D.C., 1861), Register of Officers of the Confederate States Navy, 1861-1865 (Washington, D.C., 1931); and lists and letters contained in the microfilm "Resignations and Dismissals from the U.S. Navy, 1861," RG45, National Archives.
(l. to r.) Lieutenant John M. Brooke, CSN, and Captain Duncan N. Ingraham, USN, ordnance specialists for their respective navies
For the sake of comparison, the United States Marine Corps, in early 1861, had a total strength of 1,775, including 63 officers. Nineteen of these officers "went South" in 1861 to join the newly established Confederate States Marine Corps (see Appendix). Of those who left, six tendered their resignations between February 4 and March 8, and the resignations were accepted by the Navy Department. Of the remaining thirteen, eleven resigned and two deserted between April 21 and November 22. All of these, subsequently, were dismissed by Secretary Welles. The treatment accorded departing Marines, resignations accepted before the firing on Fort Sumter and dismissals issued for those tendered afterward, conforms to the policy change already noted with respect to naval officer resignations. Two thirds of the Marine officers who resigned or deserted did so after Fort Sumter. A few, who were serving in warships, were arrested and imprisoned. These included First Lieutenant Robert Tansill and Second Lieutenant Thomas S. Wilson, both of the frigate Congress and First Lieutenant John R.F. Tattnall of the steam frigate San Jacintco.27 Some of the most valuable U.S. Marine Corps officers became Confederate Marines. According to Ralph Donnelly, this was significant, for "the rather modest record of the U.S. Marines during the Civil War was due to the fact that many of the better trained and more experienced officers still of an age for active service did 'go South.' "28
Proportionately, the U.S. Army suffered almost as much as did the Marine Corps, although the number of officers who resigned was much higher. According to Allan Nevins and A. Howard Meneely, 313 commissioned officers resigned rather than fight in the Union army.29 More recent research indicates, however, that the number may have been lower. One estimate, based on extensive research, holds that while a total of 296 officers resigned or were dismissed from the U.S. Army during 1861, 270 "went South."30
There were approximately 1,100 officers in the U.S. Army as of December 1860; accordingly, one may estimate that about 25 per cent of those on active duty in the U.S. Army joined the Confederate forces.31 The War Department seems to have been more lenient in the handling of defections of this type than the Navy Department. Of the U.S. Army officers who received commissions in the C.S. Army, 244 resigned without penalty, 19 tendered resignations but were then dismissed, and 7 were dismissed without having resigned. The majority of these resignations occurred after the firing on Fort Sumter.
The explanation for the difference in handling resignations of southern officers may lie in the personalities of the Secretaries of War and Navy. Secretary of War Simon Cameron has been described as an amiable though politically grasping, disorganized executive with a reputation for slack administration.32 Gideon Welles, by contrast, was an aggressive, well-organized administrator who chose competent subordinates and was wel1-served by them. He approached the matter of disloyal resignations with puritanical zeal, determined to purge potential turncoats from the ranks.33
It is also important to consider the human aspects of so large a number of officer resignations. For the more senior officers, the cherished ideals of a life-time were put into the balance with sympathies for secessionist friends and families. There are several illuminating memoirs by Confederate naval officers, as well as a few scholarly biographies, and all of them mention the trauma of leaving federal service.34 But the majority left behind only very terse requests for acceptance of their resignations. Historians are indebted, however, to those who chose to make a personal statement at that critical time.
Officers' letters of resignation provide a broad spectrum of excuses and reasons for taking a step that would in some cases eclipse a lifetime of service. Their explanations range from philosophical and juridical sermons to pathetic statements of personal need. Captain Robert Tansill, U.S.M.C., presented his version
Lieutenant Wm. Harwar Parker, CSN, first superintendant of the Confederate Naval Academy.
of a states rights approach to the constitution, based upon a reading of President Lincoln's inaugural address:
In entering the public service, I took an oath to support the Constitution, which necessarily gives me the right to interpret it. Our institutions, according to my understanding, are founded upon the principle and right of self-government. The States, in forming the Confederacy did not relinquish that right, and I believe each State has a clear and unquestionable right to secede whenever the people thereof think proper, and the Federal Government has no legal or moral authority to use physical force to keep them in the Union. Entertaining these views, I cannot conscientiously join in a war against any of the States which have already seceded or may hereafter secede, either North or South, for the purpose of coercing them back into the Union....35An appeal to a "higher law" was common among zealots of both the North and the South during the Civil War. One of the strongest letters of resignation in this vein was submitted by Lieutenant James B. Lewis to Secretary Welles from Charlestown, [West] Virginia. Lieutenant Lewis sealed his fate as follows:
The General Government having been converted into a military despotism & when I entered the service (then an honorable one), I was sworn to support the constitution of the U.S. That having been set aside, "the higher law" compells me to resign & I do hereby resign my position as Lieutenant in the United States Navy.... It is with deep mortification that I recognize the fact of the utter failure on the part of the North in the failure in the experiment of constitutional liberty. What a spectacle [to] all intelligent minds, is the immolation of the cardinal principles of the declaration of independence (those Virginia fought through a seven years war to establish), 'the consent of the governed & to institute new governments.' The despotism has usurped the place of constitutional liberty.36Officers of the highest rank were also dismissed summarily, particularly if they, like Captain Isaac Mayo, took the trouble to attack the Lincoln administration. Writing from his Maryland estate on May 1, he asserted:
For more than half a century it has been the pride of my life to hold office under the Government of the United States. For twenty-five, I have engaged in active sea-service and have never seen my flag dishonored, or the American arms disgraced by defeat. It was the hope of my old age that I might die, as I had lived, an officer in the Navy of a free Government. This hope has been taken from me. In adopting the policy of coercion, you have denied to millions of freemen the rights of the Constitution and in its stead you have placed the will of a sectional Party. As one of the oldest soldiers of America, I protest--in the name of humanity-against this "war against brethren!" I cannot fight against the Constitution while pretending to fight for it. You will therefore oblige me by accepting my resignation.37The Mayo resignation letter had a tragic aftermath. Whether he actually intended to serve the Confederate States Navy may never be known. Secretary Welles' letter dismissing him from the service was dated May 18. On that same day, Mayo committed suicide. Although it cannot be asserted with certainty, it is possible that he had heard of the dismissal.
In another case, a better known though less senior officer submitted his resignation only to be met by President Lincoln's reluctance to accept it. Commander
Matthew Fontaine Maury, Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Observatory, had won international renown as an hydrographer and nautical scientist. His initial letter of resignation was only one sentence in length. "Sir, I beg leave herewith to resign into your hands my commission as a Commander in the Navy of the United States." Secretary Welles replied to Maury in an unusual letter, stating that the President had not yet accepted his resignation and wished him to state his reasons for wishing to resign.38
Six days after having sent the resignation, Maury sent his statement of reasons; "Our once glorious union is gone; the state through which and for which I confessed allegiance to the Federal Government has no longer any lot or part in it: Neither have I. I deign to go with my people & with them to share its fortunes of our own state together. Such are the reasons for tendering my resignation, and I hope the President will consider them satisfactory... "39
Less high-minded and more sentimental was the resignation letter sent by Lieutenant James J. Waddell who was serving in USS John Adams and who wrote from the island of St. Helena the following lines:
The people of the State of North Carolina having withdrawn their allegiance to the Government of the late Confederacy of the United States ... I return to 'His Excellency the President of the United States,' the Commission which appointed me a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy ... In thus separating myself from association which I have cherished for twenty years, I wish it to be understood that no doctrine of the rights of secession, nor wish for disunion of the States impel me, but simply because my home is the home of my people in the South, and I could not bear arms against them.40Some letters were sent containing a strictly personal reason for the officer's resignation, as in the case of Chief Engineer James H. Warner, who wrote, "It is with heartfelt regret that I render this my resignation as Chief Engineer in the United
(l. to r.) James Iredell Waddell, CSN, who took CSS Shenandoah around the world for l3 months; Commander Raphael Semmes, CSN, Commanding Officer of CSS Alabama; and John McIntosh Kell, CSN.
States Navy. This I do from personal and private considerations. It is impossible that I should go to sea and leave my family in a hostile country, when they are detained by sickness and I unable to furnish them with the means of subsistence. Under the circumstances, I thus sacrifice the labor of years and all agreeable prospects for the future."41 An even briefer and equally personal letter was sent by Surgeon R.W. Jeffery in the USS Saratoga off the West Coast of Africa: "I respectfully resign the position which I hold in the Navy of the United States. No official act of my life has ever been performed with as much pain; but believing as it due to myself and to the service, it must be done; though it removes me from associations of a most happy character & from many of my most cherished friends."42
The letters stating personal reasons for resignation were frequently treated in the same manner as those stating principled reasons, based on the secession of one's state or the enlargement of federal executive powers. After the firing on Fort Sumter, the Navy Department interpreted almost all resignations from officers of southern origin as acts of disloyalty, whether they were worded in such a manner or not. An interesting example of such letters are two which follow. First Assistant Engineer Richard C. Potts sensed what was about to happen but sent in his letter anyway. Wrote Potts, "I tender by resignation as a 1st Asst Engineer in the Navy of the U.S. My reasons are purely personal. My loyalty has been proved. Therefore, I would state that 1 do not wish to be dismissed, as has been the case with the majority of those who have offered their resignations.43 He was dismissed.
Even the most pathetic statement of ill-health, coming from a naval surgeon, was unable to escape the Welles dismissal policy. Surgeon Charles Fahs, writing from Astor House, a hotel frequented by southern naval officers in New York, tendered his resignation and asked that it be accepted. "My reasons for this course," he stated, "are in consequence of the condition of my eyes 1 feel that 1 am unfit for duty. I suffer a great deal of pain in them every day and it is of the greatest importance that I should place myself under treatment, lest they may be permanently injured. 1 have made every arrangement to obey my orders in so far as purchasing my ticket to San Francisco and reporting to the Department that I would sail today, but the pains I have suffered since cause me to resign at this late moment.... "44 Surgeon Fahs later served in the Confederate States Navy on the Richmond station and at the Naval Ordnance Works in Selma, Alabama.
One of the most poignant anecdotes, regarding the agony of officers going South and parting company with friends who did not, recalls the friendship of Captain Hiram Paulding, USN and Captain Josiah Tattnall, USN & CSN. In Paulding's manuscript memoirs, he recalled meetings he had in New York with Tattnall before the Civil War.
During the holiday between sixty and sixty one, my friend of a long life made me a visit and staid with me for a number of days. The aspect of public affairs was so threatening that I had a conviction that a Rebellion was at hand and had many conversations with my friend, begging and imploring him to stand by the old Flag. At times I hope to have succeeded & indulged in the delusion that I should, but in going with him from my home to the Astor House in New York where at that time we found many ardent southern men who inflamed his southern calling & we parted, he to his
station at Sackett's Harbor & I to my home on Long Island. It was not long from this when I received a brief note saying that he was going the next day to Washington to resign and go south. It was a great grief to the Navy where he was greatly beloved....45Paulding's daughter described the sequel to this parting in a late nineteenth century biography of her father.
Years after, when the war had ended, the writer was present at an accidental meeting of the two men in New York City. 'Why Joe you dear old rebel, how are you?' said Paulding clapping the ex-Confederare on the shoulder with force fit to fell an ox; and thereupon he took the broken-hearted old man to his beautiful home on the shores of Long Island Sound, where he entertained him for many days, the sad chapter of the civil war being never once alluded to. Paulding's generous forgetfulness of the past was not lost on the brave sailor who at the repulse of the British on the Peiho, in China, declared blood to be "thicker than water" and the two men parted firmer friends than ever, never to meet again on earth, for shortly afterward, Commodore Tattnall died.46The cases illustrated in these letters and anecdotes were repeated many times in different ways. They nonetheless did happen and the officers who were dismissed had to live with the consequences, though some had second thoughts.47 But the majority of those "going South" probably had few doubts. For them, the onset of war brought a crisis of loyalties. The United States, not yet a century old, claimed their allegiance, but the South had become a nation within a nation.48 The dream of economic self-sufficiency, the growth of a distinctive southern literature, the appeals of religious and educational movements of a Southern character, and even a sectional "manifest destiny" advocating acquisition of territory in which Southern institutions could flourish, all indicated the growth of a Southern nationalism. Many naval officers born, raised, or married in the South probably were imbued with these flourishing ideas. Those who left the Navy for Southern sympathies did so because for most of them there was a higher loyalty to region or state rather
(l. to r.) Commodore Josiah Tattnall, CSN, and Captain Hiram Paulding, USN.
than to the federal government.
From the point of view of the Navy Department, however, the crucial point was morale and discipline. For Gideon Welles and many others, to condone defections was to encourage them. The harsh substitution of dismissal for acceptance of resignations arose from the trauma of civil war. As a result, resigning officers paid a high price for their divided loyalties.
Junior officers of the CSS Alabama.
[B L A N K]
1. Colonel Robert E. Lee was offered field command of the Union Army on April 18th, 1861, while the Virginia Convention was still debating the issue of secession. Lee declined, having already sensed the outcome of the secession vote. Shortly thereafter, General Winfield Scott, Commander-in-Chief, United States Army, advised Lee to resign since his views were incompatible with the high responsibilities of his rank. Lee did so on the 20th, was offered command of the forces of Virginia on the 21st, and on the 22nd he accepted, as was commonly expected. See Douglas Southall Freeman, R.E. Lee: A Biography (4 vols.; New York, 1936), I, 435-447, 462-464; and Rev. J. William Jones, Life and Letters of Robert Edward Lee (New York, 1906), pp. 131-132.
2. Captain David G. Farragut was born and raised in the South and he married a Norfolk girl. As Virginia's secession was being debated, he was awaiting orders in Norfolk. When he heard the outcome of the vote on April 18th, Farragut departed abruptly with his wife for New York. He resided temporarily in Hastings-on- Hudson but was soon called for duty at the New York Navy Yard. The timing and swiftness of his decision to move north allayed any lingering suspicions of his southern background. See Loyall Farragut, The Life of David Glasgow Farragut (New York, 1879), pp. 203-208 and Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, Admiral Farragut (New York, 1892), pp. 106-114.
3. Almost every published work on the Civil War mentions the question of officer resignations from the Army and Navy, often giving more emphasis to those of the Army. Usually a few familiar cases of officers who "went South" are presented with a total figure or proportion of resignations included, and then the author proceeds to other matters. Allan Nevins' otherwise excellent The War far the Union: The Improved War, 1861-1862 (New York, 1959), I, 107-112, is an example. John T. Scharfs classic History of the Confederate Navy... (New York, 1887), deals more closely with the subject than do other studies, but his account is flavored with a southern accent and does not present a balanced view of the position of the Navy Department in Washington.
4. An outline of these events can be found in U.S. Naval History Division, Civil War Naval Chronology, 1861-1865 (Washington, D.C., 1971), I, 2-12.
5. John G. Nicolay and John Hay, Abraham Lincoln, A History (New York, 1890), III, 162-174.
6. Joseph T. Durkin, S.J. Stephen R. Mallory, Confederate Navy Chief (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1954), pp. 130-156.
7. New York Times, 19 February 1861, p. 8.
8. George Melling, comp., Laws Relating to the Navy, Annotated (Washington, D.C., 1922), pp. 97-98, 441-442.
9. Captain Samuel Dupont to Commander Andrew Hull Foote, 25 January 1861, as quoted in Clarence E. Macartney, Mr. Lincoln's Admirals (New York, 1956), p. 119.
10. Edward McPherson, ed., The Political History of the United States of America during the Great Rebellion (Washington, D.C., 1865), p. 80.
11. Ibid., p. 82.
12. Ibid., p. 83.
15. Ibid., p. 84.
16. Robert M. Thompson & Richard Wainwright, eds., Confidential Correspondence of Gustavus Vasa Fox, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, 1861-1865 (2 vols.; New York, 1918),I,38-41.
17. Welles, Diary, p. 19. Captain Franklin Buchanan, in early 1861, was Commandant of the Washington Navy Yard. Captain Samuel Barron's last assignment, before the firing on Fort Sumter, was service on the Lighthouse Board. At the time he tendered his resignation from the Navy, he was "waiting orders." Captain George Magruder was serving as Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography. As such, he was Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury's immediate superior. Maury was highly respected as Superintendent of the Naval Observatory. Lieutenant David Dixon Porter was under orders to proceed to Coast Survey, Pacific, when he received a call from Secretary of State William Seward for a more urgent kind of service.
18. Welles, Diary, pp. 21-32; Glyndon G. Van Deusen, William Henry Seward, (New York, 1967), pp. 284-285.
19. Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln, IV, 141-143; Nevins, War for the Union, I, 74-76.
20. David D. Porter, The Naval History of the Civil War (New York, 1886), p. 27.
21. Frederick W. Seward, Seward at Washington as Senator and Secretary of State; A Memoir of His Life ... (New York, 1891), p. 526.
22. Ibid., pp. 560-561.
23. Albert Smith to Gideon Welles, 15 April 1861, Gideon Welles Papers, Library of Congress [hereafter cited as Welles Papcrs, LC], Box #44 (April 2-April 21, 1861). Magruder did resign but Shubrick did not though he was terribly distraught at having to choose sides. see Hiram Paulding to his wife, Ann Maria, 28 February 1861, Admiral Hiram Paulding Collection, Microfilm TM 205, Reel 15, Item Xll. Navy Department Library, Naval Historical Center, Washington, D.C.
24. Emily Thorn to Gideon Welles, 17 April 1861, Welles Papers, LC, Box #44.
25. H. Hamlin to Gideon Welles, 3 May 1861, Welles Papers, LC, Box #45 (April 22-May 21, 1861).
26. Of the 373 officers who resigned, approximately 311 became commissioned or warrant officers of the C.S.N.; therefore, 83% of the resignations may be said to have been defections. See Register of Officers of the Confederate States Navy, 1861-1865 (1898; rev. ed. 1931).
27. Ralph W. Donnelly, Biographical Sketches of the Commissioned Officers of the Confederate States Marine Corps (Alexandria, Va., 1973), pp. 40-44, 55-56.
28. Ralph W. Donnelly, The History of the Confederate States Marine Corps (Washington, D.C., 1976), p. 136. See also James Charles Gasser, "Confederate Marines in the Civil War," (unpublished M.A. thesis, Alabama Polytechnic Institute, 1956), pp. 33-34; Clyde H. Metcalf, A History of the United States Marine Corps (New York, 1939), pp. 192-193; and Robert D. Heinl, Jr., Soldiers of the Sea; The United States Marine Corps, 1775-1962 (Annapolis, Md., 1962), pp. 71-73. Allan R. Millet, Semper Fidelis: A History of the United States Marine Corps (New York & London, 1980), p. 92.
29. Nevins, War for the Union, I, 107-108; A Howard Meneely, The War Department, 1861: A Study in Mobilization and Administration (New York, 1928), pp. 105-106.
30. Based on information provided by George Ness, of Baltimore, Md., in a telephone conversation on May 19, 1980. Mr. Ness has worked for many years on a manuscript entitled "The Army on the Eve of the Civil War," in which he deals in detail with the question of resignations and dismissals.
31. Record and Pension Office, War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series III (Washington, D.C. 1902), I, 22. Cf. Maj. Gen. Emory Upton, The Military Policy of the United States (Washington, D.C., 1902), pp. 235-240.
32. Nevins, War for the Union, I, 396-397.
33. John Niven, Gideon Welles, Lincoln's Secretary of the Navy (New York, 1973), pp. 324-325; see also James E. Valle, Rocks & Shoals: Order and Discipline in the Old Navy, 1800-1861 (Annapolis, Md., 1980), pp. 161-162. For a rather jaundiced view of Welles' policy by a contemporary, see also William J. Morgan, et al., eds., Autobiography of Rear Admiral Charles Wilkes, U.S. Navy, 1798-1877, pp. 755-756.
34. Accounts by or about former U.S. Navy officers who served in the Confederate States Navy include: George M. Brooke, Jr., John M. Brooke: Naval Scientist and Educator (Charlottesville, Va.; 1980); James D. Horan, ed., C.S.S. Shenandoah; The Memoirs of Lieutenant Commanding James I. Waddell (New York, 1960); John McIntosh Kell, Recollections of Naval Life including the Cruises of the Confederate States Steamers "Sumter" and "Alabama" (Washington, D.C., 1900); Charles Lee Lewis, Admiral Frank Buchanan (Baltimore, 1929); Emma M. Maffitt, The Life and Services of John Newland Maffitt (New York, 1906); William Harwar Parker, Recollections of a Naval Officer, 1841-1865 (New York, 1883); and Raphael Semmes, Memoirs of Service Afloat during the War Between the States (Baltimore, 1869); Royce Gordon Singleton, John Taylor Wood: Sea Ghost of the Confederacy (Athens, Ga., 1979).
35. Capt. Robert Tansill to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, 17 March 1861, Montevideo, NA, RG45, "Resignations and Dismissals of Officers from the U.S. Navy, 1861" [hereafter referred to as R & D], p. 33. Reverse notation; "Dismiss. Done. 24 Aug."
36. Lt. James B. Lewis to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, 23 May 1861, Charlestown, [West] Virginia, NA, RG45, R&D, p. 7. Reverse notation: "Dismissed 14 June to take effect from 23 May 1861."
37. Capt. Isaac Mayo to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, 1 May 1861, Anne
Arundel, Maryland, NA, RG45, R&D, P 141. Reverse notation: "Dismiss by order the President."
38. Gideon Welles to Matthew F. Maury, 22 April 1861, NA, RG45, R&D.
39. Cdr. Matthew F. Maury to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, May 1861, NA, RG45, R&D, p. 123. Reverse notation: "Dismissed 15 May."
40. Lt. James Waddell to Secretary Gideon Welles, USS John Adams, 20 Nov. 1861, NA, RG45, R&D, p. 65. Reverse notation: "Dismissed 18 Jan 1862."
41. Chief Engineer James H. Warner to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, 6 July 1861, USS Richmond, New York, NA, RG45, R&D, p. 53. Reverse notation: "Dismissed 8 July 1861."
42. Surgeon R.W. Jeffery to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, 12 July 1861, USS Saratoga, NA, RG45, R&D, p. 50. Reverse notation: "Dismissed 28 Sep 1861---to take effect when received. Virginian."
43. First Assistant Engineer Richard C. Potts to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, 6 June 1861, Charlestown, Mass., NA, RG45, R&D, p. 61. Reverse notation: "Dismissed 15 June 1861."
44. Surgeon Charles F. Fahs to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, 11 Nov 1861, Astor House, NA, RG45, R&D, p. 62. Reverse notation: "Dismissed 13 Nov. 1861."
45. Admiral Hiram Paulding Collection, Microfilm TM 205, Reel 6, Navy Department Library, Naval Historical Center, Washington, D.C.
46. Rebecca Paulding Meade, "Admiral Hiram Paulding," Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Vol. LVIlI, No. CCCXLV (February 1879), pp. 358-364.
47. Among officers who attempted to withdraw resignations hastily submitted, the best known is probably Captain Franklin Buchanan, former Commandant of the Washington Navy Yard and later commanding officer of CSS Virginia (USS Merrimack) when she destroyed the frigate Congress and sloop of war Cumberland at Hampton Roads. For the text of letters passing between Secretary of the Navy Welles and Buchanan and the latter's chagrin at having acted prematurely, see Lewis, Captain Franklin Buchanan, pp. 162-166.
48. John McCardell, The Idea of a Southern Nation: Southern Nationalists and Southern Nationalism, 1830-1860 (New York & London, 1979).
Data on Officers Resigning, Accepted and Dismissed1
1. Sources: Resignations & Dismissals of Officers from the U.S. Navy, 1861; Letters of Resignation from Commissioned Officers immediately before and following the outbreak of the Civil War and the Secretary's Acceptance, 2 vols.; List of Commissioned Officers who resigned or were dismissed immediately before and following the outbreak of the Civil War, Dec. 1860-Dec. 1861. Navy and Old Army Branch; NA. Register of the Secretary of the Navy, 1861, pp. 160-169; Register of the Officers of the Confederate States Navy, 1861-1965 (Washington, D.C., 1931).
2. All dates are of year 1861 unless otherwise indicated.
3. This column contains the crucial date which indicates when the Navy Department considered a resignation to have been accepted or dismissed. A resignation had no effect until this date. Time lags between tender and acceptance or dismissal were usually due to distance between officer and Washington, D.C., but in some cases officers were able to use telegraph, and in Secretary Toucey's administration some resignations from the deep South were sent and accepted by telegram on the same day.
4. Navy Registers show officers geographical location at only three points during their careers: state of birth (without date), state from which appointed (which sometimes had no relationship to residence) and state of which the officer was a citizen.
5. In instances where a line and no rank appears, the officer did not join the Confederate State Navy. In some cases, not indicated, a Confederate officer would be a member of the "Virginia Navy," the "South Carolina Navy," or the "Georgia Navy," although these state navies were small and had but a brief existence.
*The younger of two brothers whose father served as a naval officer in the War of 1812, William Harwar Parker won renown as the organizer and first superintendent of the Confederate Naval Academy and as the author of seamanship texts used at that institution. His brother Foxhall Alexander Parker stayed with the Union, held several commands, wrote texts on naval ordnance, and coincidentally served as the superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy during 1878-1879. The Parker family was typical of many whose relationships were divided by the war.
+Did not reply to Navy Dept. letters.
*Letters of resignation from several Acting Midshipmen not found. In some cases their fathers submitted resignations for them. In others, the Superintendent of the Naval Academy only submitted a list of resignations to the Secretary of the Navy.
+ erroneously listed in Navy Registers as Charles W. Leroy---no such person held this rank at the time.
@ Officer's rank designated as Acting, a temporary commission.
Note: The Naval Historical Center gratfully acknowledges Dr. William S. Dudley and the Naval Historical Foundation for their support and encouragement in posting this online edition.
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