Noted for his eccentricities and blunt judgments, Gideon Welles proved to be a surprisingly adept chief administrator of the Navy during the Civil War.
Gideon Welles was an important political figure in Connecticut, serving as postmaster of Hartford and editor of the Hartford Times and Hartford Evening Press . But President Abraham Lincoln appointed him Secretary of the Navy primarily because of political geography. In those days it was considered essential that each region of the country be represented in the Cabinet, and Lincoln selected Welles as the New England representative over Nathaniel P. Banks of Massachusetts, who was the other contender. As a consolation prize, Banks was appointed a major general, though he subsequently proved to be a very disappointing one.