David Farragut Biography

(Military officer)

Birthday: July 5, 1801 (Cancer)

Born In: Farragut, Tennessee, United States

David Farragut was one of the longest-serving U.S. naval officers. He served as the first rear admiral, vice admiral, and admiral of the ‘United States Navy.’ He is best remembered for his services to the ‘Union’ and his victory at the Battle of Mobile Bay during the American Civil War. Farragut’s order during the battle, usually paraphrased as "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead," became quite famous in the ‘U.S. Navy’ tradition. Farragut served during the War of 1812 under his foster father, naval officer David Porter, and received his first command in 1824. He participated in the ‘West Indies Anti-Piracy Operations’ of the U.S. and in the Mexican–American War before supervising the construction of the ‘Mare Island Naval Shipyard.’ Farragut was against the Southern secession and staunchly supported the ‘Union’ after the Civil War broke out. He was made the rear admiral of the navy after he secured a ‘Union’ victory at the Battle of Forts Jackson and St. Philip and captured New Orleans. He participated in the Siege of Port Hudson, the last ‘Union’ engagement in recapturing the Mississippi River during the American Civil War. Farragut then ensured a ‘Union’ victory at the Battle of Mobile Bay and was promoted to the position of vice admiral. He became an admiral after the Civil War.
Quick Facts

Also Known As: David Glasgow Farragut, David Glascoe Farragut

Died At Age: 69


Spouse/Ex-: Susan Caroline Marchant (m. 1824)

father: David Porter, David Porter, George Farragut

mother: Elizabeth Shine Farragut

siblings: David Dixon Porter

Born Country: United States

Military Leaders American Men

Died on: August 14, 1870

place of death: Portsmouth, New Hampshire, United States

U.S. State: Tennessee

Ancestry: Spanish American

Cause of Death: Heart Attack

Childhood & Early Life
David Glasgow Farragut was born James Glasgow Farragut, on July 5, 1801 at Lowe's Ferry on the Holston River in Tennessee, close to Campbell's Station near Knoxville, U.S., to Jordi (George) Farragut and Elizabeth (née Shine). His father, George, who hailed from Menorca, Spain, operated the ferry and was a cavalry officer in the Tennessee militia. George arrived in America in 1766 and became involved with the American Revolutionary cause. George served as a naval lieutenant, initially in the ‘South Carolina Navy’ and then in the ‘Continental Navy,’ during the Revolutionary War.
Farragut’s mother was of North Carolina Scotch–Irish American descent. She succumbed to yellow fever on June 22, 1808, when the family lived in New Orleans. His father then planned to keep the children under the care of family and friends. Accordingly, Farragut agreed to live as a foster son of naval officer David Porter. Their fathers were friends. Incidentally Farragut’s parents had looked after Porter’s father, who suffered from sunstroke and eventually died of tuberculosis.
Porter raised Farragut along with his own children, including future Civil War admiral David Dixon Porter and Commodore William D. Porter. In 1810, Farragut went to sea with Porter. He changed his first name to “David” in 1812, to honor Porter.
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Initial Naval Career
On December 17, 1810, Farragut was commissioned a midshipman in the ‘U.S. Navy,’ due to his foster father’s efforts. This marked the beginning of Farragut’s expansive naval career, spanning 6 decades.
He served under Porter during the War of 1812. On August 13 that year, he participated in the naval engagement between the ‘U.S.S. Essex’ and the ‘HMS Alert,’ which resulted in an American victory. He was tasked with bringing an ‘Essex’-captured ship safely to port. He became a prize master by the time he reached 12.
In October–November 1813, at the time of the Anglo-American War, Farragut built ‘Fort Madison’ on Nuku Hiva at Taioha'e Bay. It was the first naval base of the U.S. in the Pacific, built to protect the village of Madisonville from British and Marquesan attacks. When the ‘Essex’ was captured during the Battle of Valparaíso on March 28, 1814, Farragut, who was wounded then, was also taken.
In 1822, he was made a lieutenant amidst the West Indies anti-piracy operations of the U.S. navy. He got his first command in 1824, when he was assigned to command the U.S. naval vessel ‘U.S.S. Ferret.’ He participated in anti-piracy operations in the Caribbean Sea, serving in the ‘Mosquito Fleet’ under Porter’s command.
The Mexican American War & the Construction of the Mare Island Navy Yard
Farragut became the commander of ‘U.S.S. Saratoga’ after it was repaired at the ‘Norfolk Navy Yard’ in Norfolk, Virginia, and re-commissioned in 1847. He set sail on the ‘Saratoga’ on March 29, 1847 and reached Veracruz, Mexico, on April 26 that year, to serve under Commodore Matthew C. Perry during the Mexican–American War. The war ended in an American victory on February 3, 1848. Following this, Farragut took the ‘Saratoga’ to New York City on February 19, where it was decommissioned on February 26.
From early 1848 to 1853, he served as an assistant inspector of ordinance at the ‘Norfolk Navy Yard’ in Virginia. He was selected by the secretary of the navy, James C. Dobbin, to create the ‘Mare Island Navy Yard’ near San Francisco in San Pablo Bay in 1853. It was the first U.S. navy base set up on the Pacific Ocean. Accordingly, in August 1854, he was called to Washington by President Franklin Pierce, who congratulated him on his naval feats and on earning his new task. Farragut reached Vallejo, California, on September 16 that year and successfully supervised the construction of the ‘Mare Island Naval Shipyard,’ which emerged as a major Pacific Ocean repair station in the late 19th century.
He was promoted to the position of captain on September 14, 1855. He commissioned ‘Mare Island’ on July 16, 1858.
The Civil War & Thereafter
Farragut lived with his Virginian-born wife in Norfolk, Virginia, before the Civil War. Nevertheless, Farragut was a Southern ‘Unionist’ and vehemently expressed his opinion against the Southern secession, calling it treason. Following the outbreak of the Civil War, he remained loyal to the ‘Union’ and relocated with his wife to Hastings-on-Hudson.
He wanted to serve the ‘Union’ and initially received a seat on the ‘Naval Retirement Board.’ Although the navy was initially doubtful of his loyalty to the ‘Union,’ as he was a Southern-born man who had married a Virginian-born lady, his foster brother, David Dixon Porter, argued for him. Thus, Farragut was assigned the command of attacking his former childhood home, New Orleans, the largest city in the ‘Confederacy.’
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On February 3, 1862, he was inducted to command the ‘Gulf Blockading Squadron’ under covert instructions. He secured a decisive victory of the ‘Union’ during the Battle of Forts Jackson and St. Philip, which took place from April 18 to 28 that year. Following this, he went on to capture the city and port of New Orleans on April 29, thus marking a decisive event in the American Civil War. This feat earned him accolades from the ‘Congress,’ who created the new rank of rear admiral for him on July 16, 1862. Thus, Farragut became the first rear admiral of the ‘U.S. Navy.’
Although he went past the batteries that defended Vicksburg, Mississippi, he remained unsuccessful there. He was wounded near Vicksburg, Mississippi, on June 23, 1862. In July 1862, his flotilla was forced to withdraw by a makeshift ‘Confederate’ ironclad.
He was part of the Siege of Port Hudson (May 22 to July 9, 1863), the last ‘Union’ engagement in pursuit of recapturing the Mississippi River. Although, according to plans, Farragut, aided by a diversionary land attack by the ‘Army of the Gulf’ (under General Nathaniel P. Banks), was supposed to pass by the guns of the ‘Confederate’ stronghold at 8:00 am on March 15, 1863, he defied the instructions and unilaterally took the decision of going ahead on the night of March 14, thus deviating from the set plan and time. This decision not only resulted in heavy damage of his warships at the hands of the ‘Confederates’ but also eventually proved costly to the ‘Union Navy’ and the ‘Union Army.’
General Banks had to continue with the siege, sans any naval support. He, however, secured a ‘Union’ victory, thus ensuring full control of the ‘Union’ over the Mississippi.
Following this, Farragut had a great victory at the Battle of Mobile Bay on August 5, 1864. Mobile was the last major port held by the ‘Confederate’ forces on the Gulf of Mexico, east of the Mississippi River. Farragut ordered his fleet to ignore the ‘Confederate’ defenses in the harbor. The order is usually paraphrased as “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” He was elevated to the position of vice admiral on December 21 that year.
After the Civil War, on March 18, 1866, he was elected a companion of the first class of the ‘New York Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States.’ He was assigned insignia number 231. Farragut served as the commander of the ‘Commandery of New York’ since May 1866 till his death.
He became the first full admiral of the ‘U.S. Navy’ on July 25, 1866. From 1867 to 1868, he commanded the ‘European Squadron’ with the ‘U.S.S. Franklin’ as his flagship. It marked his last active service. He was one of the eight U.S. naval officers chosen after the Civil War to be on active duty for life.
Family & Personal Life
On September 2, 1824, Farragut married Susan Caroline Marchant. She suffered from ill-health for years and died on December 27, 1840. On December 26, 1843, Farragut married Virginia Dorcas Loyall. Their son, Loyall Farragut, born on October 12, 1844, grew up to become a second lieutenant in the ‘U.S. Army.’
Farragut was initiated to the ‘Scottish Rite Masonry.’ He succumbed to a heart attack on August 14, 1870, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, U.S. (presently Kittery, Maine, U.S.). He was buried at the ‘Woodlawn Cemetery’ in The Bronx, New York City. On October 16, 2012, the gravesite of Farragut, a granite and marble monument that also marks the burial site of his wife, son, and daughter-in-law, was listed as a “National Historic Landmark on the National Register of Historic Places.”
The Farragut town; the Farragut Square in Washington, D.C.; two ‘Washington Metro’ stations, Farragut West and Farragut North; the ‘Farragut Naval Training Station’ in Northern Idaho; and the ‘Admiral Farragut Academy’ were named in his honor.
Similarly, the “Farragut class of 1934” and the “Farragut class of 1958,” two classes of ‘U.S. Navy’ destroyers, were named after him. The navy ship ‘U.S.S. Farragut,’ too, was named in his honor.
An outdoor bronze statue of Farragut, created by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, stands in ‘Madison Square Park,’ Manhattan. There are two more, one by Henry Hudson Kitson, in ‘Marine Park,’ Boston, and another by Vinnie Ream, in the center of the ‘Farragut Square.’

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