A Civil War Biography

Louis Malesherbes Goldsborough

Goldsborough was born 18 February 1805 in Washington DC. In 1812, with war breaking out with Great Britain, he, only seven years old at the time, solicited an appointment as a midshipman directly from Paul Hamilton, then the Secretary of the Navy. Too young for active service, Goldsborough wore his uniform and attended school in Washington. He would finally go to sea, sailing from Philadelphia on 14 October 1817 aboard the USS Franklin, the flag-ship of the Mediterranean squadron. He was promoted to lieutenant on 13 January 1825 and shortly thereafter took a leave of absence and toured Europe. He returned to active duty in 1827 serving onboard the USS North Carolina in the Mediterranean. He was commissioned a commander in the US navy on 8 September 1841. He saw service during the war with Mexico as second in command of the USS Ohio. Following the war with Mexico he was the senior naval member of the joint commission of army and navy officers sent to explore California and Oregon. In 1853 he was assigned as superintendant of the naval academy at Annapolis. He served at the naval academy until 1857, during which period he was promoted to captain on 14 September 1855 and received a special commendation from the Secretary of the Navy. He next was ordered to form a board to revise the ordnance manual used by naval officers. In 1858 he returned to sea as commanding officer of the USS Le Congress, a forty-four gun frigate, on station off Brazil.

Just after the opening of hostilities in 1861 Goldsborough returned home with his ship. Through the influence of Salmon P. Chase, Lincoln's Treasury Secretary, Goldsborough was assigned command of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron with responsibility for the coast north of the North Carolina-South Carolina border. He commanded the fleet that conveyed Ambrose Burnside with 10,000 Union troops to Roanoke Island which after a combined attack was taken on 8 February 1862. Goldsborough received the thanks of Congress for helping to capture the island, destroying the Confederate fleet in North Carolina waters, and closing the North Carolina sounds. He was criticized for not being present at Hampton Roads when the CSS Virginia attacked ships of his squadron on 8 March 1862. He was also criticized for failure to cooperate with George B. McClelland during the peninsula campaign mainly for his effort in the capture of Norfolk and for not running his fleet past Drewry's Bluff to attack Richmond. When in July 1862 the independent James River Flotilla was formed from elements of Goldsborough's squadron he requested to be relieved. He was appointed rear admiral on 16 July 1862 and shortly thereafter his request to be relieved was granted. He returned to Washington and served in administrative capacity until the end of the war.

With the war winding down the Navy Department decided to reestablish the European Squadron and assigned Goldsborough to command in February 1865. He was initially tasked with destroying the remaining Confederate cruisers and the ram Stonewall but he would not arrive in European waters until July 1865 after the war had ended. His orders were then changed ordering his squadron to seize the former Confederate ships. None were seized, however. Goldsborough remained in Europe until 1868 when he returned to Washington. He retired in 1873 and died 20 February 1877.

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