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Gustavus Vasa Fox of the Union Navy

A Biography

This magisterial biography recounts the life and career of one of the U.S. Navy's most influential officers, Gustavus Vasa Fox. Ari Hoogenboom's examination of Fox's incredible life and distinguished career creates a vivid portrait of the man most responsible for the U.S. Navy's stellar performance in the Civil War.

Fox's naval service began in 1838 when he went to sea as a midshipman. He sailed in the Mediterranean, off the coast of Africa, in the Gulf of Mexico, and with the East India Squadron in the Pacific. By participating in the Coast Survey and by navigating the lower Mississippi River in the 1850s, as captain of a steamer that ran from New York to Havana to New Orleans and back, Fox gained valuable experience that would serve him well in the Civil War.

During the war, Fox was instrumental in mounting the blockade of the southern coast, from the Chesapeake Bay to the Rio Grande. After the battle between the Monitor and the Virginia, Fox championed ironclad technology despite having to contend with an officer corps wedded to wooden ships. In planning and coordinating expeditions, Fox deserves much of the credit for the navy's successes at Hatteras, Port Royal, New Orleans, Mobile Bay, and Fort Fisher.

Initially neither proslavery nor antislavery, Fox was passionately committed to the preservation of the Union and, as black sailors made a crucial contribution toward that end, became an advocate of freedom and voting rights for African Americans. A skilled administrator who understood both the demands of politicians and the needs of line officers, he was able to communicate effectively with each group. Fox developed a close and collegial working relationship with Abraham Lincoln and was related by marriage to the postmaster general. Along with officers like Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs and coordinator of military railroads Herman Haupt, Fox played a critical but underappreciated role in the Union victory.

About the Author

Ari Hoogenboom is professor of history emeritus at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. He is author of several books on the military career and presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes and is editor of Encyclopedia of American History: The Development of the Industrial United States, 1870–1899.


"Fox (named for Sweden's King Gustavus) is now the subject of a fine, perhaps definitive, biography by historian Ari Hoogenboom . . . This massively researched book should be on every naval bookshelf."—John M. and Priscilla S. Taylor, Washington Times

"A meticulously researched and presented biography . . . Detailed and thoughtful study of an exceptional leader and true patriot."—C. Kay Larson, Midwest Book Review

"An engaging narration of a pivotal figure in American naval history . . . a welcome addition to the historiography of prominent Civil War participants . . . This book should appeal to both general and scholarly audiences."—Gregory N. Stern, History: Reviews of New Books

"Gustavus Vasa Fox is the most important figure of the American Civil War who, before now, had no published biography. . . Hoogenboom has finally put to rest the question of just how important Fox was to the naval effort during the Civil War."—Robert Browning, Sea History

"This book is essential to anyone interested in the navy's role in the American Civil War. Aside from being an excellent biography of Fox, it details the inner workings of the Navy Department and gives the reader a difference view of events. The research is extensive, the writing is lively and entertaining, and the book is certainly well worth the effort."—Andrew Duppstadt, Nautical Research Journal

"Gustavus Vasa Fox of the Union Navy will be important for scholars seeking an alternative interpretation of how the Civil War was won."—Michael J. Bennett , Journal of American History

"My hat goes off to Hoogenboom for an assiduously researched, judiciously written, and illuminating, enjoyable work."—C. Kay Larson, H-CivWar, H-Net Reviews

"A magisterial biography. This book is highly recommended for both academics and Civil War buffs."—C. Douglas Kroll, South Carolina Historical Magazine

"At last, we have a full length and skillfully rendered portrait of Gus Fox, who acted as the de facto Chief of Naval Operations during the Civil War. This is must reading for anyone interested in the naval aspects of the Civil War."—Craig L. Symonds, author of Lincoln and His Admirals

"Ari Hoogenboom's sparkling and insightful volume is the first modern biography of a pivotal player in the creation and deployment of the Union navy during the Civil War. Canny and witty, Fox was one of Abraham Lincoln's favorite companions and, more generally, he smoothed the differences between many of the more prickly personalities leading the Union war effort."—Michael Fellman, coauthor of This Terrible War: The Civil War and Its Aftermath

9781421402031 : gustavus-vasa-fox-of-the-union-navy-hoogenboom
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408 Pages
$43.00 USD

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