1- David Farragut’s Distinguished Childhood
I’m not sure how old you are, but if you’re like me, you probably hadn’t accomplished much by the age of nine. If I’m being honest, I probably hadn’t accomplished much by the age of 29. That’s what is so amazing about David Farragut.
Farragut joined the US Navy at just nine-years-old. As if that wasn’t enough, he fought in the War of 1812 just two years later. By twelve he had been made an officer in charge of captured enemy ships. I personally don’t get put in charge of very much. I require intense instructions just to wash clothes. “Separate the lights and the darks…those clothes can’t be dried with the rest…wash these on warm, and the others on cold.” I imagine if I were to be in charge of captured ships, my wife would need to be standing there to give me proper direction.
David Farragut was born and raised in the South. Despite this fact, he felt his allegiance was to the Union. The influence of his adoptive father, David Porter, who was also in the US Navy, seemingly played an important role in that decision. Farragut had been born as James Glasgow Farragut to a Spanish merchant captain named Jorge. His biological father had sent him to David Porter to learn the naval trade.[the_ad id=”128″]
David Porter made such an influence on Farragut, that he changed his first name from “James” to “David.” I’ll try to not get too confusing here, but David Porter had another son who was also named David. So to clarify, there was David Porter, David Farragut, and Farragut’s foster brother, David Dixon Porter. If you’re familiar with Civil War history, then you may recognize David Dixon Porter as another famous Union Admiral. Apparently, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree in the Porter family.
To summarize David Farragut’s childhood, I would say that it was quite successful. The US Navy obviously felt the same way, giving Farragut his own command. Farragut would soon take that command on a successful campaign, helping shape the outcome of the Civil War.
2- David Farragut and the Capture of New Orleans
Having been put in charge of the Naval forces in the Gulf of Mexico, Farragut was to create a blockade to stop outside supplies from reaching the Confederacy. There were two major ports in the Gulf that were funneling supplies from abroad up the Mississippi River. The first port Farragut was charged with capturing was the port of New Orleans.
He took a squadron of 43 ships to the mouth of the Mississippi. Chain cables were stretched across the river to bar any ships from making it further upstream. Farragut’s overwhelming barrage of ships easily broke through the chains.
Seeing the futility of further resistance, and fearing that Farragut would bomb the hell out of them, the Confederacy surrendered the city of New Orleans. The loss of this port city was a major blow to the rebellion. Only one major port remained in the Gulf of Mexico… Mobile Bay, lying east of New Orleans on the southernmost tip of Alabama.
Sunset over Mobile Bay seen from Fort Morgan
3- Damn the Torpedoes!
The final reason David Farragut is a badass really stands by itself. This alone would qualify as indisputable badassery, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Let me tell you about the Battle of Mobile Bay.
Courage was at a premium for David Farragut and his men as they approached Mobile Bay. There were three forts guarding the bay, fully stocked and ready for a fight. They were Fort Morgan, Fort Gaines, and Fort Powell. The Confederacy also had several ships, one of which was a large ironclad ship name the CSS Tennessee.
The waters beneath the forts held the greatest danger of all. There were submerged mines, known at the time as torpedoes.
The Confederate defenses were enough to cause Farragut’s men concern. One such man was William Dana. He and the rest of the crews toiled just out of reach of the powerful fortresses, trying to formulate a plan of attack. They eventually became restless, William Dana remarking of the CSS Tennessee, “I wish she would come out and all the gun boats they have there come with them for it is very stupid here with nothing to do, but we are only waiting for one of the monitors to come down here, to destroy the ram and then we will go in and see if we can’t get up to Mobile.”
Finally, after many days, Farragut had a plan together, and the Union got in formation to attack the bay. During the battle, one of the Union’s ironclad ships, the Tecumseh, struck a torpedo and sank. This sent the rest of the ships into a frenzied confusion.
It’s at this point that I picture David Farragut with a crazed look in his eye. He had lashed himself to the rigging of his ship. When I think about how this must have played out, I imagine the following scene from the movie Forest Gump.[the_ad id=”126″]
After the Tecumseh went down, the rest of the fleet was in disarray. From the rigging of his ship, Farragut calls to the other captains to see what was the matter. This was a pivotal moment in the battle. Any minute the tide of opportunity could change, closing the door on any hope Farragut had of winning the day.
The captain of the USS Brooklyn shouted, “Torpedoes!” This prompted Farragut to utter the famous words:
The men needed that. They heard the battle cry and watched as their leader sailed his ship straight through the Confederate defenses, heedless of the dangers that lay lurking just beneath the surface of the gulf waters.
Eventually, the Confederacy was defeated and surrendered Fort Morgan. With the final Gulf port closed, it left over 400 miles of Union controlled Mississippi River to cut off the blood supply to the rest of the Confederacy. And so it can be argued that this was one of the single most important battles of the entire civil war.
Now if that ain’t bad ass, I don’t know what is.