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David Glasgow Farragut (1801–1870)

President Abraham Lincoln considered the appointment of David Glasgow Farragut as commander of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron the best one he made during the Civil War. Ordered to capture New Orleans and thus gain control of the Mississippi River, Farragut soon proved the merit of the contemporary description of his “great superiority of character, clear perception of duty, and firm resolution on the performance of it.” Sailing in the flagship USS Hartford on April 24, 1862, he led his fleet of seventeen vessels in a successful run by the Confederate defenses, engaged and defeated the enemy flotilla, and captured New Orleans.

Rear Admiral Farragut spent the next two years blockading the Gulf Coast and maintaining Union control over the lower Mississippi before preparing for the capture of the Mobile Bay defenses. Then, on August 5, 1864, as his force of four ironclads and fourteen wooden vessels steamed down the narrow torpedo-lined channel, the ironclad Tecumseh struck a mine and sank. Shouting “Damn the torpedoes!” Farragut, again in the Hartford, forged ahead of the hesitant fleet. Soon all of his remaining ships safely passed the enemy forts. The Confederate flotilla was dispersed, and by month’s end the harbor defenses had surrendered. This, the major victory of Farragut’s naval career, earned him the rank of vice admiral. Two years later, in declining health, he was commissioned admiral.

Edward Jacobs (1813–1892)
Albumen silver print, circa 1862
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution


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