David G. Farragut

David G. Farragut
Career  U.S. Naval Officer
Born July 5, 1801
Died August 14, 1870
Nationality Hispanic American 

Many noble men are celebrated through portraits depicting elegance and confidence, stories telling about their acts of heroism, and memorial statues lasting countless generations – but few have had the privilege of being immortalized through their notable utterances that swung the tides of fate. The greatness of Admiral David G. Farragut is remembered in his order during the Battle of Mobile Bay, paraphrased as “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.”

Childhood

Even in his youthful years, David was able to display excellence and bravery during his early career in service. At the age of 7, and after the death of his mother, he was adopted by Naval Officer David Porter under whom he served as a naval midshipman 2 years later.

Service in the Navy

As early as the age of 11, young David, together with his father, served in the War of 1812. He displayed excellence during battle countless times which made him an accomplished ship officer by the age of 20. He continued serving under his father in other missions such as the pirate suppression operations in the Caribbean in 1823. Eventually, his superior performance earned him his first autonomous command in 1824.

Despite his identity as a Unionist, the navy kept a watchful eye on David’s allegiance due to his Southern upbringing. He was able to prove his loyalty with the help of his stepbrother, a fellow naval officer, who testified in his favor. This aided in his appointment as flag officer of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron.

In 1862, after successfully seizing the port of New Orleans, through which the South was receiving war resources, he was promoted to Rear Admiral. 

Furthermore, in the following year, he provided significant support to General Ulysses S. Grant during the general’s advancement toward Vicksburg that successfully fell to Federal control.

At the climax of his career, David won one of his most famous victories on August 5, 1864, at the Battle of Mobile Bay. It was the Confederacy’s last major port access in the Mexican Gulf. The area was heavily fortified with ship-sinking mines (also known as torpedoes). Upon charging in two columns (armored monitors in lead followed by wooden frigates), one of the Rear Admiral David’s ships and leading monitors, USS Tecumseh, was sunk by the fort’s mines.

As David witnessed the intimidating site and the cowering of most of his fleet, he knew he had to issue one of the most critical and important orders in his life. Without hesitation, he uttered the command by which he is remembered today, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” Swinging his ship, the Hartford, towards the mine-guarded fort, the rest followed and successfully infiltrated the bay, defeating the squadron of Admiral Franklin Buchanan. 

He was then promoted by Lincoln on December 21, 1864, as Vice Admiral, the United States Navy’s Senior Ranking Officer.

After the Civil War, he was commander of the Commandery of New York in May 1866. He was then promoted to and the first holder of Full Admiralposition in the U.S. Navy on July 25, 1866.

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