Mallory, Stephen Russell


Stephen Russell Mallory



Occupation 1

Navy official (CSA)


Civil War


NA/South & Gulf region


Age of Steam and Steel (1866-1920)








...served in the Florida militia during the Seminole War (1836-1838). 1851 he was elected by the Florida legislature to the U.S. Senate. As a senator, Mallory worked to establish in Florida naval bases, railroads, and marine hospitals. He also called for the removal of the Seminole. In 1853 he was made chairman of the Naval Affairs Committee and sponsored the Naval Reform Act of 1855 that resulted in the construction of new warships. He also championed ironclad vessels, screw propellers, and modern ordnance. His most controversial contribution was the establishment of the Naval Retiring Board that dropped from active duty incompetent, overaged, and otherwise impaired naval officers.
Though an enthusiastic and tireless worker on naval affairs, Mallory never lost sight of national politics. He defended the rights of southerners to expand slavery into the territories, demanded the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law, and called for the annexation of Cuba. Offered the ambassadorship to Spain in 1858, Mallory, worried over sectional disputes, refused.

During the secession crisis Mallory joined other southern senators in trying to gain a peaceful separation between North and South, and he helped arrange a truce between the Federal garrison at Fort Pickens and the Florida troops at Pensacola. He resigned on 21 January 1861 and returned to his home in Pensacola. On 21 February Jefferson Davis appointed Mallory the Confederacy's secretary of the navy.
In his new position Mallory faced a nearly impossible task, but he approached the work with his usual optimism and energy. He first tried to build a navy of wooden gunboats but soon dropped this program for the construction of ironclads, both at home and abroad. Under Mallory's direction the Confederacy employed commerce raiders, which forced northern merchantmen to seek the protection of neutral flags. He also backed the development of rifled cannon, mines, torpedo boats, and submarines. To pay for his overseas ventures Mallory became the first Confederate cabinet officer to use cotton as a medium of exchange.

A close friend of Jefferson Davis, Mallory was often a target of the administration's critics. In March 1862 he was investigated by a joint committee of Congress for the fall of New Orleans and the loss of the ironclads Mississippi and Louisiana. Though Mallory was cleared of any mismanagement, his programs never achieved the desired results. His under-powered and crudely constructed ironclads never successfully challenged the blockade or Union ironclads, his commerce raiders did nothing to affect the war's outcome, and there were never enough torpedoes or heavy cannon to make a difference. Still, the fact that any of these programs were even started is a testament to Mallory's determination and resourcefulness.

In April 1865 Mallory fled Richmond with the Confederate cabinet. He resigned his post on 2 May 1865 and joined his family at La Grange, Georgia. Arrested by Federal forces, Mallory was imprisoned at Fort Lafayette, New York City, from June 1865 until March 1866. After his release he returned to Pensacola where he practiced law until his death.

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