[CIVIL WAR - NAVY]. WELLES, Gideon (1802-1878). Autograph document. N.p., n.d. 4 pages, 4to

Entirely in the hand of Welles and titled “Lieutenant Porter not being under the Orders of the Secretary.” Welles’s account of how Seward commandeered the services of Porter without informing Welles, an example of the devious Seward’s efforts to undercut and show up his fellow cabinet members, Welles being among his favorite targets.  He begins: “Lieutenant Porter having been taken into the enterprise of the Secretary of State in the matter stated, without the knowledge of the Secretary of the Navy[,] was unable to make report to the Navy Department. Those who planned to send out the illegitimate expedition assumed to give Lt. Porter an independent command. When, therefore, he arrived off Pensacola the senior Naval officer, having received no orders or instructions from the Secretary of the Navy in regards to the vessel and its mission, would not recognize her as a part of the squadron.” 

Welles goes on to explain that Porter then wrote to the Secretary of State, who [having done sufficient damage to suit his purposes] turned the correspondence over to Welles with a request that he take charge of the matter and send Porter instructions.  Much more to follow, relative to the Powhatan at Pensacola, and the grief caused by Seward’s malicious meddling. Welles got control of Porter and, “by the President’s order,” control of the Pensacola, upon which he sent instructions to Porter that the Powhatan would “constitute a part of the Blockading Squadron.”  References to Forts Sumter and Pickens and April 1861.

At the End of March 1861, Lincoln decided to attempt to maintain control of the few properties that the Union controlled within the Confederacy, primarily Fort Sumter off Charleston and Fort Pickens in Pensacola. Seward, in a typical power-grab, decided it was his responsibility to implement this policy. He, therefore, diverted some of the ships — including the Powhatan, commanded by Porter — weapons, and men originally dispatched to Pensacola instead, without informing either Lincoln or Welles.  Lincoln ill-advisedly informed the Governor of South Carolina of the plan to deliver supplies to Fort Sumter, and that if this action were uninterrupted, he would not engage in amassing of forces at the fort.  On 12 April 1861, Charleston began the bombardment of the fort. After more than a day under attack, Anderson surrendered the fort. Soon enough, Virginia seceded and captured Harper’s Ferry. In this account, Welles notes that “the papers which the Galaxy had published in relation to events connected with the falls of Sumter and Pickens have brought to light incidents, naval, military, & civic not heretofore disclosed which occurred in the month of April 1861, a month pregnant with facts of unsurpassed interest in American history.” The implication is that, had Seward minded his own business, the immediate past might have been more favorable to the Union. 

The Richard B. Cohen Civil War Collection Lots 79-98; 116; 138-153; and 266

Cowan's is pleased to offer the third installment of Richard B. Cohen's collection of Civil War Brown Water Navy photography. Richard was known to many in the field as a "disciplined collector who maintained a relatively narrow focus having built an important, perhaps unsurpassed collection in his area of specialization." From cartes de visite to large format photographs, this portion of the collection features a noteworthy selection of images of Brown Water Navy warships, among them, the USS BentonChoctawLafayette, and Louisville. Many important identified naval officers are also represented, including an exquisite CDV of the promising young officer, Lieutenant Commander William Gwin, who died of wounds aboard the USS Benton following an artillery duel with Confederate forces at Snyder's Bluff, and an exceptionally large war-date photograph of the controversial commander of the USS Pittsburgh, Egbert Thompson.

This auction also features a premiere selection of autographs and manuscripts from Richard's carefully curated collection. Highlights include a letter from Jefferson Davis to his distant cousin, John J. Pettus, Governor of Mississippi, dated a year before secession, conveying intricate plans for securing armaments in preparation for the war; an Abraham Lincoln signed endorsement; a letter from Admiral D.G. Farragut from New Orleans, offering excellent insight into his "political" thinking as well as his dedication to his work; correspondence from Gideon Welles, David Dixon Porter, U.S. Grant, and W.T. Sherman; and a pair of superb letters with highly descriptive accounts of the Battle of the Monitor and Merrimac.

Provenance:The Richard B. Cohen Civil War Collection

Estimate: $650 - $850
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