Guert Gansevoort

Commodore Guert Gansevoort (7 June 1812 – 15 July 1868) was an officer in the United States Navy during the Mexican–American War and the American Civil War.

Guert Gansevoort
Born(1812-06-07)June 7, 1812
Gansevoort, New York
DiedJuly 15, 1868(1868-07-15) (aged 56)
Schenectady, New York
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service1823–1867
RankUSN commodore rank insignia.jpg Commodore
Commands heldUSS Decatur
USS Roanoke


He was born into an aristocratic Dutch American family in Gansevoort, New York, near Albany. The area was named for his paternal grandfather, Peter Gansevoort, a prosperous businessman who had served in the Continental Army and later become a brigadier general in the United States Army. Guert was the son of Peter's son Leonard. Peter's daughter, Maria, was the mother of author Herman Melville.

Gansevoort was appointed a midshipman in the Navy on 4 March 1823. Subsequently he served in the Mediterranean Sea on board Constitution, North Carolina, and Ohio,[1] receiving promotion to passed midshipman on 28 April 1832, and to lieutenant on 8 March 1837.[2]

In 1842 Gansevoort was serving as first lieutenant aboard the brig Somers, under the command of Alexander Slidell Mackenzie, when a planned mutiny was discovered, led by Midshipman Philip Spencer. On the advice of Gansevoort and the other officers Mackenzie sentenced Spencer, Boatswain's Mate Samuel Cromwell and Seaman Elisha Small to death, and on 1 December the three men were hanged from the yardarm. Mackenzie was subsequently court-martialled, but exonerated.[3][4] Gansevoort's first cousin, Herman Melville, later wrote the novella Billy Budd, inspired by the events.[5]

Gansevoort was promoted to commander on 14 September 1855,[2] and the following year took part in the First Battle of Tuxpan and First Battle of Tabasco during the Mexican–American War. In January 1856 during the Puget Sound War, Gansevoort landed seamen and marines from Decatur to defend Seattle, Washington Territory, from Native Americans.[1][6]

Between 1861 and 1863, during the Civil War, Gansevoort was in charge of ordnance at the Brooklyn Navy Yard,[1] receiving promotion to captain on 16 July 1862,[2] while helping fit out ships which had been acquired for blockade duty. He commanded the ironclad Roanoke in the last year of the war.[1]

Gansevoort retired on 28 January 1867, and was promoted to commodore on the retired list.[2] He died on 15 July 1868 at Schenectady, New York.[1]


The destroyer USS Gansevoort (DD-608) (1942–1946) was named for him.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "USS Gansevoort". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Navy Department, Naval History and Heritage Command. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d "US Navy Officers: 1778-1900 (G)". Naval Historical Center. 2006. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
  3. ^ Howe, David (2003). "Essay on the Legal Aspects of Somers Affair and Bibliography". Naval Historical Center. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
  4. ^ "Deck log of the USS Somers". Naval Historical Center. 2003. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
  5. ^ Dolin, Kieran (1994). "Sanctioned irregularities : martial law in Billy Budd, Sailor". Law Text Culture. Wollongong, Australia: University of Wollongong. 1 (1): 129–137.
  6. ^ Phelps, Thomas Stowell (December 1881). "U. S. Sloop-of-War Decatur During the Indian War of 1855-56". The United Service (5): 669–706. Retrieved 6 August 2013.