(1811 ?–November 9, 1873)
Jon L. Wakelyn
A look through the literature written on the Confederate States Navy and its only cabinet secretary, Stephen R. Mallory, reveals an inverse proportion of scholarship to its and his importance in the South’s efforts to sustain a separate nation. The secretary had the task to construct and finance a navy almost from scratch; to govern an agency with few trained staff members; and to win the naval war on the high seas, protect the ocean coastal towns and shipping, and control the inland waterways and rivers. In order to assist the government to raise necessary funds to conduct the war, Mallory had to break the Union blockade of the Atlantic and Gulf Coast south. Also, the secretary wanted to use the Confederate States Navy to damage Northern morale and hinder the federal government from purchasing war materiel through the destruction of merchant shipping on the high seas. How and whether Mallory accomplished all of these tasks require at least some attempt to look again at this all-but-forgotten man’s extraordinary life.
Like a number of other important Confederate leaders, Mallory’s origins did not begin in the South. The record of his birth is unclear, although he probably was born on the island of Trinidad between 1811 (?) and 1813. His father Charles had been born in Reading, Connecticut, and had trained to be a civil engineer. His profession took him to many foreign postings. Ellen Russell, Stephen’s mother, came from County Waterford, in southern Ireland. Adopted at a young age by relatives who had immigrated to Trinidad, she met Charles Mallory, and they later married. They had two sons, the elder of whom died in infancy. Charles and Ellen moved often, and for a time they lived in Havanna, Cuba. Sometime around 1820, while doing a building job in Key West, Florida, the elder Mallory died, leaving Ellen to raise young Stephen. She brought him up Roman Catholic, although he would later convert to the Episcopal Church, and made certain he received a proper parochial education. She first sent him to the Jesuit school in Mobile, Alabama, and later to the Moravian School for