David Glasgow Farragut (July 5,
1801 - August 14, 1870) was the commander-in-chief of the U.S. Navy during
the American Civil War. He was both the first 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!"
Early life and naval career
Farragut was born to Jordi and Elizabeth Farragut at Campbell's Station, near
Knoxville, Tennessee, where his father was serving as a cavalry officer in
the Tennessee militia. Jordi Farragut Mesquida (1755–1817), originally a
merchant captain from Minorca when the island was under British rule, 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 one ship struck a mine the others began to pull back, but Farragut
shouted the order, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" The bulk
of the fleet succeeded in entering the bay and the heroic quote became
Farragut then triumphed over the opposition of heavy batteries in Fort Morgan
and Fort Gaines to defeat the squadron of Admiral Franklin Buchanan.
He was a man with a plan to capture New Orleans, one of the largest ports in
the south during the Civil War. This was one of the accomplishments that
helped the Union during the war.
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.
European Squadron and death
Admiral Farragut's last active service was in command of the European
Squadron, with the screw frigate Franklin as his flagship, and he died at the
age of 69 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery,
Bronx, New York.
A statue of Farragut, crafted in 1881 from the propeller of his flagship,
stands in Farragut Square in downtown Washington, D.C.. The National Park
Service interpretive plaque in the foreground prominently quotes his most
His hometown of Campbell's Station was renamed Farragut, Tennessee, in his
honor, and sporting teams of the local high school, Farragut High School, are
known as "The Admirals." Numerous destroyers have since been named
USS Farragut in his honor, and he has been depicted on U.S. postage stamps
twice; first on the $1 stamp of 1903, then on a $0.32 stamp in 1995. There is
also a state park in Idaho named after him. During World War II it was used
as a naval base for basic training.
1812, assigned to the Essex.
1815–17, served in the Mediterranean Sea aboard the Independence and the
1818, studied ashore for nine months at Tunis.
1819, served as a lieutenant on the Shark.
1823, placed in command of the Ferret.
1825, served as a lieutenant on the Brandywine.
1826–38, served in subordinate capacities on various vessels.
1838, placed in command of the sloop Erie.
1841, attained the rank of commander.
Mexican War, commanded the sloop of war, Saratoga.
1848–50, duty at Norfolk, Navy Yard in Virginia.
1850–54, duty at Washington, D.C..
1854–58, duty establishing Mare Island Navy Yard at San Francisco Bay.
1858–59, commander of the sloop of war, Brooklyn.
1860–61, stationed at Norfolk Navy Yard.
December 21, 1861 – August 14, 1870, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Navy.
January 1862, commanded USS Hartford and the West Gulf blockading squadron of
April 1862, took command of New Orleans.
July 16, 1862, promoted to rear admiral.
June 23, 1862, wounded near Vicksburg, Mississippi.
May 1863, commanded USS Monongahela.
May 1863, commanded the USS Pensacola.
July 1863, commanded USS Tennessee.
September 5, 1864, offered command of the North Atlantic Blocking Squadron,
December 21, 1864, promoted to vice admiral.
April 1865, Pallbearer for the Abraham Lincoln funeral.
July 25, 1866, promoted to admiral.
June 1867, commanded USS Franklin.
1867–68, commanded European Squadron.