Gideon Welles

Detail of Gideon Welles, glass negative, ca. 1855-65 – Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Brady-Handy Collection

Gideon Welles (1802-1878)

Born in Glastonbury in 1802, Gideon Welles is known best for his work in organizing and expanding the US navy during the Lincoln Administration. After working in the Connecticut legislature from 1827 until 1835, and as Hartford’s postmaster shortly after, he received an appointment as chief of the Navy’s Bureau of Provisions and Clothing in 1846. His strong anti-slavery views convinced him to join the newly formed Republican Party and helped earn him an appointment as Secretary of the Navy under Abraham Lincoln. Welles, whom Lincoln called “My Neptune,” rapidly doubled the size of the US navy during his tenure and successfully directed the Union’s naval campaigns during the Civil War.


Cover of a patriotic song dedicated to Lincoln's secretary of the navy Gideon Welles

Gideon Welles, US Secretary of the Navy and Lincoln’s “Neptune”

Gideon Welles was the Secretary of the United States Navy from 1861 to 1869 and a cabinet member during the presidencies of Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. …[more]

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Cedar Hill Cemetery Foundation. “Gideon Welles (1802 – 1878),” 2017. Link.


“The Historical Society of Glastonbury,” 2016. Link.


Connecticut Historical Society. “A Guide to the Gideon Welles Papers,” 2017.
Library of Congress. “Finding Aid to the Gideon Welles Papers, 1777-1911,” 2017. Link.
Connecticut Digital Archive. “Gideon Welles Collection,” n.d. Link.
“The Abraham Lincoln Papers - Collins Brothers & Company to Gideon Welles, Thursday, August 25, 1864,” 1864. Library of Congress, American Memory. Link.


Spencer, J. Ronald, ed. A Connecticut Yankee in Lincoln’s Cabinet: Navy Secretary Gideon Welles Chronicles the Civil War. Hartford, CT: The Acorn Club, 2014.
Welles, Gideon, and Edgar Thaddeus Welles. Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson. Boston; New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1911. Link.
Niven, John. Gideon Welles; Lincoln’s Secretary of the Navy. New York: Oxford University Press, 1973.
West, Richard S. Gideon Welles: Lincoln’s Navy Department. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1943.