Gustavus Fox

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Gustavus Fox
Gustavus Fox.jpg
Gustavus V. Fox, August 1866
Assistant Secretary of the Navy
In office
August 1, 1861 – November 26, 1866
PresidentAbraham Lincoln
Succeeded byWilliam Faxon
Personal details
Gustavus Vasa Fox

(1821-06-13)June 13, 1821
Saugus, Massachusetts
DiedOctober 29, 1883(1883-10-29) (aged 62)
Lowell, Massachusetts
Resting placeRock Creek Cemetery, Washington, D.C.
Spouse(s)Virginia Woodbury Fox
Alma materPhillips Academy
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/serviceUnited States Navy
Years of service1838–1856
RankUSN lt rank insignia.jpg Lieutenant

Gustavus Vasa Fox (June 13, 1821 – October 29, 1883) was an officer of the United States Navy, who served during the Mexican–American War, and as Assistant Secretary of the Navy during the Civil War.

Life and career[edit]

Fox was born at Saugus, Massachusetts, and studied at Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts (1835). On January 12, 1838, Fox was appointed midshipman. During the Mexican–American War, he served in the brig Washington in the squadron of Commodore Matthew Perry, and took part in the capture of Tabasco, Mexico, on January 14–16, 1847, he later commanded several mail steamers. He resigned from the Navy on July 30, 1856, and engaged in the manufacture of woolen materials.

At the start of the American Civil War he volunteered for service. President Abraham Lincoln gave him a temporary appointment in the Navy and sent him in the steamer Baltic to the relief of Fort Sumter. Fox could not relieve the fort before Confederate bombardment forced its surrender, but afterwards he brought away the garrison.

Gustavus V. Fox

On August 1, 1861, Lincoln appointed him Assistant Secretary of the Navy, an office which he held until the close of the Civil War. In 1866, he was sent on a special mission to Russia; he conveyed the congratulations of the President to Tsar Alexander II upon his escape from assassination, his voyage was made in the monitor Miantonomoh, which was the first vessel of this class to cross the Atlantic. They were accompanied by Augusta.

In 1882 he published a paper suggesting that Samana Cay in the Bahamas was Guanahani, or San Salvador, the first island Christopher Columbus reached in his discovery of the Americas. Little attention was paid to his paper until 1986, when the National Geographic Society also concluded that Samana Cay was San Salvador.

He died at Lowell, Massachusetts, aged 62.

Tributes and legacy[edit]

Three ships of the US Navy - TB-13, DD-234 and CG-33 - have been named USS Fox in his memory.

In popular culture[edit]

Fox is one of the primary viewpoint characters in novelist Harry Harrison's alternate history Stars and Stripes trilogy.


  • Fox, Gustavus V. (1882), An Attempt to Solve the Problem of the First Landing Place of Columbus in the New World. Report of the Superintendent of the U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey (Appendix No. 18, June 1880), Washington: Government Printing Office.


Further reading[edit]

  • Hoogenboom, Ari (2008). Gustavus Vasa Fox of the Union Navy: A Biography. Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 9780801889868. Retrieved November 1, 2014.

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Assistant Secretary of the Navy
August 1, 1861 – November 26, 1866
Succeeded by
William Faxon