June 7, 1812|
Gansevoort, New York
|Died||July 15, 1868
Schenectady, New York
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Navy|
|Years of service||1823–1867|
|Commands held||USS Decatur
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, receiving promotion to passed midshipman on 28 April 1832, and to lieutenant on 8 March 1837.
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 hung from the yardarm. Mackenzie was subsequently court-martialled, but exonerated. Gansevoort's first cousin, Herman Melville, later wrote the novella Billy Budd, inspired by the events.
Gansevoort was promoted to commander on 14 September 1855, and the following year took part in attacks on Tuxpan and 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.
Between 1861 and 1863, during the Civil War, Gansevoort was in charge of ordnance at the New York Navy Yard, receiving promotion to captain on 16 July 1862, while helping fit out ships which had been acquired for blockade duty. He commanded the ironclad Roanoke in the last year of the war.
- "USS Gansevoort". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Navy Department, Naval History & Heritage Command. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
- "US Navy Officers: 1778-1900 (G)". Naval Historical Center. 2006. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
- Howe, David (2003). "Essay on the Legal Aspects of Somers Affair and Bibliography". Naval Historical Center. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
- "Deck log of the USS Somers". Naval Historical Center. 2003. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
- Dolin, Kieran (1994). "Sanctioned irregularities : martial law in Billy Budd, Sailor". Law Text Culture (Wollongong, Australia: University of Wollongong) 1 (1): 129–137.
- Phelps, Thomas Stowell (December 1881). "U. S. Sloop-of-War Decatur During the Indian War of 1855-56". The United Service, a Monthly Review of Military and Naval Affairs (5): 669–706. Retrieved 6 August 2013.