Rear Admiral Samuel Francis Du Pont


Samuel Francis Du Pont (1803–65) was a Union naval officer in the American Civil War. Born in Bergen Point (present-day Bayonne), New Jersey, he was a member of the prominent du Pont family. His paternal grandfather, Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours, was a French economist, diplomat, and advisor to Louis XVI. Du Pont started his naval career at the age of 12 as a midshipman on the USS Franklin. He served with distinction in the Mexican War (1846‒48) and was instrumental in taking San Diego. With the outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861, he decided against retirement and was appointed to the Blockade Board, or Commission of Conference, which was responsible for all Union naval strategy. Du Pont was appointed to command the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron in September 1861 and captured Point Royal, South Carolina, one of the first Union successes of the war. In July 1862, he was appointed one of the navy’s first three admirals. In April 1863, against his wishes, the Department of the Navy instructed Du Pont to lead a naval attack on Charleston, South Carolina, rather than an attack by land and sea, for which he had advocated. The operation failed and he was subsequently relieved of his command. The image is from an album of mostly Civil War-era portraits by the famous American photographer Matthew Brady (circa 1823‒96) that belonged to Emperor Pedro II of Brazil (1825‒91), a collector of photography as well as a photographer himself. The album was a gift to the emperor from Edward Anthony (1818‒88), another early American photographer who, in partnership with his brother, owned a company that in the 1850s became the leading seller of photographic supplies in the United States. Dom Pedro may have acquired the album during a trip to the United States in 1876 when he, along with President Ulysses S. Grant, opened the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Brady was born in upstate New York, the son of immigrants from Ireland. Best known for his photographs documenting the battles of the American Civil War, he began his career in 1844 when he opened a daguerreotype portrait studio at the corner of Broadway and Fulton Streets in New York City. Over the course of the next several decades, Brady produced portraits of leading American public figures, many of which were published as engravings in magazines and newspapers. In 1858 he opened a branch in Washington, DC. The album, which also contains a small number of non-photographic prints, is part of the Thereza Christina Maria Collection at the National Library of Brazil. The collection is composed of 21,742 photos assembled by Emperor Pedro II throughout his life and donated by him to the national library. The collection covers a wide variety of subjects. It documents the achievements of Brazil and Brazilians in the 19th century and also includes many photographs of Europe, Africa, and North America.

Last updated: March 22, 2016