On 8 May 1861 [President Abraham] Lincoln urged that [Gustavus] Fox, "a live man, whose services we cannot well dispense with" (Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 4 [1953-1955], p. 363), be given the crucial task of assisting Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles. Initially as chief clerk and then as assistant secretary, Fox was the de facto chief of naval operations during the Civil War, eclipsing during his tenure the entrenched power and autonomy of the Navy Department bureaus. To blockade the Confederacy, the Union navy had to buy and arm or build sturdy, fast, shallow-draft vessels, and to supply and repair them, it had to capture (with army support) bases near southern ports. With his naval, merchant marine, and political connections, Fox was tailored for this work. He had the confidence of line officers, shipping magnates, and politicians, especially Lincoln and Senator James W. Grimes of the Committee on Naval Affairs. Personable and a lover of food and cigars, Fox was a boon dinner companion who could explain political imperatives to commanders and the navy's needs and limitations to politicians. Brimming with self-confidence, energy, and enthusiasm, he despised "old fogyism" and embraced innovative weapons and ships. He was decisive, but his seemingly impulsive faith in and enthusiasm for men and machines, strategies and tactics came only after reading pertinent articles, consulting specialists, conducting tests, and evaluating accomplishments.