David Glasgow, naval officer, born at Campbell's Station, near
Knoxville, Tennessee, 5 July 1801; died in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 14 August
1870. His ancestry is traced to Don Pedro Farragut, called "E1
Conquistador," who served under James I., King of Aragon, in the
campaign in which the Moors were expelled from Najorca and Valencia in the 18th
century. The estates of the family were in the Balearic Islands, and among the
notable members were Agustin, a theologian; Pablo, an historian; Antonio, a
distinguished soldier of the 17th century; Gonzalo, bishop of Urgel; and three
magistrates of the kingdom of Majorca. But the name is now extinct in those
islands. The admiral's grandfather married Juana Mesquida, and that surname
appears to have superseded Farragut.
admiral's father, George Farragut, born in Minorca, 29 September 1755; died at
Point Plaquet, West Pascagoula, La., 4 June 1817, emigrated to this country in
1776, took part in the Revolutionary war, and was the friend and companion of General
Andrew Jackson during his Indian campaigns of 1813 - 14. The journal of the
U. S. House of Representatives for 1797 records that William C. C. Claiborne
presented " the petition of George Farragut, praying that he may be
allowed the balance of pay due to him for services rendered the United States as
muster master of the militia of the district of Washington [East Tennessee],
employed in actual service for the protection of the frontiers of the United
States south of the Ohio, from the 1st of March 1792, to the 26th of October
1793." George Farragut, as sailing master of an expedition to the Bay
of Pascagoula in 1810'11, sent by Governor Claiborne, of the Mississippi
territory, bore a principal part in securing from the Spaniards the disputed
territory on that coast. Dr. Flood, the commissioner, wrote in his report "At
the special request of the inhabitants of Pascagoula, by whom he is greatly
beloved, I prevailed on Sailing Master George Farragut to accept the commission
Farragut married Elizabeth Shine, of North Carolina, who bore him five children
three sons and two daughters and died in New Orleans in 1808, of yellow fever.
The boyhood of David Glasgow Farragut lacked none of the dangers and hardships
of frontier life. In his journal he says: "I remember that on one
occasion, during my father's absence, a party of Indians came to our house,
which was somewhat isolated; when my mother, who was a brave and energetic
woman, barred the door in the most effectual manner, and sent all of us
trembling little ones up into the loft of the barn while she guarded the
entrance with an axe. The savages attempted to parley with her, but she kept
them at bay until finally they departed. My father arrived shortly afterward
with his command (he was a major of cavalry), and immediately pursued the
Indians, whom I believe he succeeded in overtaking and punishing."
the age of eight the boy accompanied his father in a small boat across Lake
Pontchartrain, during a gale. "This expedition," he says in his
journal, "was my first experience on salt water, and I fervently hoped
at that time it would be my last." The father, who appears to have been
afraid of nothing on land or sea, and once went from New Orleans to Havana in a
pirogue (a sort of canoe), was in the habit of taking his children across the
lake in all sorts of weather, saying "now was the time to conquer their
fears." At this time Sailing Master David Porter, father of Com.
Porter, of the " Essex," being at the New Orleans naval
station, became ill, was taken care of at Farragut's house, and died there, his
funeral being on the same day with Mrs. Farragut's. This circumstance led to a
warm friendship with Com. Porter when he succeeded his father on that station,
and he offered to adopt one of the boys.
eldest son, William, had already received an appointment in the navy. The choice
being presented to the two others, David promptly said that he would go, and
accompanied Porter in the bomb ketch "Vesuwus" to Washington.
There he was placed in school, and there also he was introduced to Paul
Hamilton, secretary of the navy, who promised to give him a midshipman's warrant
as soon as he should complete his tenth year. Subsequently Farragut attended
school in Chester, Pennsylvania, where the Porter family resided. He was but
nine and a half years old when he received the promised appointment in the navy,
17 December 1810. In July of the next year he went to Norfolk, Virginia, in
company with Captain Porter, who there took command of the frigate "Essex,"
which cruised up and down the coast, her men by constant practice being brought
to the highest state of efficiency. The midshipmen were sent to school in
Newport, R. I., during the greater part of the winter.
war with England was declared in June 1812, the "Essex" was
quickly made ready for sea, and soon captured several prizes. On this cruise
Farragut discovered and frustrated a mutiny among the prisoners. In October the
"Essex" put to sea again, under orders to join Bainbridge's squadron
in the West Indies ; but Porter failed to find the squadron, and on his own
responsibility continued his voyage southward, doubled Cape Horn, and made a
memorable cruise in the Pacific.
Farragut was made prize master of one of the captured vessels, and ordered to
take her to Valparaiso, the captain to navigate her. When Farragut, who
confesses that he " was a little afraid of the violent tempered old
fellow," gave his first order, the captain flew into a rage, declared
he "had no idea of trusting himself with a dd nutshell," and
went below for his pistols. The twelve year old prize master thereupon assumed
complete command, had his orders obeyed, called down to the captain that if he
came on deck with his pistols he would be thrown overboard, and thenceforth was
master of the ship.
the " Essex" was refitting in the Marquesas Islands, Farragut
and the other midshipmen played with the native boys, and became expert
swimmers. The first battle in which Farragut participated that of the "Essex"
against the " Phoebe" and the "Cherub," in the
harbor of Valparaiso, 28 March 1814 was one of the bloodiest ever fought on the
sea. He says in his journal: "I performed the duties of captain's aide,
quarter gunner, powder boy, and in fact did everything that was required of me.
I shall never forget the horrid impression made upon me at the sight of the
first man I had ever seen killed. It staggered and sickened me at first, but
they soon began to fall around me so fast that it all appeared like a dream, and
produced no effect on my nerves. After the battle he was at work for nearly a
month assisting the surgeons in the care of the wounded, when the survivors were
sent to New York in the Essex Junior."
was sent to school again at Chester, Pennsylvania, where he was not only
instructed in the usual branches, but also drilled as a soldier. In April 1815,
he sailed for the Mediterranean in the "Independence," as aide
to Captain William M. Crane: but she arrived too late to take part in the
Algerine war, and, after visiting Malaga, Carthagena, and Gibraltar, returned
home and wintered at Boston. In 1816 he visited the Mediterranean again, on
board the " Macedonian," which conveyed William
Pinkney, U. S. minister to Naples; and in 1817 the ship made an extended
cruise in that sea, stopping in almost every port, and giving officers and crew
abundant opportunities to visit the places of interest. In the autumn of that
year the chaplain, Charles Folsom (q. v.), was appointed U. S. consul at Tunis,
and at his request Midshipman Farragut spent nine months with him, studying
French, Italian, English literature, and mathematics. At this time Richard B.
Jones, U. S. consul at Tripoli, wrote to Mr. Folsom :" With regard to my
young friend, Farragut, if he will only apply steadily to useful purposes the
talents with which he is so bountifully enriched, it must, with his amiable
disposition and obliging manners, insure him the respect and esteem of all who
know him, and place him, at some future period, high in the niche of fame."
In a later letter the same appreciative friend spoke of Farragut as " the
attended the grand duke's ball in Pisa, and gives a humorous account of his
misadventures. "At one time my shoe buckle caught in the flounce of the
archduchess's dress. I kicked off the offending shoe with great elegance, and
then knelt down and extricated it, with a suitable apology. Soon after this I
trod on the grand duke's toe, and had to make another apology. Chagrined at my
own awkwardness, I determined to retire, and looked around for my cocked hat,
when I found the Countess Testa using it for foot warmer. I drew it to me rather
unceremoniously, at which she remarked that I 'ought to feel myself highly
complimented, and should not be offended.' To which I replied, 'Madame, it might
be so considered in your country, but not in mine.' "
the spring of 1819 Farragut made another cruise in the Mediterranean, and was
made acting lieutenant on the brig "Shark." In 1820 he was
ordered home for his examination, and sailed in a merchantman. On the voyage
they were sighted and chased by a Colombian war vessel, which the frightened
captain supposed to be a pirate. Farragut therefore took command of the ship,
mustered the crew, and prepared for resistance. When a small boat from the
man-of-war came alongside, he had a grindstone and a barrel of tar ready to drop
into it and sink it if they should prove to be pirates. He passed his
examination, but not well enough to satisfy himself, and went to Norfolk,
Virginia, where he fell in love with Miss Susan C., daughter of Jordan Marchant,
whom he married three years later.
May 1822, he was ordered to sea in the sloop-of-war "John
Adams," which conveyed the newly appointed U. S. representatives to
Mexico and Guatemala. On this cruise he met General Santa Aria (afterward
president of Mexico) at Vera Cruz, and made his first acquaintance with the Gulf
where his fame was to be won forty years later. After his return he obtained
orders to sail in the schooner "Greyhound," of Com. Porter's
fleet, which was preparing for a cruise against freebooters of the West Indies.
They had numerous encounters with the pirates, and on one occasion Farragut was
sent ashore at the Isle of Pines, in command of a detachment who, after making
their way through swamps and thick chaparral, found the caves and concealed
houses of the robbers, drove them out, and set fire to everything that would
burn. Soon afterward Farragut was made executive officer of Porter's flagship,
the "Seagull," which made a cruise to examine the reefs and
shoals of the Gulf.
a subsequent cruise he obtained leave of absence and went to visit his friends
in New Orleans, taking passage in a vessel that was carrying thither the first
load of bricks for the construction of Fort Jackson, with which Farragut fought
his first battle in the civil war. In July 1823, he was assigned to the command
of the "Ferret," which convoyed merchantmen through the Gulf,
to protect them from pirates. He had many cases of yellow fever on board, and
treated them himself, the only death being that of a midshipman that refused his
prescription because he was not a physician. He himself took the fever on his
homeward voyage, and on his arrival was sent to the hospital in Washington,
where he remained until his recovery. In 1825 he was commissioned lieutenant,
and ordered to the frigate "Brandywine," Captain Charles
Morris, which in September carried Lafayette home to France, and after that made
a cruise in the Mediterranean. On his return home in May 1826, Farragut took his
wife to New Haven, Connecticut, to be treated for neuralgia, and remained there
four months, attending the lectures of the Yale professors. Those of Professor
Silliman especially interested him. After this he spent two years at Norfolk,
Virginia. He was an accomplished cook, and prepared all the food for his invalid
wife, and personally took a large part of the care of her. At the same time he
established a successful school for boys on the receiving ship
"Alert." When Samuel L. Southard, secretary of the navy, inspected
this school, he gave it what Farragut calls "one of the few, the very
few, compliments I ever received from the navy department or its head."
October 1828, he was ordered to the new sloop-of-war " Vandalia,"
which in December sailed for the Brazil station. The squadron went to Buenos
Ayres, and was there when Rosas became dictator. In the autumn of 1829 it
returned to Rio de Janeiro, where Farragut witnessed the marriage of the Emperor
Dora Pedro I., and was presented at court. In December an affection of the eyes,
which had long troubled him, compelled him to ask for leave of absence, and he
went home in a merchantman, which on the way was chased by a pirate. Farragut
found four carronades and twenty-four pounds of powder on board, mounted the
guns, and got everything ready for a vigorous defense; but the merchantman out
sailed her pursuer. In December 1832 he was ordered to the "
Natchez," which in January 1833, sailed for Charleston harbor, where
she remained until the nullification troubles were over. The vessel was next
ordered to the Brazil station. Of Farragut's qualities as executive officer at
this time, one of those that sailed with him wrote: "Never was the crew
of a man-of-war better disciplined or more contented and happy. The moment all
hands were called, and Farragut took the trumpet, every man under him was alive
and eager for duty. I remember well one occasion when he took the ' Natchez' out
of the harbor of Rio, which at the entrance is quite narrow, against a head
wind, by a maneuver termed 'boxhauling.' There were several men-of-war in port,
English and French, whose officers and crews were watching us closely. Many
declared that the maneuver could not be successfully accomplished, but it was
done splendidly, without a balk or failure, and I shall remember to my dying day
the glow of pride and satisfaction which we all felt."
March 1834, he took command of the schooner "Boxer," which he
thoroughly overhauled and repaired in the harbor of Rio. The "Boxer"
was ordered home in the summer, and for four years the lieutenant was in Norfolk
and Washington, serving on courts-martial, waiting for sailing orders, and
taking care of his wife, who died in 1840. In August 1838, he was given command
of the sloop "Erie," and ordered to Tampico, because of the
prospect of war between France and Mexico. There he made minute observations of
all the military and naval movements, particularly the bombardment of the castle
of San Juan de Ulloa, and gave his conclusions in a long letter to Com. Barron,
in which he wrote: " If we who wander about the world do not keep those
at home informed of the daily improvements in other navies, how can we hope to
improve, particularly when we see men impressed with the idea that, because they
once gained a victory, they can do it again? So they may; but I can tell them it
must be with the means of 1838 and not those of 1812."
now spent two years more at home, serving on courts-martial and learning the
carpenter's trade, till the spring of 1841, when he became executive officer of
the "Delaware," and in September he received his commission as
commander, He sailed once more for South American waters, and in June 1842,
received command of the " Decatur." He took every opportunity
to travel in the countries whose ports he visited, and became especially
familiar with South American affairs. The cruise ended in Norfolk harbor in
February 1843. There, in December of that year, he married Virginia, eldest
daughter of William Loyall, a woman of superior character and cultivation, and
no little literary ability, who survived him fourteen years. In April 1844, he
became executive officer of the " Pennsylvania," and at the
beginning of the Mexican war in 1846 applied for command of a ship and active
service. After much difficulty, he obtained the sloop-of-war "
Saratoga," in February 1847. He collected a crew, and sailed two days
after his assignment, eager to capture the castle of San Juan de Ulloa, which he
believed could be done with three vessels; but when he arrived at Vera Cruz the
castle had just surrendered to the land forces. Farragut always thought Com.
Conner had lost a great opportunity in not attacking it. He says in his
journal" " Of all the service I had seen since entering the navy,
this cruise was the most mortifying. As I had the ill will of my commodore"
[Matthew C. Perry], "I was not permitted to participate in any of the
expeditions and more honorable duties, but was placed under a reef of rocks off
Tuxpan, to blockade that port. When I could bear the imposition no longer, I
reported the facts to the navy department, and asked to be relieved from under
his command, or from command of the ship. Accordingly, I was ordered home with
my vessel. My letters were considered improper by the secretary of the
Perry denied that he had any prejudice against Farragut. In February5 1848,
Farragut's vessel returned home, when he was assigned to the Norfolk navy yard
for two years, and in October 1850, was ordered to Washington to compile a book
of ordnance regulations for the navy, in collaboration with Commander T. A.
Dornin and Lieuts. Barron, Harwood, and Fairfax. This work occupied them a year
and a half. When it was completed, Farragut says: "Many of the best
features were overruled and stricken out, as were also the drawings, which we
considered fine illustrations. The book was highly commended by officers of
other navies than our own" but where is it now, God only knows! For those
who had the power called a new board ten years afterward, and made a few
necessary changes to suit the introduction of steam and heavy guns, and the
names of the original board were obliterated."
those eighteen months he attended regularly the lectures at the Smithsonian
institution. When he returned to the Norfolk navy yard as ordnance officer, he
gave the officers a weekly lecture on gunnery. Lieutenant Percival Drayton was
associated with him at this time in a series of experiments at Fort Monroe,
to test the various classes of guns used in the navy, and an intimate friendship
grew up between the two officers that lasted through their lives. When the
Crimean war began, in 1854, Farragut asked to be sent thither as a professional
observer. This request was denied by the navy department, “but soon
afterward he was sent to establish a navy yard on the Pacific coast, the site
chosen being" Mare Island, in the bay of San Francisco. This task
occupied him four years. During this time the affair of the vigilance committee
took place, and he was appealed to for aid to the state authorities " but
he carefully refrained from all interference.
July 1858, he returned to the Atlantic coast, and was given command of the "Brooklyn,"
a new sloop-of-war, in which he conveyed to Vera Cruz Robert M. McLane, the new
U. S. minister to Mexico. The ship was then placed at the disposal of Mr. McLane
and took him to various points on the coast that he might communicate with the
American consuls. Farragut was taunted with being at the beck and call of a
civilian, and made a characteristic answer; "I can only say that I am
always at the service of the country in doing my duty, and would rather be
subject to the directions of an intelligent man appointed by the government for
a purpose on account of his qualifications, than to be under some old fool who
has floated up to his position without the first requisites, the only merit that
he possesses being that he had been in the navy all his life without having done
anything to recommend him either to the government or to his brother
officers." From Vera Cruz he wrote:" I can't help loving my
profession; but it has materially changed since the advent of steam. I took as
much pleasure in running into this port the other day in a gale of wind as ever
a boy did in any feat of skill. The people seemed astonished. MeLane said he
would sooner have done it than anything else except to take a ship."
affairs in Mexico were very much disturbed at this time, 1859, and Farragut was
of great service in protecting American interests there, for which he received a
letter of thanks from American merchants in Vera Cruz. He made another trip to
Mexico in November and in December passed up the Mississippi to New Orleans,
where he arrived just in time to attend the funeral of his brother William, who
was retired as a lieutenant. The intimate acquaintance with the Gulf of Mexico
and the lower Mississippi, which Farragut gained by these frequent visits, was
found to be of inestimable value to him two years later.
the winter of 1860 - 1 Farragut was on waiting orders in Norfolk, Virginia. The
one topic of discussion there, as elsewhere throughout the country, was the
impending secession of the south and the probability of civil war. If an
amicable separation of the country should take place, he would remain with the
south, because his relatives were there and his home, so far as he had a home on
shore. But he did not see how secession could be attempted without war, and in
that event he held that his allegiance was due to the National government, to
which he was indebted for his naval education, rank, and employment. He watched
with intense interest the efforts to carry Virginia into the Confederacy,
and when it was accomplished he declared, "the state had been dragooned
out of the Union." As he expressed his opinions freely, and boldly said
that President Lincoln was justified in
calling for troops, he was told that a person with such sentiments " could
not live in Norfolk." "Well, then," said he, "I can
live somewhere else," and that very evening (18 April 1861) he departed
with his wife and son, going first to Baltimore, and finally taking a cottage at
Hastings on the Hudson.
was a member of a naval retiring board in Brooklyn, but had little else to do
for nearly a year. The Confederates had already sent out one privateer, the “Sumter,”
Farragut, who had a theory as to her probable movements, asked the government to
let him go in chase of her with a swift vessel, but the suggestion was not
approved. In December 1861, he was summoned to Washington, whence he wrote a
hurried note to his wife:" Keep your lips closed, and burn my letters,
for perfect silence is to be observed the first injunction of the secretary. I
am to have a flag in the Gulf, and the rest depends upon myself. Keep calm and
silent. I shall sail in three weeks." For some time a formidable
expedition had been in preparation, intended to reduce the defenses of New
Orleans and capture that place, which was by far the largest City in the south.
The expedition• included twenty-one schooners, each carrying a large mortar,
under command of Commander (now Admiral) David D. Porter. Farragut had no faith
in the efficacy of these mortars, but, as a great deal of time and money had
been spent in their preparation, he accepted the fleet as he found it.
sailed from Hampton Roads, 2 February 1862, in the steam sloop-of-war "
Hartford." 1,900 tons, which from that title till the close of the war was
his flagship. She had a speed, under steam alone, of eight knots, or with steam
and sail combined, of eleven knots. She carried twenty-two nine inch Dahlgren
guns, two twenty pounder Parrots, and a rifled Sawyer gun on the forecastle; and
Farragut had her fore and maintops protected with boiler iron and armed with
howitzers. His orders instructed him to "collect such vessels as can be
spared from the blockade, and proceed up the Mississippi River and reduce the
defenses which guard the approaches to New Orleans, when you will appear off
that City and take possession of it under the guns of your squadron As you have
expressed yourself perfectly satisfied with the force given to you, and as many
more powerful vessels will be added before you can commence operations, the
department and the country require of you success."
military force of 15,000 men, designed to cooperate with the fleet in capturing
New Orleans, and to garrison the place after it should be taken, sailed in
transports from Fort Monroe, on 20 February commanded by General Benjamin
F. Butler. The place of rendezvous was Ship Island, which is about one
hundred miles northeast of the mouths of the Mississippi. At the last great bend
in the River, about thirty miles above the mouth, stood Fort Jackson on the
right bank and Fort St. Philip on the left. A single fort at this point had held
the British forces in check for nine days
in 1814 - 15, though they threw a thousand shells into it. Fort Jackson was a
bastioned fortification, built of brick, with casemates and glacis, rising
twenty-five feet above the water. Fort St. Philip was smaller, and rose nineteen
feet. The whole number of guns in the two works was about 115, which were of
various kinds and sizes, but mostly smoothbore thirty-two pounders. Above the
forts lay a Confederate fleet of fifteen vessels, including an ironclad ram and
a large, unfinished floating battery covered with railroad iron. Below the forts
two iron chains were stretched across the River, supported on eight hulks
anchored abreast. Two hundred Confederate sharpshooters kept constant watch
along the banks, and several fire rafts were ready to be lighted and sent down
against the fleet.
pass these obstructions and fight his way to the City, Farragut had six
sloops-of-war, sixteen gunboats, twenty-one mortar schooners, and five other
vessels, carrying in all over 200 guns. This was the largest expedition that had
ever sailed under the United States flag, but it did not include a single
ironclad, and while it was mainly built for sea service, its task now was to
operate in a River with many shoals and a shifting channel. To get the larger
vessels over the bar at Southwest pass, it was necessary to lighten them as much
as possible, and then drag them over through a foot of mud. With the"
Pensacola" alone, this process occupied two weeks. The "Colorado"
could not be taken over at all. The mortar schooners were towed up the stream to
a point within reach of the forts, and began to take their places and open fire
on 18 April.
was a stretch of woods between them and the forts, and their masts were trimmed
with bushes to prevent them from being distinguished. The gunners could not see
the forts, but fired with a computed aim, the result of careful observation and
triangulation by a coast survey officer. They used shells weighing 285 pounds,
and kept up a constant fire for six days and nights, throwing nearly 6,000
shells. This resulted in disabling fifty-three of the garrison and destroying
some of the buildings, but not in materially damaging the forts. Farragut was
impatient with this operation, as it only served to give the enemy warning, and
he found the greatest difficulty in preventing collisions in his fleet. Half a
dozen fire rafts were sent down, but boats’ crews tackled them, and either
towed them ashore or sent them out to sea.
no commander was ever so completely master of every detail as Farragut. He could
have taken the place and performed the duties of any man in the fleet. He issued
orders in which minute directions were given for every contingency that he could
anticipate, and in addition to this he bade his officers use their own
ingenuity. They whitewashed the decks (for the attack was to be in the night)
and took other precautions, the most important of which were those intended to
protect the boilers and machinery. Not only was the coal so placed as to guard
these, but also all the spare chains were " stoppered" up and
down the side amidships. In the night of 20 April Captain Henry H. Bell went
silently up the River with boat screw and unfastened the chains to make an
opening for the fleet to pass through.
the night of the 23d, LieutCom. C. H. B. Caldwell was sent up to see if the way
was still clear, and signaled that it was; but the enemy discovered him and
opened fire, at the same time sending down fire rafts and lighting two large
piles of wood near the ends of the chain, so that the whole scene was made as
bright as day. But the fleet was now ready for the attack, and at half past
three o'clock in the morning it was under way. The first division, consisting of
eight vessels, was commanded by Captain Theodorus Bailey; the second, three
vessels, was led by Farragut's flagship; the third, six vessels, commanded by
Captain Bell. As the line of battle passed through the opening in the chain, it
came within reach of the guns of the forts, and each vessel in succession was
subjected to a raking fire. One became entangled among the rafts and did not get
free in time to make the passage, another received a shot in her boiler and was
compelled to drop downstream again, while a third, being delayed till daylight,
attempted to pass up alone and was driven back by a destructive fire. With these
exceptions, the whole line moved steadily up the River, sailing close to the
forts and pouring in broadsides of shell and grapeshot that at times swept the
bastions clear of the enemy and silenced the guns.
passing by the forts, the fleet was subjected to a raking fire similar to that
which it had encountered in the approach, and no sooner had it gone beyond the
range of this than it encountered the Confederate fleet. But of this it made
short work ; some of the enemy's vessels were driven ashore, some were run down,
and others were riddled with shot. The flagship "Hartford"
grounded on a shoal, and at the same time the ram " Manassas"
pushed a fire raft against her. But the flames were promptly extinguished and
the vessel gotten off into deep water, when a steamer approached her in the
smoke and darkness crowded with men, evidently intending to board her. She at
once planted a heavy shell in the stranger, which exploded, and the vessel
"Hartford" then passed on upstream, firing right and left into
the enemy's gunboats. The " Brooklyn" encountered several of
these, into one of which she sent eleven shells at a single discharge, all of
which exploded, and the gunboat ran ashore in flames. The "Mississippi,"
a side wheel steamer, encountered the ram "Manassas," and received a
blow that disabled her machinery; but she sent a broadside through the ram, and
promptly boarded it and set it on fire, so that it drifted down the River and
exploded the gun boat "Varuna," of Farragut's fleet, was rammed
by two Confederate gunboats and sank in fifteen minutes. At daylight the fleet
continued on its way up the River, and Captain Bailey, leading in the "Cayuga,"
captured a Confederate regiment en camped on the bank.
the morning of the 25th the Chahnette batteries, three miles below the City,
were attacked and silenced, and an hour later New Orleans itself was at the
mercy of Farragut's guns. This exploit had cost the National fleet 37 men killed
and 147 wounded, and one vessel sunk out of the seventeen. The Confederate fleet
was completely destroyed. At noon the surrender of the City was demanded of the
mayor, and Captain Bailey was sent ashore to haul down the Louisiana flag and
raise the stars and stripes over the public buildings. A troublesome
correspondence with the mayor ensued, and Farragut was glad to turn over the
City to General Butler as soon as the troops could be brought up, on the evening
of 1 May. The forts had surrendered to Com. Porter on the 28th. It appears that
this timely capture of New Orleans changed the purpose of the Emperor Napoleon
who was about to recognize the Confederacy and take measures to raise the
wanted to take his fleet at once to Mobile, capture that place, and close the
port to blockade-runners; but the government was anxious to open the Mississippi
through its whole length, and the ships were therefore kept in the River for
daylight, on 28 June 1862, he ran by the batteries at Vicksburg with eight
vessels, joining Com. Charles H. Davis's fleet of ironclads above the City. In
this passage Farragut's fleet was under fire about two hours, and lost fifteen
men killed and thirty wounded. On 15 July finding that nothing could be effected
at Vicksburg by the fleet alone, he ran the batteries again, descending the
River to New Orleans. The next day he was commissioned rear admiral.
14 March 1863, to assist General N. P. Banks in his siege of Port Hudson,
Farragut attempted to run by the batteries at that place with seven vessels
three sloops-of-war, each with a gunboat lashed to the portside, and the side
wheel steamer "Mississippi." By this arrangement, if a vessel
were disabled, the gunboat could take her out of the fight. But they met so
destructive a fire that only the "Hartford" and her attendant
gunboat succeeded in getting by. The "Mississippi" ran aground
and was burned, and the others were compelled to drop down stream. With the "
Hartford" and the "Albatross" Farragut proceeded up
stream and blockaded the mouth of Red River, thus preventing Confederate
supplies from coming down, or re-enforcements from going up to the army of
General Richard Taylor. General Grant and
Admiral Porter sent down coal and provisions to him, on barges that drifted past
the Vicksburg batteries in the night. Subsequently he assisted General Banks in
the investment of Port Hudson, till it was surrendered, 8 July. The Mississippi
was now open to navigation through its entire length.
Porter took Farragut's place at, New Orleans, while Farragut sailed for New York
in the "Hartford," arriving in August. When the flagship was
examined at the navy yard, it was found that she had been struck 240 times by
shot and shell during her nineteen months of service. Farragut was given public
welcome home and receptions by the New York chamber of commerce and committees
of citizens, and rested five months while the ship was refitted. In January
1864, he returned to the Gulf, visited Ship Island and Pensacola, establishing
depots of supplies, and prepared for his long meditated attack on the defenses
of Mobile. In May the Union League club of New York sent a beautiful sword, with
a gold and silver scabbard and the hilt set in brilliants, to him. About this
time he wrote; "If any one asks what I am doing, answer, Nothing but
waiting for the world to turn round till it comes my turn to do something."
reconnoitered the forts, and declared that an attack would be useless till he
had some ironclads. These came at last, as did also the troops under General
Gordon Granger for the land attack. The defenses of the bay consisted mainly of
two forts Morgan at the eastern side of the entrance, and Gaines at the western
three miles apart. From Fort Gaines eastward to a point near Fort Morgan
stretched a line of piles and a double line of torpedoes. A red buoy indicated
the point where they terminated, and the blockade-runners were accustomed to
pass in by the narrow channel between this buoy and Fort Morgan. Inside of these
defenses lay the Confederate ironclad ram " Tennessee " and
three wooden gunboats. As at New Orleans, Farragut issued general orders
containing the minutest instructions for every contingency.
seven sloops-of-war the " Brooklyn" leading and the "
Hartford" coming second were to form one line, each sloop having a
gunboat lashed on the port side, to take her through if her machinery should be
disabled. The " Brooklyn" was given the lead because she had
four chase guns and a contrivance for picking up torpedoes. The four ironclad
monitors, "Tecumseh," "Manhattan," "
Winnebago," and "Chickasaw," formed another line to
the right of the line of wooden ships, between them and Fort Morgan. Six
steamers were placed south and east of that work, to keep up a flank fire upon
it. Before daylight on 5 August everybody in the fleet was astir, and at half
past five the signal was given for the advance.
hour later the combatants were within range, and the firing began immediately,
and was heavy and destructive on both sides. The admiral mounted into the port
main rigging, in order to see over the smoke, and as this increased he gradually
mounted higher. Captain Drayton, to prevent his falling to the deck in ease of
being wounded, sent up a quartermaster with a piece of lead line, which was made
fast to one of the shrouds and passed around the admiral, to prevent such an
accident. The commanders had all been instructed to keep to the east of the red
buoy but the leading monitor, in her eagerness to engage the Confederate ram,
passed west of it, struck a torpedo, and suddenly went down. A little
later the "Brooklyn" stopped, and this seemed likely to throw
the whole line into confusion. " What is the trouble ?" was
shoutedthrough a trumpet from the "
Hartford.' .... Torpedoes ! " was the answer. "Damn the
torpedoes !" exclaimed Farragut. "Four bells ! Captain Drayton,
go ahead! Jouett, full speed!" Thus the "Hartford"
passed the "Brooklyn," took her place at the head of the line,
and led the fleet into the bay.
vessel suffered from the enemy's fire as it approached the fort, poured in rapid
broadsides that silenced the Confederate guns when it was abreast of the work,
and suffered again from raking fire after it had passed. Inside of the bay, the
signal Chase enemy’s gunboats was given and the lashings that held the
gunboats to the sloops were cut with axes and the former made off for their
prey, and one Confederate gunboat was captured one was sunk, and another 'driven
under the guns' of the fort. There was a brush with the ironclad ram, but it was
not serious, and the fleet came to anchor three miles up the bay. Farragut was
planning to attack the ram as soon as it should be dark enough to prevent the
garrison of the fort from seeing which was friend and which foe; but the ram
anticipated him, steaming directly for the flagship in the midst of the fleet.
The admiral at once gave orders for every ship to attack her, not only with shot
but also by ramming, and a desperate contest ensued. The ram had the advantage
in that she was sure of striking an enemy with every blow, while the fleet had
to avoid running and firing into one another. Their shot had no effect on the
sloping iron sides of the monster, and when the wooden vessels rammed her they
splintered their own bows and only heeled her over. But the monitors, with their
enormous guns, shot away her smokestack and steering apparatus and jammed her
shutters, while one fifteen inch shot actually penetrated her armor. Her
commander was wounded, her crew could do nothing in the smoke that filled their
vessel, and she displayed a white flag and surrendered.
the fight the " Lackawanna" had accidentally run into the
flagship and cut her down nearly to the water's edge. The victory cost the
National fleet 335 men, including 52 killed by shot and 113 drowned in the "
Tecumseh." The Confederate fleet lost 10 killed, 16 wounded, and 280
prisoners. The loss in the forts is unknown. A few days later they were
surrendered. Farragut in his official report awarded the most generous praise to
all that had assisted in winning the victory. He said: "The commanding
officers of all the vessels that took part in the action deserve my warmest
commendations, not only for the untiring zeal with which they had prepared their
ships for the contest, but for their skill and daring in carrying out my orders
during the engagement," and he mentioned every one of them specially.
He also wrote : "I witnessed the terrible effects of the enemy's shot,
and the good conduct of the men at their guns; and although no doubt their
hearts sickened, as mine did when their shipmates were struck down beside them,
yet there was not a moment's hesitation to lay their comrades aside and spring
again to their deadly work." The quartermaster that tied him in the rigging
says he saw the admiral come on deck just as the killed of the
"Hartford" were being laid out, and " it was the only time I ever
saw the old gentleman cry, but tears came in his eyes like a little child."
Howard Brownell was on board the flagship as an acting ensign, and described the
battle in one of his finest poems, "The Bay Fight." The fleet
could not capture the City of Mobile as New Orleans had been, because of shoal
water and obstructions in the channel. But the purpose of the operation, to stop
the passage of blockade-runners and so close another main avenue of supply to
the Confederacy, was accomplished. The accompanying view of the "
Hartford" shows the ship, as she appeared in Mobile bay after the
battle. The stunted appearance of her masts is due to the fact that her
topgallants were housed. Her hull was painted lead color.
November as Farragut's health was failing, the department ordered him home, and
on 12 Dec. he reached New York, where he was given a public reception, and a
purse of $50,000 was presented to him for the purchase of a home in the City. A
bill creating the grade of vice-admiral was passed by congress on 22 December
and the next day President Lincoln signed it, and nominated Farragut for the
office, which nomination the senate at once confirmed. When Richmond fell into
the hands of the National forces, Farragut, who was on the James, with General
George H. Gordon, procured horses, and rode thither post haste, entering the
City a short time before the president got there. A few days later he visited
his old home, Norfolk, and was given a public reception by the naval and
military officers there and those of the citizens who had remained true to the
Union. In the course of his speech he said:" This meeting recalls to me
the most momentous events of my life, when I listened in this place till the
small hours of the morning, and returned home with the feeling that Virginia was
safe and firm in her place in the Union. Our Union members of the convention
were elected by an overwhelming majority, and we believed that everything was
right. Judge, then, of our astonishment in finding, a few days later, that the
state had been voted out by a miserable minority, for want of firmness and
resolution on the part of those whom we trusted to represent us there, and that
Virginia had been dragooned out of the Union I was told by a brother officer
that the state had seceded, and that I must either resign and turn traitor to
the government which had supported me from childhood, or I must leave this
place. Thank God, I was not long in making my decision! I have spent half of my
life in revolutionary countries, and I know the horrors of civil war, and I told
the people what I had seen and what they would experience. They laughed at me,
and callrd me 'granny' and ' croaker'; and I said, ' I can not live here, and
will seek some other place where I can live.' I suppose they said I left my
country for my country's good, and, thank God, I did!"
6 July 1865, the Union club of Boston gave a dinner to the admiral, at which Oliver
Wendell Holmes read one of his happiest occasional poems, a few lines of
which may be quoted here: " Fast fast are lessening in the light The
names of high renown Van Tromp's proud besom pales from sight, Old Benbow's half
hull down. Scarce one tall frigate walks the sea, or skirts the safer shores. Of
all that bore to victory. Our stout old commodores. Hull, Bainbridge, Porter
where are they? The answering billows roll, still bright in memory's sunset ray,
God rest each gallant soul! A brighter name must dim their light; With more than
noontide ray The Viking of the River Fight, The Conqueror of the Bay. I give the
name that fits him best Ay, better than his own The Sea King of the sovereign
West, Who made his mast a throne."
25 July 1866, congress created the grade of admiral, before unknown in the U. S.
navy, and the rank was given to Farragut. The next year he was assigned to the
European squadron, hoisted his flag on the "Franklin," and made
a long cruise in European waters. By special permission of the president, Mrs.
Farragut and her cousin, Mrs. Pennock, wife of his fleet captain, Alexander M.
Pennock, accompanied them. They visited the principal European capitals, and
were everywhere received with the highest honors. One of the most interesting
incidents of the cruise was a visit to the Island of Minorca, the home of
Farragut's ancestors, where the whole population turned out to welcome him. In
the summer of 1869 the admiral and Mrs. Farragut visited Velejo, California His
last official duty was to take charge of the naval obsequies of George Peabody,
when the remains arrived at Portland, Maine, in January 1870. The next summer he
spent in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the guest of Rear Admiral Pennock. An old
sailor, who had charge of the dismantled sloop-of-war "Dale,"
lying in the harbor, says that one day the admiral wandered on board, and on
stepping ashore again remarked:" That is the last time I shall ever
tread the deck of a man-of-war."
foreboding proved true, and not long afterward he quietly passed away. The
remains were conveyed to New York, and, after a public funeral, were finally
deposited in Woodlawn cemetery. Admiral Farragut had a strongly religious
nature, believing in the constant guidance of Divine Providence. At the time of
his death he was a communicant of the Protestant Episcopal Church. He is one of
the few great heroes of the world whose character has never been clouded by the
slightest suspicion of a want of honesty or personal purity. Many entertaining
anecdotes are told of him. When we consider the novel and complicated problems
that confronted him in naval warfare, and the providential manner in which he
seemed to have been schooled for them through a long life when we remember how
other commanders merely fought line against line in simple though courageous
fashion, while he contended with casemated forts, fire rafts, fleets, and hidden
torpedoes, all at once, and conquered them all, we can hardly refuse to
pronounce him the greatest naval commander the world has ever seen.
is a colossal bronze statue of the admiral in Farragut square, Washington,
executed by Vinnie Ream, and paid for by a congressional appropriation. There is
one of heroic size in Madison Square, New York, executed by Augustus
St. Gauden, paid for by a subscription raised among the citizens. In the
chancel of the Church of the Incarnation, New York is a mural tablet containing
a bas-relief likeness by Launt Thompson. William Page's original picture of "Farragut's
Entry into Mobile Bay" is now in the possession of the emperor of
Russia; a replica is still owned by Mr. Page's family. The authorized life of
the admiral is that by his son, Loyall Farragut, which includes his journals and
many of his letters (New York, 1879). See also James E. Montgomery's "Cruise
of the Franklin" (New York, 1869), and "The Battle of Mobile
Bay," by Com. Foxhall A. Parker (Boston, 1878).
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