Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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FOX, Gustavus Vasa, naval officer, born in Saugus, Massachusetts, 13 June 1821" died in New York City, 29 October 1883. He was appointed midshipman in the U. S. navy, 12 January 1838, and served on various stations, on the coast survey, in command of mail stations, and in the war with Mexico until 10 July 1856, when, after a service of nineteen years, he resigned with the rank of lieutenant, his commission being dated the day previous to his resignation. After leaving the navy he accepted the position of agent of the Bay state woolen mills at Lawrence, Massachusetts. In February 1861, he was sent for by General Scott, and consulted in reference to sending supplies and troops to Fort Sumter, but President Buchanan forbade the expedition.
When Mr. Lincoln became president, Fox was sent to Fort Sumter to communicate with Major Anderson, and on his return was directed to carry out the plan previously formed. The plan was virtually thwarted by the withdrawal of one of the ships (the " Powhatan"), which was to have taken part. The expedition had not reached Charleston when the Confederates, notified of its coming, opened fire on Fort Sumter, and the only thing accomplished was the bringing away of Major Anderson and his command after the surrender.
After communications with Washington had been cut off, Fox applied to William H. Aspinwall and William B. Astor, who fitted out the steamer " Yankee," of which he was appointed acting captain, and in which he sailed for Chesapeake bay. He was at this time appointed by President Lincoln to the post of assistant secretary of the navy, which he held until the end of the war. His services in this position were extremely valuable, and a member of Mr. Lincoln's cabinet once spoke of him as follows "Fox was the really able man of the administration. He planned the capture of New Orleans, the opening of the Mississippi, and in general the operations of the navy, he had all the responsibility of removing the superannuated and inefficient men he found in charge, had the honor of selecting Farragut, and was often consulted by General Grant. He performed all his duties with an eye only to the requirements of the hour, and with no view to the advancement of any interest of his own."
He was an able assistant to Sec. Welles, whose administration of the navy department owed to him much of its success. Soon after the close of the war Captain Fox was sent on a special mission to Russia to convey to the czar, Alexander II, the congratulations of the U. S. congress on his escape from assassination. The voyage was made on the "Miantonomoh," the first monitor to cross the Atlantic. It is said that Captain Fox might have obtained from the U. S. government an admiral's commission had he not refused to ask for it. One result of his visit to Russia was the purchase of Alaska by the U. S. government. In the negotiations concerning this purchase Captain Fox took an active interest, he afterward became manager of the Middlesex mills, and a partner with E. R. Mudge, Sawyer & Co., where he remained several years. See Joseph F. Loubat's "Narrative of Pox's Mission to Russia in 1866" (New York, 1873).
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