CDV of Admiral David Glasgow Farragut.
David Glasgow Farragut (July 5, 1801 – August 14, 1870) was the senior officer of the U.S. Navy during the American Civil War. He was the first rear admiral, vice admiral, and full admiral of the Navy. He is remembered in popular culture for his famous order at the Battle of Mobile Bay, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” though some have claimed he did not say the famous quotation.
Early Life and Naval Career
Farragut was born to Jorge and Elizabeth Farragut at Campbell’s Station, near Knoxville, Tennessee, where his father was serving as a cavalry officer in the Tennessee militia. Jorge Farragut Mesquida (1755 – 1817), a Spanish–Catalan merchant captain from Minorca, had previously joined the American Revolutionary cause. David’s birth name was James, but it was changed in 1812, following his adoption by future naval Captain David Porter in 1808 (which made him the foster brother of future Civil War Admiral David Dixon Porter).
David Farragut entered the Navy as a midshipman on December 17, 1810. In the War of 1812, when only 12 years old, he was given command of a prize ship taken by USS Essex and brought her safely to port. He was wounded and captured during the cruise of the Essex by HMS Phoebe in Valparaiso Bay, Chile, on March 28, 1814, but was exchanged in April 1815. Through the years that followed, in one assignment after another, he showed the high ability and devotion to duty that would allow him to make a great contribution to the Union victory in the Civil War and to write a famous page in the history of the United States Navy.
In command of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron, with his flag in USS Hartford, in April 1862 he ran past Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip and the Chalmette, Louisiana, batteries to take the city and port of New Orleans, Louisiana, on April 29 that year, a decisive event in the war. Later that year he passed the batteries defending Vicksburg, Mississippi. Port Hudson fell to him July 9, 1863.
On August 5, 1864, Farragut won a great victory in the Battle of Mobile Bay. Mobile, Alabama, at the time was the Confederacy’s last major port open on the Gulf of Mexico. The bay was heavily mined (tethered naval mines were known as torpedoes at the time). Farragut ordered his fleet to charge the bay. When the monitor USS Tecumseh struck a mine and sank the others began to pull back. According to legend, Farragut (who was lashed to the rigging of his flagship the USS Hartford) shouted down the order, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” The bulk of the fleet succeeded in entering the bay.
Farragut then triumphed over the opposition of heavy batteries in Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines to defeat the squadron of Admiral Franklin Buchanan.
His country honored its great sailor after New Orleans by creating for him the rank of rear admiral on July 16, 1862, a rank never before used in the U.S. Navy. (Before this time, the American Navy had resisted the rank of admiral, preferring the term “flag officer”, to separate it from the traditions of the European navies.) He was promoted to vice admiral on December 21, 1864, and to full admiral on July 25, 1866, after the war.