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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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.’