Adm. David Glasgow Farragut. A Legend!
From Boy Midshipman To Mobile Bay Hero, ‘Old Salamander’ Spent His Life Aboard Navy Ships
Can you believe that the highest ranks in the United States Navy were created for a single man. One man that would pioneer past all charted ground and transcend into legend. From Rear Admiral, Vice Admiral, and Admiral of the Navy — were created for this one man, the famous David Glasgow Farragut, the hero of the Battle of Mobile Bay and other encounters of the seas and oceans of the world. Farragut’s rise to the rank of Admiral in 1866 was the pinnacle in a US Naval career that began before he was a young teenager and lasted for more than 50 years.
As the son of a Scots-Irish pioneer woman and a Spanish father, the Revolutionary War hero Jorge Farragut, young David Farragut grew up hearing tales of sea adventures and the men that went to sea. When his mother passed, family friend Commodore David Porter adopted young Farragut. Porter secured an appointment as midshipman for his 9-year-young charge. Cadets were educated and trained while at sea — the U.S. Naval Academy was not established until 1845 — and before long, Midshipman Farragut was onboard the USS Essex.
During the War of 1812, the USS Essex sailed to South America, where the precocious Farragut took a captured British ship into Santiago, Chile. By all accounts, he conducted himself with calm and courage during his ship’s defeat. After this excitement it was followed by 45 years of routine naval duty followed.
At the beginning of the Civil War, Farragut was the age of 60, a naval captain living with his wife in the State Of Virginia. A Southerner by birth, Farragut went the direction his brothers did not having pledged his allegiance to the Union cause and was then given command of a heavy fleet. His initial and beginning orders were to open and expand the mouth of the Mississippi by taking the city of New Orleans. This he accomplished in April 1862. For his accomplishments, on July 16 of that year he was made the first rear admiral in the U.S. Navy. With success comes more responsibility. He had already earned another title and name, “Old Salamander,” when he ran his ships under heavy enemy fire between the New Orleans’ forts.
16 months later, he took the last Confederate fort in the Gulf of Mexico in the celebrated Battle of Mobile Bay. The heavily guarded bay entrance was filled with heavy mines, then known as torpedoes. Farragut’s cry of “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” is now the stuff of legend, but it was also good tactics. All but one of the fleet’s 18 ships passed safely through the channel, and in August 1864, Mobile Bay’s forts fell. “Old Salamander” returned to Union territory a hero and entered the halls of legend.
- “Damn These Torpedoes, Too!”: Civil War Times article about Farragut’s trip to fallen Richmond
- “Decks Covered With Blood”: America’s Civil War article about Farragut and Dewey at Port Hudson
- Brief biography of Farragut
- Military News Digest