Evelyn Cherpak


Unlike the Perry brothers who achieved acclaim for their naval achievements in the early nineteenth century, Newporter Charles Hunter’s naval reputation was tarnished by his service in the Civil War. A recounting of his Civil War experience is important because it reminds us that not all Newport naval officers were successful, that maritime careers could end ignominiously as well as gloriously. Hunter spent the early months of the war seeking command of a warship. However, once at the helm of a Union vessel, he met his downfall within months, not in a decisive battle, but in carrying out what appeared to be a fairly routine naval operation. Hunter’s fateful judgments during an incident that took place in October 1862 led to an international cause célèbre, paving the way to his court-martial and dismissal from the navy. A closer look at his Civil War career shows us that despite Hunter’s loyalty to the United States and to the navy, and despite his zeal to carry out his assigned duty of intercepting blockade runners, in the case of Blanche, his daring and bravado and his breach of the three-mile limit set by international law, led to his ignominious dismissal from the Union navy.