DuPont Circle, Washington, DC
Dupont circle features a fountain in the center. The fountain replaces an earlier statute that was built to honor Samuel Francis Du Pont. DuPont was a Rear Admiral in the United States Navy and a member of the influential DuPont family. Samuel DuPont served in the Mexican-American War and was a superintendent of the United States Naval Academy during the Civil War.
Backstory and Context
Samuel DuPont's uncle was the founder of the DuPont, a gunpowder factory that became a multinational chemical corporation. President Thomas
Jefferson helped Samuel secure an appointment as a midshipman. At the age of 12, Samuel DuPont set sail on the Franklin,
a 74-gun ship. He continued his
service aboard the frigate Constitution,
and then Congress, learning his
mathematics and navigation at sea.
During the Mexican American war he was given command of the sloop Cyane in 1846, and he immediately was able to demonstrate his skills as a naval combat commander by taking and/or destroying thirty enemy ships and clearing the Gulf of California in the process. Du Pont transported Major John Fremont’s troops to San Diego, where they captured the city. Du Pont continued operations along the Baja coast, including the capture of La Paz and burnt two gunboats in the harbor under heavy fire.
Du Pont served most of the next decade on shore assignments and his efforts were cited as helping to modernize the U.S. Navy. He studied steam power, and emphasized engineering and mathematics in the curriculum that he established for the new United States naval academy. At the start of the Civil War, communications with Washington was cut off, and he took the initiative of sending a fleet to the Chesapeake Bay, to protect the landing of Union troops at Annapolis, Maryland. IN June 1861 he was made the President of a board in Washington formed to develop a plan of naval operations against the Confederacy. He was appointed flag officer serving aboard the steam frigate Wabash as commander of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, leading the largest fleet ever commanded by an American officer at that time. Towards the end of 1862, he became the first U.S. naval officer to command an “ironclad” ship. Under orders and contrary to his advice, Du Pont attacked Charleston with nine ironclads on April 7, 1863. His ships were caught in a crossfire and he had to withdraw. Five of his nine ironclads were disabled in the failed attack. The Secretary of the Navy blamed Du Pont for the failure at Charleston. Despite a later engagement where his command defeated and captured a Confederate ironclad, he was relieved of command on July 5, 1863, at his own request. A subsequent naval attack on Charleston also failed, arguably vindicating Du Pont’s reputation.
Du Pont died in June, 1865 at the age of 62 and is buried in Delaware in a family cemetery. Seventeen years after his death, the U.S. Congress moved to recognize his service, and a sculpture of him was placed in the Pacific Circle, later to be re-named Du Pont circle. The circle still bears his name. The statue was moved to Wilmington, Delaware by the du Pont family in 1920, and replaced with the fountain dedicated in 1921. A major reason the DuPoint memorial was replaced was because many then felt it was an eyesore to the area due to the awkward design of DuPont's whiskers.
The circle is home to the embassy of Uzbekistan with a Peruvian chancery and Iraqi counsel building. The circle is also known for its famous traffic circle design where communities are divided around it counterclockwise. The park in the center is home to markets, family events, protests and games. Many homes and institutions are found within the DuPont Circle area, of which Clio entries are currently made or forthcoming.