Gideon Welles: Lincoln's Secretary of the Navy

3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195016932
ISBN-10: 0195016939
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 676 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (November 8, 1973)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195016939
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195016932
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,425,820 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By David W. Nicholas on July 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Throughout history there are characters who aren't at the center of the stage, but who are important supporting players in the world's affairs. Gideon Welles was one of these: he served as Lincoln's Secretary of the Navy during all of the Civil War, and oversaw the expansion of that service from a tiny pre-war, almost exclusively sail-driven fleet into a large, steam-driven armada, sufficient to defeat Confederate ironclads, hunt down commerce raiders, and blockade all of the South. It was a monumental task, and Welles proved equal to it after a shaky start.

Who was this man, how did he come to prominence, and why did Lincoln appoint him to the post? Those are the questions that the author, John Niven, attempts to answer. Welles was primarily a newspaperman, though he did work in various government posts also, including one stint in the Department of the Navy during the Mexican-American War. However, he'd essentially been elected to no offices prior to being appointed Navy Secretary, and he'd only held that one appointment in the Navy Department prior to the appointment.

He did have one singular qualification from Lincoln's point of view, though. He was pretty much a founding member of the Republican Party, having broken with the Democrats over various issues relating to slavery. This gave him entree into Lincoln's circle of advisers and friends, and when Welles entered, he impressed people, and was on the list to be appointed to a cabinet post as a result.

I generally enjoyed this book, within limits. The author is a historian, a specialist in mid-19th Century political history, and it shows. Unfortunately, though the book is reasonably well-written, the author doesn't do much for context.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Barrie W. Bracken on September 20, 2007
Format: Paperback
It was 34 years ago I first picked up this book and have been a fan of John Niven ever since. This book is the best in the distinguished list of Dr. Niven;s writings. Gideon Welles moves from editor to politician to powerful figure in the Lincoln administration and we follow him as fellow travelers on this voyage. This is one book well worth the price for your library.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Millicent J. Rose on May 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
a recitation of facts. Maybe Gideon Welles wasn't the most interesting man in history but no one is this boring
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