David Glasgow Farragut



Occupation 1

Naval officer


Civil War


NA/Mid-Atlantic region


Heroic Age of Sail (1816-1865)








First admiral of the United States...

In 1811 Farragut sailed with Porter aboard the Essex. Despite his youth, Farragut's performance during the War of 1812 was exemplary; at age twelve, he commanded the prize Alexander Barclay. Though Porter praised Farragut's behavior during the bloody defeat of the Essex by the HMS Phoebe and Cherub in the harbor of Valpara�so, Chile, on 28 March 1814, Farragut's age precluded recommendation for promotion. Paroled after capture, Farragut did not return to sea before the war ended�

Appointed acting lieutenant in 1821, Farragut returned home to take the examination required for a permanent commission. He passed his second attempt. Returning to sea in 1822, Farragut chased pirates in the West Indies. During this tour, he received his first command as master of the Ferret

Despite lengthy service and outstanding ability, promotion was slow for Farragut�. Promoted to first lieutenant in January 1825, Farragut saw limited but interesting sea duty up until 1861. He transported the marquis de Lafayette to France in 1825, showed the flag at Charleston during the Nullification Crisis of 1833, and witnessed the French naval reduction of the castle of San Juan de Ul�a at Veracruz in 1838. Promoted to commander in September 1841, Farragut sought action in the Mexican War but found no occasion for distinguishing himself. Between 1848 and 1854 he devoted his attention to ordnance activities in Norfolk, Washington, D.C., and Fort Monroe. Between 1854 and 1858 he established a navy yard at Mare Island, California, and received his captaincy in September 1855.

During the tense winter of 1860-1861, Farragut waited for orders in Norfolk� The navy called him to Washington in December 1861. After a conference, he received command of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron on 9 January 1862 and orders to capture New Orleans. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles personally selected Farragut because Farragut had the best record of the senior officers available, and he was willing to accept the assignment.

Farragut required two months to deploy his squadron on the lower reaches of the Mississippi River. Two forts, Jackson on the west bank and St. Philip slightly upstream on the east, a flotilla, and a boom across the river blocked Farragut's route. But Confederate armaments were inferior to those of the Union forces. After a six-day mortar bombardment failed to silence Fort Jackson, Farragut� decided to run the gauntlet without silencing the forts� Events justified his decision. More than any other high-ranking Union officer, Farragut would take inordinate risks to obtain monumental results� All except three of his seventeen vessels managed to pass the forts before daylight on 24 April. The ensuing riverine battle caused the loss of one Union and eleven Confederate vessels. Farragut then arrived at New Orleans the next day. The forts surrendered three days later making his victory complete. Farragut received the thanks of Congress and a commission as rear admiral ranking from 16 July 1862.

Farragut continued up the river to Vicksburg. He failed to capture the bastion� Returning to New Orleans in July, he concentrated on blockading the Gulf Coast. At year's end, he had closed every Gulf port except Mobile� Following the opening of the Mississippi in July, Farragut returned to New York for a respite�

Departing New York aboard the Hartford in early January 1864, Farragut's new objective was Mobile. Waiting for the arrival of ironclads and for sufficient troops to attack the land side of the forts that guarded Mobile Bay delayed action for months� On 5 August Farragut's fleet entered the channel at Fort Morgan, four ironclads preceding fourteen wooden vessels lashed together in pairs� Although both forts surrendered in August, Mobile held out until April 1865, despite Farragut's shutting off the harbor to blockade runners. Farragut's success was the first significant Union victory since Chattanooga nine months earlier, and it boosted sagging Union morale.

Mobile Bay, coupled with his capture of New Orleans, elevated Farragut to well-deserved preeminence in the U.S. Navy� Congress created the office of vice admiral, and� President Abraham Lincoln promptly nominated Farragut. Later Congress created the grade of full admiral especially for Farragut, his appointment effective 26 July 1866.

Shortly after his victory at Mobile Bay, Farragut received orders to command the naval expedition against Fort Fisher at the mouth of the Cape Fear River near Wilmington, North Carolina. Farragut's service in the Gulf had exhausted him to the point that he requested leave. When his condition became known, the Navy Department relieved him�

In late January 1865, the navy abruptly canceled Farragut's leave because of Confederate naval activity on the James River in Virginia. He went there, but the navy had overestimated the threat. The admiral finished the war in Washington. Given command of the European Squadron in 1867, he lead it on a seventeen-month "good will" cruise. While returning from a visit to Mare Island, California, in 1869, Farragut suffered a heart attack in Chicago. Though he never fully recovered, he remained on the active duty list, dying the following summer at the navy yard at Portsmouth, New Hampshire�

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