July 5, 1801 – August 14, 1870
When Virginia seceded in April 1861, Navy Capt. David G. Farragut told his Virginian wife that he was “sticking to the flag.” “This act of mine may mean years of separation from your family,” he told her, “so you must decide quickly whether you will go north or remain here.”
Although Farragut was Southern born, married a Virginian — “a very superior woman in character and cultivation” — and resided in the South, he was squarely behind the Union. “God forbid,” he said, “that I should have to raise my hand against the South.” But he would not hesitate to obey orders to the best of his abilities.
They went north, to Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., where Farragut was assigned a desk job until January 1862, at which time he was chosen to command an expedition to capture New Orleans. He assembled nearly 50 ships carrying more than 200 cannon, with which he blasted his way past the forts protecting the city. Sailing on up the Mississippi River to New Orleans, Farragut forced its surrender and became a Northern hero. For this performance he received the Thanks of Congress citation and was made the Navy’s first rear admiral.
Farragut next wanted to take his fleet and capture Mobile Bay, but the opening of the Mississippi River was the first prority, and he contributed top the success of that long struggle by blockading the mouth of the Red River and supporting the siege of the Confederate fort at Port Hudson. After the surrender of Vicksburg and Port Hudson in July 1863, Farragut sailed to New York for repairs to his flagship, the Hartford.
Farragut went back to the Gulf Coast in 1864 and fought the fiercest of his battles when he “damned the torpedoes” and blasted his way into Mobile Bay. A ship’s officer wrote that when Farragut saw the bodies of his killed crewmen laid out on the deck after the battle, “It was the only time I ever saw the old genleman cry. But tears came in his eyes like a little child.”
Sixty-threee year old Farragut’s health gave out in November, and he returned to New York to recuperate. He was received with great public enthusiasm and given $50,000 by grateful businessmen to be used to by a New York home. Congress created the rank of vice admiral and bestowed it upon Farragut. The next year they conferred the rank of admiral upon him.
Fascinating Fact: In it’s 19 months of service, the Hartford was hit 240 times by enemy fire.