Union Secretary of the Navy during and after the American Civil War. b. 1802 d. 1878.
As a New Englander born in Glastonbury, Connecticut, Gideon Welles was placed in an awkward position when he was appointed personally by Abraham Lincoln to his cabinet as Secretary of the Navy. He had no real knowledge of how to run the Navy, but relied on the advice of high ranking naval officers and was dedicated and sincere in his efforts on the job. During his tenure, the United States Navy rose from a small, outdated fleet to one of the most impressive military forces of the 19th century.
After a reorganization of the Department of the Navy with the advice and blessing of his best officers, Welles created a fleet whose chief purpose was the blockading of more than two thousand miles of coastal waters. Welles' success in this plan was the blueprint for the fall of the confederacy, as his navy made confederate trade with other nations all but impossible. Welles worked closely with Gustavus V. Fox on the construction of the U.S.S. Monitor and as such was not opposed to radical new ideas. His only troubles came from constant disagreements with Edwin Stanton, the Union Secretary of War. The two rarely saw eye to eye on the prosecution of the war, but Welles was said to be on good terms with the rest of the Army.
Gideon Welles' diary is one of the most trusted references of military and historical researchers about the American Civil War. His journal entries note each and every detail of the military side of that slice of American history.
After the war, Gideon Welles stood with Andrew Johnson and supported his efforts against the radical Republicans and their plans for Reconstruction. He was a methodical and loyal worker who is often overlooked as a contributing force to the Union victory in the War Between the States.