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Farragut & Our Naval Commanders

By J. T. Headley
Comprising the early life and public services of the prominent naval commanders who, with Grant and Sherman and their generals, brought to a triumphant close the great rebellion of 1861-1865. (First edition 1867)

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Ever since the second war with England the navy has been the pride of the country. When the sea closed over the Guerrière, a new era dawned on naval history. From that moment the supremacy of England on the seas was broken, and ever since, wherever the national flag has been borne over the waters of the world, it has been looked on with respect. Our navy, in that war, obtained a character which commanders and sailors have been proud to maintain, until the "blue coats’ have been synonymous with bravery. The shout that shook the land when Hull returned with the news of that first victory in a fair broadside-to-broadside engagement with one of England’s finest frigates, kindled a feeling of pride in the heart of the people that has never since died out. Defeats may be expected on the land, but never on the sea. With such names heading the list of naval heroes as Hull and Bainbridge and Lawrence and Decatur and Porter and Perry and McDonough and Blakely and others, our commanders at the commencement of this war had a difficult task before them to maintain the high reputation which these illustrious captains had given the navy.

But no better name could be found than Farragut’s with which to recommence that roll of renown. His father was born on the island of Minorca, in the Mediterranean Sea, but came to this country in 1776, at the opening of the great struggle for our independence. Entering at once into the spirit of that contest, like Kosciusko, Steuben, and Pulaski, he joined the ragged, ill-paid army of the colonies, and by his gallant conduct rose to the rank of Major. At the close of the war he married Miss Shire, of North Carolina, and settled down on our western frontier near Knoxville, Tennessee. Here, at Campbell’s station, in 1801, David Glascoe Farragut was born. Alth6ugh his early childhood was passed among the great forests of the West, his mind turned to the distant ocean, and in 1810, though but nine years of age, he obtained a midshipman’s berth under Capt. Porter. This place was probably secured through the influence of his father, who was a warm friend of the captain, they being at that time sailing-masters in the navy together. A mere boy, of an age needing a mother’s care, and scarce big enough to climb to the top of the bulwarks of his vessel, he was launched forth on the sea and the world together. Two years after, the war with England broke out, and he put to sea in the Essex, bearing on her defiant flag, "Free Trade and Sailors’ Rights." Porter sailed in April, and as he passed down by the battery, he sent five shots into Castle William, to "try its strength; "then floating through the Narrows, swept off into the broad Atlantic. Young Farragut’s first experience of a battle on that element which was to be his future home and field of renown, was in August. On the 13th the English sloop-of-war Alert hove in sight, and thinking to make an easy prey of the Essex, ran boldly down on her weather quarter, and giving three cheers, poured in a broadside. The Essex: returned it with such fury that in eight minutes the English vessel had seven feet of water in her hold, and struck her colors. Young Farragut had gone to school in a wild sort of fashion, and his first lesson was one he was not likely ever to forget. A fortnight after, Porter came in sight of an English frigate just at dark, and fearing his powerful antagonist might lose him in the night, he hoisted a light, but in the morning the enemy was nowhere to be seen. Four days later he found himself near St. George’s bank, close upon two ships of war, which immediately gave chase. As night came on he found the enemy gaining rapidly on him, and so he determined to heave about, and try to pass the largest ship unobserved, and in case he failed to do so, to give him one broadside and board him. He called the crew about him and made known his plans. Three cheers greeted the bold determination, and soon the vessel was bowling along in the darkness in the direction where his powerful adversary was last seen. He, however, passed him without being observed.

Not long after Farragut received another lesson in naval matters which his after-career shows was not lost on him. Sir James Yeo, of the frigate Southampton, sent a challenge to Porter in which, after presenting his compliments, he said he "would be glad to have a tête-à-tête anywhere between the Capes of Delaware and the Havana, when he would have the pleasure to break his own sw7ord over his d-d head, and put him down forward in irons." To this Porter replied that he "accepted with pleasure his polite invitation," and "would prefer meeting near the Delaware Capes, where Capt. P. pledges his honor that no other American vessel shall interrupt their tête-à-tête. The Essex may be known by a flag bearing the motto “Free Trade and Sailors’ Rights.” And when that is struck to the Southampton, Capt. Porter will deserve the treatment promised by Sir James." The blustering Englishman, however, did not take advantage of the offer, but one can see that the boy Farragut was to study his profession under a competent teacher.

But young David was soon transferred to a different scene. In October, Commodore Bainbridge having sailed from Boston with the Constitution and Hornet, Porter, then lying in the Delaware with the Essex, was ordered to join him in Port Praya, in St. Jago, or at Fernando, Norenha. But the capture of the Java by the Constitution, and of the Peacock by the Hornet, caused a change in the plans of Bainbridge; and Porter not finding him at either of the places above mentioned, or off Frio, another rendezvous designated by the Commodore, he was left to cruise where he thought best. After revolving various schemes, he at length, in midwinter, took the bold resolution to go alone into the Pacific, where he had not a depot of any kind) or a place in which a vessel could be refitted, while all the neutral ports were under the influence of our enemy, and make a dash at the British fishermen, and obtain his supplies from, them. His prow was at once turned southward. Fierce storms off Cape Horn again and again beat him back; but he held on, and at length took the breezes of the Pacific, and stretched northward. Cruising here, he captured several vessels, until he had quite a little fleet. One of them, the Atlantic, he named the Essex Junior, and put it under the command of Lieut. Downes. Finding at length it was necessary to refit, and hearing that English cruisers were after him, he repaired to the Marquesas Islands, and there, in a sequestered bay, repaired his vessels. The natives were at first friendly, but at length the Typees, a warlike tribe, succeeded in arousing the others to hostilities, and a plan was laid to murder all the American crews. Porter saw that he must make them feel his power, and so taking nearly his whole crew with him, he boldly entered the mountains, swarming with thousands of the natives, and marched towards the Typee villages. Compelled at first to retreat, he at length, after incredible hardships, reached the summit of the mountains from which he descended in wrath on the beautiful plain below, and driving the natives into a fortress, set fire to their towns, and returned to the ship. David was now only twelve years old, yet he was eager to join the expedition; but much to his disappointment was left behind with the few that remained to take care of the ships. In the noontide of his fame, his attention being called to this period of his boyhood, he was asked why he did not accompany the captain in his notable campaign against the Typees. He replied, with his usual humor: "I was ruled out—my legs being considered too short to cross the mountains." It may easily be imagined that they were altogether too short for such a rough land-cruise as that of the captain’s against the hostile tribes.

But all these new and trying scenes were merely preparatory to the great trial which was to fix his character for all future time. Porter, having finished his repairs, and leaving his two prizes behind, set sail in December, and arrived in Valparaiso the 12th of January. Here he determined to wait for the British ship Phoebe, which, he learned, had been sent out on purpose to capture him. She at length arrived; but not alone—the Cherub, sloop-of-war, bearing her company. These vessels bore flags with the mottoes: "God and our country—British sailors’ best rights—Traitors offend them." Porter immediately hoisted at his mizzen: "God, our country, and liberty-Tyrants offend them."

The English ships having taken in supplies, cruised outside for six weeks, completely blockading the Essex. Porter tried in vain to bring on an engagement with the Phoebe, but, the latter steadily avoided it, though superior both- in weight of metal and the number of men. Porter, finding that he had got to fight both vessels at once or not at all, and hearing that other British cruisers were on their way to the port, resolved to put to sea. So on the 28th of March, the wind blowing fresh, he stood out of port. But in doubling the Point of Angels to clear the harbor, a squall struck the vessel, carrying away the maintop-mast, and with it several men, who were drowned. It would not do to go to sea in this crippled condition, and unable to beat back to his former anchorage ground, he ran to the northeast side of the harbor and dropped anchor within three miles of the city, and a mile and a half from the Castello Viego. He was clearly on neutral ground, and where now, in the same circumstances, no nation on the globe would dare to fire into an American man-of-war. Yet Captain Hillyar moved down on him with both his vessels, and choosing his position, opened his broadsides on the Essex. Porter saw at once that to conquer was impossible, yet he resolved to fight his vessel to the last, and ordered the decks cleared for action. With the few guns he could bring to bear, he opened such a terrific fire that in a, short time both vessels had to haul off for repairs. The cannonading had aroused the inhabitants, and they came thronging by thousands to see the unequal fight, and soon darkened the surrounding heights. Hillyar, having completed his repairs, came back and took his position where Porter could not bring a gun to bear. Proud and unyielding, he lay there for a while a helpless target on the water. Seeing that he would soon be sent to the’ bottom, he determined to make a desperate effort to board the largest vessel. But his sheets and halyards had been so shot away, that not a sail could be set except the flying jib. Giving this to the wind and cutting his cable, he drifted slowly down on his foes, and getting them at length within range of his carronades, opened a terrible fire. The cannonade on both sides now became swift and awful. The Essex, being set on fire and swept by the broadsides of both vessels, at length became almost totally unmanageable; but still she worked slowly forward, hoping to close, when Porter knew his inferior but brave crew would carry the vessel like a storm. But the English commanders, seeing their advantage, kept away. It was a painful sight to behold that crippled vessel, bravely limping up to grapple with her powerful adversary, and that adversary as slowly moving off, and pouring in the while a rapid, murderous fire. Hulled at almost every shot, her decks ripped up, and strewed with the dead, her guns torn from their carriages and rendered useless, it was evident the noble frigate could not be fought much longer. Porter saw his hopeless condition and, as a last resort, rather than strike his flag, resolved to run his vessel ashore and blow her up. Her head was with difficulty turned towards the beach and had actually got within musket-shot of it when the unsympathizing wind suddenly veered and blew him straight back on the Phoebe and under her raking broadsides. Still unyielding, Porter hoped by this untoward event to get foul and board the enemy. It was a last vain effort—fate was against him; the Phoebe kept edging away, raking the Essex as she retired.

The scene on board the frigate at this time was horrible. The cock-pit was crowded with the wounded; men by the dozen were mowed down at every discharge; fifteen had fallen successively at one gun, and scarcely a quarter-deck officer was left standing. And where was the boy Farragut all this time? A midshipman, it is true, he was, but nevertheless a lad only twelve years of age, too young to be standing in such a human slaughter-house. Only old and war-hardened hearts should beat unmoved amid such a wild scene. Yet there he stood—his delicate form rigid as iron, and his young heart fearless and proud as that of his commander. The deck ran blood beneath his tender feet, the splintered timbers crashed and shivered around him, and the murderous shot lifted the locks from his fair young head as they shrieked past him. The gore and clotted flesh of the brave men falling around him covered his garments, and the blood was trickling from a wound in his own side; yet there he stood manfully to the guns, his childish voice sounding strangely in that wild uproar, and his innocent blue eyes blazing with unnatural light amid that carnival of death as they turned unblenchingly on his beloved commander. Porter’s case was evidently hopeless; but disdaining to yield, he made one more final attempt to bring his vessel around so as to make his broadside bear. He let go his sheet-anchor, and the staggering vessel, swinging slowly around again, presented her guns to the astonished foe. But the hawser parted in the strain, and the vessel lay an unmanageable wreck on the water, while to complete the disaster, the flames burst from the hatchway and rolled away towards the magazine. Porter now saw that his doom was inevitably sealed; and seeing that his boats had all been shot away, he ordered those of his crew who could swim, to jump overboard and attempt to reach the shore, three quarters of a mile distant. He then, with the few who chose to remain on board, among whom was young Farragut, extinguished the flames, and again shotted the few guns that could be brought to bear. It was, however, the last feeble effort of despair, for the water being smooth, and the enemy able to choose his own positions, he soon made a riddle of the American frigate. Her wounded were killed while under the hands of the surgeons, and only one of the carpenter’s crew remained to stop the shot-holes, though the water was now pouring through in torrents. Porter would have gone down with his flag flying, but for the number of wounded that he would be compelled to take to the bottom with him, and so, after this unparalleled struggle of two hours and a half, he gave the melancholy orders to lower his flag.

I have given a lengthy description of this naval combat, because of its important bearing on Farragut’s character. The future Admiral was christened in this awful baptism of fire. It was his first great lesson in naval combat, and it could not have been otherwise than stamped in indelible lines on his young heart. It was a fearful trial for one so youthful; but as he had chosen the navy for his profession, it was important he should see how a ship ought to be fought. To one of his age it would naturally occur that such was the only way a gallant commander would act, and of course he would settle it in his mind at once and forever, that it was the way he must act if ever called to command a vessel. That his future character was fixed in this unparalleled combat, his after-life clearly shows. In his daring passage of the forts below New Orleans, which to common men seemed madness—in his entrance to Mobile harbor, lashed to the maintop to direct the battle, he only acted over again the scenes of his boyhood. As one contemplates him in these daring enterprises, the mind involuntarily goes back to that battle in Valparaiso harbor. They are the lessons of boyhood put into practice in maturer years. We see simply the soul of Porter transferred to the soul of the boy that stood and battled by his side.

That his bearing on this occasion was gallant and heroic beyond his years, is evident from the fact that it attracted the especial attention of Porter. A hero of the grandest mould himself, and surrounded by heroic men—witnessing a devotion and courage seldom seen he yet was struck by the conduct of this boy of twelve, and made special mention of him in his report to the Secretary of the Navy, adding, evidently with regret, that notwithstanding his meritorious conduct, he was "too young for promotion.” Only twelve years old, he yet had behaved with such distinguished gallantry that he deserved a lieutenant’s commission. The history of our navy records no other such instance. That such a boy, if he lived and circumstances permitted it, would be heard from again, was evident. He received his first wound in this engagement; but young as he was, it did not keep him from his post of duty. He was sent home in the Essex Junior, among the paroled officers. Porter’s interest in the boy was enhanced by his heroic conduct in this battle, and he had him put to school at Chester and taught military tactics. Hie however was soon afloat again, being attached to the Mediterranean squadron. In 1816, we find him on board a ship of the line, where he became acquainted with the chaplain, the Rev. Charles Folsom, who took a great interest in him, and to whose instructions Farragut attributes much of his after-success in life. Afterwards, the chaplain was appointed our consul at Tunis, and David was sent with him. From this intimacy of three years’ duration, sprung up a friendship which neither change of circumstances nor years of separation ever weakened. Mr. Folsom, in a letter respecting Farragut’s life during the long peace that followed, says that it differed little from that of other officers. By slow degrees he worked his way up the difficult ladder of promotion, but did not reach the rank of lieutenant till the year 1825. He then married a lady of Norfolk; but it proved a less happy connection than he had anticipated, for she soon became a great sufferer, and continued so till relieved by death. Her trials, however, were relieved as much as they could be by a care and devotion and tenderness, such as a great soul like his alone can exhibit.

In 1841 he was made commander, and in 1851 captain. Promotion comes so slow in "piping times of peace" that it took him forty-one years to reach the rank of captain. He by turns sailed in almost every sea visited by our fleets, and by his studies and intercourse with other nations became proficient in several modern languages. At one time he was stationed at the Norfolk navy-yard, and afterwards was placed in command of the navy-yard at San Francisco. He also held the post of assistant inspector of ordnance for three years. In the mean time he married again, and this time also took his wife from Norfolk, Miss Virginia Loyall, daughter of a prominent citizen of the place. By her he had one son, now a cadet at West Point —-choosing the military rather than the naval service.

He thus passed through his youth and manhood, and bade fair to pass through life without exhibiting any of those extraordinary qualities for which his boyhood was a distinguished. He was nearly threescore years old when the rebellion broke out, having seen forty-eight years of service.

At this time he was living at Norfolk, and being a Southerner by birth and connected with the South by marriage, it was supposed by his Southern friends that he would cast in his lot with them. The tide seemed a11 to set that way. Officers went over by the dozen, whole messes resigned; and it was held dishonorable not "to go with their States," as it was termed. Very few Southern officers were proof against this feeling, especially as it was fully believed by them that the North and South would hereafter be separate nations. Even Lee said that if he thought the Union would ever be restored, he would go with the North, but as the two portions must inevitably constitute separate nationalities, he felt it his duty to cast his future in with the South. A few, however, remained true; and among these was Farragut. He had grown up from childhood with the old flag waving morning and night over his head; and from the time when, a mere boy, he had watched its bright folds gleaming amid the storm of battle in Valparaiso harbor-ant with a great sorrow, such as his young heart never felt before, had seen it lowered to the foe—his love for it had grown with his growth and strengthened with his strength; and now he could not desert it. It was dearer to him than kindred, and he would stand by it to the last, and if fall he must in the deadly strife, it should be beneath it waving in all its pristine glory. He made no concealment of his views, and his Southern friends were at first astonished at what they considered his treason to the South; and then became indignant, and plainly hinted to him that it might be unsafe to remain longer in the South. "Very well," said he, "I will then go where I can live with such sentiments." At length Fort Sumter fell, and then came the conspiracy to seize the Norfolk navy-yard. Farragut now saw that if he expected to render his country any service in the awful struggle on which she was being so wildly launched, he must leave Norfolk; and so, on the night of the 18th of April, 1861, he bade adieu to his home, and turned his face northward. The very next day the navy-yard was set on fire. The Government was thunderstruck at the abyss opening beneath it, and knew not whom to trust amid the general defection. It had but few ships; and Farragut’s services being uncalled for, he took up his abode on the Hudson River, just below Tarrytown, and watched with gloomy forebodings the increasing storm. Being a stranger in the vicinity, his solitary walks in the fields were watched with suspicion, and it was whispered about that he was one of a band of conspirators to cut the Croton Aqueduct.

The Administration seemed asleep or stupefied; but after the battle of Bull Run, the following summer, it aroused from its lethargy, and began to act as though the country was really in the midst of civil war. In the autumn it resolved to make a bold push for the capture of New Orleans. The West Gulf Blockading Squadron, with twenty bomb-schooners, was to constitute the naval force, with which a land force of eighteen hundred men under Maj. Gen. Butler was to cooperate. Preparations were set on foot before the naval commander was determined on—an unwise step to start with; but the blunder was more than compensated by the fortunate selection of Farragut. The country knew but little about him, and when his name was published as the head of the expedition, vastly more was expected from Porter, who commanded the bomb vessels, than from him.

He received his orders on the 20th of January, 1862, and on the 3d of next month sailed from Hampton Roads in the flagship Hartford—a vessel destined to assume a place in our naval history second only to that of the Old Constitution. The place of rendezvous was Ship Island, at which he arrived in seventeen days, and immediately began to make the arrangements necessary for the Herculean task before him. He would have entered into a combat on the deep without any hesitation; but the work to which he was assigned-to beat down or run the batteries lining both sides of a river-was an entirely different undertaking. It was a new, untried experiment, and presented difficulties that to some seemed impossible to surmount; but indomitable energy, he well knew, could overcome the greatest obstacles, and the fleet set sail and arrived safely at the entrance of the Mississippi. It was desirable to get the powerful steam frigate Colorado, Captain Bailey commanding, over the bars at the mouth of the river; but as she drew, with her armament aboard, twenty-two feet of water, and the deepest soundings gave only fifteen, this was found to be impossible. The Mississippi and Pensacola were got over only by great labor; and at length the fleet was safely anchored at the head of the Pass a’ l’Outre and the Southwest Pass. Those who saw with what care, Farragut attended to the minutest details—the thorough preparation which he made for every contingency-felt that his bravery was equalled by his prudence and forethought.

The expedition, when it sailed on its secret, unknown destination from the North, created the liveliest interest; and when, at last, it was discovered that its object was the capture of New Orleans, the greatest enthusiasm prevailed, for the opening of the Mississippi was the first great object of the administration. But the long delays that followed, cooled down the public expectation, and it was at last almost lost sight of in the stirring victories that were taking place farther north under the gallant Foote. But Farragut, patient as well as daring, was biding his time.

Six war steamers, sixteen gunboats, twenty-one mortar vessels, with five other national vessels, comprised the fleet which ha1d now fairly entered on its work.

It was a grand spectacle when, on the 16th of March, this formidable fleet at last opened its fire. The low banks of the river on both sides seemed inherent with flame, and the deep reverberations of the guns rolled like heavy thunder up the lordly Mississippi. All day long the earth trembled under the heavy explosions, and by night two thousand shells had been hurled against the forts.[1]

Farragut and Porter had obtained the exact distance of the forts by triangulation, performed by the coast survey under Captain Gerdes-Messrs. Harris and Oltmanns doing the work. Thus, surveyors’ instruments prepared the way for the direct cannon shot. The rebels had not been idle during the delays of the previous weeks, but had contrived and constructed every possible instrument of destruction and defence. On the first morning of the bombardment they set adrift a fire-ship made of a huge flatboat piled with lighted pitch-pine cord-wood. It came drifting slowly down the sluggish stream, burning with a fierce crackling roar, and darkening all the sky with its volumes of black eddying smoke. Shot and shell had no effect on it, save to fill the air with flying sparks and blazing brands, and it kept steadily on its flaming path, straight towards our vessels. Two of the advance steamers were in danger of getting foul of it, and, slipping their cables, moved down the stream. On swept the unwieldy, blazing mass, and, keeping the middle of the stream, passed the entire fleet without inflicting any damage. As it disappeared below, the taunts and jeers of the sailors followed it. To be prepared for another, Captain Porter ordered all the row-boats of the flotilla, a hundred and fifty in number, to be supplied with grapnels, ropes, and buckets, ready at a moment’s notice to seize it and tow it ashore. At night the rebels set another adrift, and as it towered majestically in the darkness near the forts, signal-lights were run up on all the vessels and those hundred and fifty boats leaped forth on the water as though created by magic. Down came the pyramid of flame, lighting the reed-fringed shores with a ruddy glow, and turning the muddy waters into molten flame. Swinging easily on the mighty current, it moved steadily down till its baleful glare was cast over the vessels at anchor along the banks. Suddenly out of the surrounding darkness, right into the blazing light the Westfield dashed with a full head of steam on, and, steering straight for the burning’ pile, buried its bows in the crackling mass, while her hose poured a torrent of water upon it, The next moment the diminutive row-boats shot into the light, and, sweeping swiftly over the ruddy waters, each sailor and oar painted in dark lines against the fiery background, fastened boldly to the burning structure, not knowing but that it was filled with torpedoes and missiles of death that might explode at any moment. They then gave way with a will, and in a short time the grand and imposing structure that seemed fraught with destruction, was consuming ignobly away against the shore. Loud cheers from the whole fleet greeted the gallant exploit.

The bombardment which had commenced was kept up steadily for a week, and although the fire, when the exact range was got, was very severe, setting the citadel of Fort Jackson on fire and driving the gunners from their pieces, the forts seemed as far from being reduced as ever. In the mean time shells, fuses, cartridge-boxes, coal, and hospital stores were getting short; the gunners on the mortar-boats were worn out, and when relieved from their guns would fall down exhausted on deck. It was evident that something else must be tried, or the expedition be abandoned. In this extremity a council of war was called on board the flagship, composed of the different commanders, and the question was put, What next shall be done? After it was over, Farragut issued his order: "The flag-officer, having heard all the opinions expressed by the different commanders, is of the opinion that whatever is to be done will have to be done quickly. When, in the opinion of the flag-officers, the propitious time has arrived, the signal will be made to weigh, and advance to the conflict. * * * He will make the signal for close action, No. 8, and abide the result—conquer or be conquered."

A short time before, a French vessel had gone up to the forts, and on its return, one of its officers told Farragut he never could get by them. He replied, "I am ordered to go to New Orleans, and I intend to do so."

This decision having been reached, it only remained to get his wooden fleet in the best possible state of preparation for the terrible ordeal to which it was to be exposed. How this was done cannot be better described than in Farragut’s own language. He says: "Every vessel was as well prepared as the ingenuity of her commander and officers could suggest, both for the preservation of life and of the vessel; and perhaps there is not on record such a display of ingenuity as has been evinced in this little squadron. The first was by the engineer of the Richmond, Mr. Moore, by suggesting that the sheet cables be stopped up and down on the sides, in the line of the engines, which was immediately adopted by all the vessels. Then each commander made his own arrangements for stopping the shot from penetrating the boilers or machinery, that might come in forward or abaft, by hammocks, coal, bags of ashes, bags of sand, clothes-bags, and, in fact, every device imaginable. The bulwarks were lined with hammocks by some, by splinter-nettings made with ropes by others. Some rubbed their vessels over with mud, to make their ships less visible, and some white-washed their decks, to make things more visible by night during the fight. In the afternoon, I visited each ship, in order to know positively that each commander understood my orders for the attack, and to see that all was in readiness. I had looked to their efficiency before. Every one appeared to understand his orders well, and looked forward to the conflict with firmness, but with anxiety, as it was to be in the night, or two o’clock in the morning."

The following order had been previously issued to the various commanders:


You will prepare your ship for service in the Mississippi river in the following manner:

Send down the top-gallant masts. Rig in the flying jib-boom, and land all the spars and rigging, except what are necessary for the three topsails, foresail, jib, and spanker. Trice up the topmast stays, or land the whiskers, and bring all the rigging into the bowsprit, so that there shall be nothing in the range of the direct fire ahead.

Make arrangements, if possible, to mount one or two guns on the poop and top-gallant forecastle; in other words, be prepared to use as many guns as possible ahead and astern, to protect yourself against the enemy’s gunboats and batteries, bearing in mind that you will always have to ride head to the current, and can only avail yourself of the sheer of the helm to point a broadside gun more than three points forward of the beam.

Have at kedge in the mizzen chains (or any convenient place) on the quarter, with a hawser bent and leading through in the stern chock, ready for any emergency; also grapnels in the boats, ready to hook on to, and to tow off, fire-ships. Trim your vessel a few inches by the head, so that if she touches the bottom she will not swing head down the river. Put your boat howitzers in the foremaintops, on the boat carriages, and secure them for firing abeam, &c. Should any injury occur to the machinery of the ship making it necessary to drop down the river, you will back and fill down under sail, or you can drop your anchor and drift down, but in no case attempt to turn the ship’s head down stream. You will have a spare hawser ready, and when ordered to take in tow your next astern, do so, keeping the hawser slack so long as the ship can maintain her own position, having a care not to foul the propeller.

No vessel must withdraw from battle, under any circumstances, without the consent of the flag-officer. You will see that force and other pumps and engine hose are in good order, and men stationed by them, and your men will be drilled to the extinguishing of fire.

Have light Jacob-ladders made to throw over the side for the use of the carpenters in stopping shot holes, who are to be supplied with pieces of inch board lined with felt and ordinary nails, and see that the ports are marked in accordance with the "ordnance instructions" on the berth deck, to show the locality of the shot hole.

Have many tubs of water about the decks, both for the purpose of extinguishing fire and for drinking. Have a heavy kedge in the port main-chains, and a whip on the main-yard, ready to run it up and let fall on the deck of any vessel you may run alongside of, in order to secure her for boarding.

You will be careful to have lanyards on the lever of the screw, so as to secure the gun at the proper elevation, and prevent it from running down at each fire. I wish you to understand that the day is at hand when you will be called upon to meet the enemy in the worst form for our profession. You must be prepared to execute all those duties to which you have been so long trained in the navy without having the opportunity of practicing. I expect every vessel’s crew to be well exercised at their guns, because it is required by the regulations of the service, and it is usually the first object of our attention; but they must be equally well trained for stopping shot holes and extinguishing fire. Hot and cold shot will, no doubt, be freely dealt to us, and there must be stout hearts and quick hands to extinguish the one and stop the holes of the other.

I shall expect the most prompt attention to signals and verbal orders either from myself or the captain of the fleet, who, it will be understood, in all cases acts by my authority.


Flag-Officer, Western Gulf Blockading Squadron.


Having at last made all the preparations that he could with the means allowed him, and the mortar-boats having accomplished all that was in their power to do for the present, the 26th day of April was fixed for the passage of the forts. The chain across the channel had been cut a few nights before, and a daring reconnoissance by Lieutenant Caldwell, on the night preceding the intended movement, showed that it had not been repaired.

It was determined to start at two o’clock in the morning, and, the evening before, Farragut visited his ships for a last interview with the commanders. These brave men were anxious as he himself was, as he went from ship to ship on that momentous afternoon, to see that his orders were understood; for there were two powerful forts, mounted with heavy guns, with their terrific cross-fire, to be passed, while fire-ships, rams, and iron-clad gunboats lay beyond this gate of death, ready to receive what might remain of the crippled squadron, if any portion should succeed in getting through. Hopes, fears, doubts of success, and anticipations of glory, by turns filled their hearts, but on none did such a heavy load lay as on Farragut.

That quiet spring evening was passed as the few hours that precede a desperate battle always is. Some, gay and reckless, laughed and joked over the coming encounter, with all the thoughtlessness of sailors; others spent it in indicting last letters to loved ones at home, and entrusting keepsakes to friends, should they fall; while some God-fearing men knelt in prayer, and committed their lives calmly into the hands of Him whose purposes are ever right. The mighty river swept placidly by, fanned by the balmy breeze, and the quiet stars came out one by one and looked down, tranquil as ever, on the unconscious stream, giving no token of the coming earthquake. Some, inured to danger, lay down and slept soundly as ever; others paced the deck, taking, as they believed, their last look of the tranquil heavens.

Thus the hours wore away, and midnight came, and still all was quiet on land and water, save the solemn boom; at short intervals, of a gun from the boats on watch far up stream. At length, at two o’clock, two lanterns were seen to rise slowly to the mizzen peak of the Hartford. The hour of action had come, and quickly the boatswain’s shrill call rung over the water, "Up all hammocks," and the drums beat to quarters.

In a moment that quiet scene was changed to one of intense activity and bustle. The rattling of chains, the "yo heave ho" at the anchors, and quick, stern commands of the officers, and slow revolving of wheels, and answering signal-lights sparkling through the gloom, sent the blood with a quicker flow through every heart. The surrounding darkness imparted a mystery to these sounds of preparation, and added a deeper interest to the scene. In one hour everything was ready, and the low, black masses were moving steadily up towards the slumbering forts.

The attack was to be made in two columns. The right, led by Captain Bailey in the Cayuga, was composed of the Pensacola, Mississippi, Oneida, Varuna, Katahdin, Kineo, and Wissahickon; the left, led by Farragut in the Hartford, of the Brooklyn, Richmond, Sciota, Iroquois, Kennebec, Pinola, Itasca, and Winona. The latter was to engage Fort Jackson, and the former St. Philip. Porter, with the Harriet Lane, Westfield, Owasco, Miami, Clifton, and Jackson, was to take up a position where he could pour in an enfilading fire while the fleet was passing the forts.

The enemy was on the look-out, and the vessels had scarcely got under way when signal-lights flashed along the batteries, and then a belt of fire gleamed through the darkness, and the next moment the heavy shot came shrieking along the bosom of the stream. All eyes were now turned on the Hartford, as she silently steamed on—the signal "close action" blazing from her rigging. In the mean time the mortar-boats below opened their fire, and the hissing shells rose in graceful curves, and, weaving an arch of fiery network over the advancing fleet, dropped with a thunderous sound into the forts above. In a few minutes the advanced vessels opened, firing at the flash from the forts. The white smoke rolled and heaved in vast volumes along the shuddering waters, and one of the wildest scenes in the history of war now commenced. The fleet, with full steam on, was soon abreast of the forts, and its rapid broadsides mingling in with the deafening explosions on shore, turned night into fiery day. Louder than redoubled thunders the heavy guns sent their deafening roar through the gloom, not in distinct explosions, but in one long, wild, protracted crash, as though the ribs of nature were breaking ill final convulsion. Amid this hell of terrors, a fire-raft, pushed steadily forward by the ram Manassas, loomed through the smoke like a phantom from the unseen world. As if steered by adverse fate, it bore straight down on the Hartford. Farragut sheered off to avoid the collision, and in so doing ran aground, when the fire-ship came full against him. In a moment the hungry flames leaped up the rigging and darted along the smoking sides of the Hartford. It seemed all up with the gallant Farragut, and but for that stern discipline he always maintains, his fate would have been sealed. There was no panic on board at this awful catastrophe-every man was in his place, and in a moment the hose was manned and a stream of water turned on the flames. The powerful engines were reversed, and soon forced the vessel off into deep water, though all aflame. The firemen, cool and collected, plied their hose, while the gunners still stood to their guns, and poured in their broadsides, and still the signal, "close action," flamed above the staggering ship. The fire was at length got under, and Farragut again moved at the head of his column. And now came down the rebel fleet of thirteen gunboats and two ironclad rams to mingle in the combat. Broadside to broadside, hull crashing against hull, it became at once a gladiatorial combat of ships. The Varuna, Captain Boggs, sent five to the bottom one after another; and, finally overcome by her unparalleled exertions, the noble boat went down to join her adversaries beneath the turbid Mississippi.

Farragut at last found himself past all the forts, with thirteen out of the seventeen vessels of the fleet. The Itasca, Winona, and Kennebec were so terribly cut up that they had to turn back, and floated in a crippled condition down the river. The Kineo was accidentally run into by the Brooklyn, and badly stove—receiving besides twelve shots in her hull; yet she gallantly fought her way through. The Hartford, Cayuga, and Varuna encountered the greatest apparent dangers; yet every vessel, especially the Brooklyn, humanly speaking, ought to have been lost, for never before were such frail boats exposed to such a terrible fire and lived. The several commanders were worthy to fight under such a glorious leader, and carried their ships forward with a steadiness and nerve that have covered their names with imperishable renown.

When the sun struggled up through the morning mist, he looked down on a scene never to be forgotten while naval deeds are honored by the nation. There lay the forts with the rebel flags still flying. But their doom was sealed. And there, too, driven ashore or wrecked or captured, were thirteen of the enemy’s gunboats out of the seventeen he had brought down to assist the forts in demolishing our fleet.

Our total loss in this unparalleled combat was one hundred and seventy-one.

Farragut now steamed up the river towards New Orleans, having first dispatched Captain Boggs in an open boat, through a bayou inlet, to announce to Porter his success. In his letter to the latter he says, with a sangfroid and brevity that provoke a smile: "We have had a rough time of it, as Boggs will tell you;" and then adds, that as soon as he has captured New Orleans he will return and finish the forts. As he passed up, he heard cannonading ahead, for Bailey in advance had come upon powerful batteries at English Town, and was getting severely handled. But the Hartford coming to his rescue, they were soon finished.

The way these were disposed of cannot be given better than in Farragut’s own language: "They permitted us to approach within a mile and a quarter before they opened on us. Captain Bailey, in the Cayuga, Lieutenant-Commander Harrison, was in advance of me, and received the most of the first fire; but, although the shooting was good, they did not damage his little vessel much. He fell back, and the Hartford took her place. We had only two guns, which I had placed on the top-gallant forecastle, that could bear on them, until we got within half a mile. We then sheered off, and gave them such a fire as they never dreamed of in their philosophy.’ The Pensacola ran up after a while, and took the starboard battery off our hands; and in a few moments the Brooklyn ranged and took a chance at my friends on the left bank. They were silenced in, I should say, twenty minutes or half an hour. But I cannot keep a note of time on such occasions. I only know that half of the vessels did not get a chance at them. The river was too narrow for more than two or three vessels to act to advantage; but all were so anxious, that my greatest fear was that we should fire into each other; and Captain Wainwright and myself were hallooing ourselves hoarse at the men not to fire into our ships. This last affair," he says, "was what I call one of the little elegances of the profession—a dash and a victory." But in speaking of the passage of the forts, in the same letter, he says: "It was one of the most awful sights and events I ever saw or experienced. The smoke was so dense that it was only now and then you could see anything but the flash of the cannon and the fire-ships and rafts."

New Orleans was now at his mercy, and Lovell, commanding the rebel troops in the city, took himself off and left it once more under the control of the mayor, Monroe. From him Farragut, through Captain Bailey, demanded the surrender of the city, and that the national flag be hoisted by noon on the City Hall, Mint, and Custom House, which were the property of the United States. To this summons the Mayor sent a long, windy, ridiculous answer. In regard to the raising of the flags, he said: "As to the hoisting any flag other than the flag of our adoption and allegiance, let me say to you that the man lives not in our midst whose hand and heart would not be paralyzed at the mere thought of such an act; nor could I find in my entire constituency so wretched and desperate a renegade as would dare to profane with his hand the sacred emblem of our aspirations." He then goes on to compliment Farragut as much as he could concerning his "noble but deluded nature," and winds up with an appeal to be very careful of the feelings of his gallant constituency, assuming an air of superiority and injured innocence that entitle him to a preeminence among all conquered rulers of cities. To this piece of fustian and rodomontade Farragut returned the following quiet, brief reply:




To his Honor the Mayor of New Orleans:

Your Honor will please give directions that no flag but that of the United States will be permitted to fly in the presence of this fleet so long as it has the power to prevent it; and as all displays of that kind may be the cause of bloodshed, I have to request that you will give this communication as general a circulation as possible.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,



No bluster in this, but a very plain hint, that his honor, pompous and inflated as he is, may easily understand. "No flag but the stars and stripes will kiss the air in my sight while my guns, shotted and ready, bear on your city." Stern and inflexible in the discharge of his duty, yet humble and meek before his Creator, he, on the same day on which this curt message was sent to the mayor, issued the following order:






Eleven o’clock this morning is the hour appointed for all the officers and crews of the fleet to return thanks to Almighty God for His great goodness and mercy in permitting us to pass through the events of the last two days with so little loss of life and blood. At that hour the church pennant will be hoisted on every vessel of the fleet, and their crews assembled will, in humiliation and prayer, make their acknowledgments therefore to the Great Dispenser of all human events.


Flag-Officer Western Gulf Blockading Squadron


Although he had refused to confer further with the impudent Mayor, he ordered Captain Morris to hoist the flag on the Mint. The latter sent a party on shore, and soon the old flag swung once more to the breeze in sight of the enraged population. The officer in charge warned the spectators that the guns of the Pensacola would open fire on the building if any one attempted to haul it down. Leaving no guard to protect it, he returned to the ship and directed the howitzers in the maintop to be loaded with grape and trained on it.

At eleven o’clock, in accordance with the order given above, the crews were all assembled on deck for prayers, and only one look-out left in the maintop to watch the flag. The solemn service had been progressing perhaps twenty minutes when the deep silence was broken by the discharge of the howitzers overhead. It at once aroused every man from his devotions, and as all eyes turned towards the Mint they saw four men on the roof of the building tearing down the flag. In an instant the gunners, without waiting for orders, sprang to the guns and pulled the lanyards. The next moment a whole broadside was expected to pour into the city; but not a gun went off. As it looked like rain, the gunners had removed the "‘wafers" by which they were discharged, before the service commenced, so that only the click of the locks was heard. But for this, fearful destruction would have ensued.

Farragut also had trouble with Clouet, the commander of a French man-of-war, who, choosing to consider the order of the former as threatening the city with immediate bombardment, had protested indignantly against it.

Wearied out with the ridiculous proceedings all round, he gladly turned over the city to Butler, and advanced up the river with his fleet. He sent Captain Palmer ahead to demand the surrender of Baton Rouge, and, while the correspondence with the Mayor was going on, arrived himself and took possession. He then directed the Captain to proceed to Natchez and seize it, while S. P. Lee continued on to Vicksburg and demanded its surrender. To this the military governor, Antry, replied that Mississippians did not know how to surrender, and if Farragut could teach them, to come on and try.

After a somewhat spicy correspondence with Lovell, with regard his to taking vengeance on the inhabitants of a place near which the latter chose to place guns to fire into our passing vessels, Farragut proceeded to test the batteries of Vicksburg. Porter was ordered up with his mortar flotilla to shell out the heights, and at two o’clock on the 28th of June the signal to weigh anchor was given, and with the Iroquois (Roland commanding), the Oneida (S. P. Lee), the Richmond (James Alden), and Sciota, Pinola, and Winona, slowly steamed up into the fire of the batteries.

The rebel guns opened on the fleet, the shot apparently being directed principally on the flagship. As the Hartford slowly approached, moving only fast enough to give steerage way, she opened a fearful fire from her starboard battery. She was so near that the gunners on shore could be plainly seen working their guns and waving their hats in defiance. Farragut, with his accustomed audacity, mounted to the mizzen rigging to direct the movements; but his life there was not worth a farthing, for the enemy fired too high, and hence their concentrated storm of shot and shell tore through the rigging of the vessel, shrieking in a perfect hurricane around him. He therefore descended to the deck, and not two minutes after, the rigging where he had been standing was torn into shreds. Had he remained a little longer, he undoubtedly would have fallen a dead or wounded man on the deck below.

For two hours he lay broadside to the batteries, pouring in an incessant fire, when, finding that he could not bring his guns to bear any longer, he put on steam and shot past, up the river. He had been struck by a splinter, which, however, only made a bruise. The Richmond, Oneida, Pinola, Sciota, ran the batteries with him. Captain Craven, of the Brooklyn, had received orders not to leave any batteries behind him without silencing them, and after sustaining the same fire for two hours, dropped down the river, remaining with the Kennebec, Katahdin, and Porter mortar fleet. The loss on those which succeeded in passing the batteries was forty-five.

Farragut now sent dispatches to Captain Davis, commanding the squadron of the Upper Mississippi, and Halleck, asking their cooperation in the movements against Vicksburg. In the mean time, he wrote to the Government, that, though he might be able to silence the batteries of Vicksburg, and could go up and down when he chose, yet the place could not be captured without the aid of ten or twelve thousand men to approach it from the rear. The bombardment, however, was kept up, though with but little effect.

About the middle of July, Farragut again steamed past the batteries, and anchored below with the rest of his fleet. The next month he fulfilled his threat against Donaldsonville, unless the inhabitants ceased the practice of firing on his vessels as they passed up and down the river, and opened his guns on the place and nearly destroyed it.

He also dispatched a part of his force to take Galveston, Corpus Christi, and Sabine City. Commander W. B. Renshaw captured the former, and G. W. Kittredge seized Corpus Christi, and Acting-master F. Crocker Sabine Pass. Lieut.-Commander Thos. McKean Buchanan was also dispatched to the Southwest Pass; and up the Teche he had a sharp engagement with rebel batteries, and the rebel gunboat Cotton.

The next month we find Farragut again down the river, in front of Baton Rouge—a part of his fleet assisting in the engagement on land, in which the gallant General Williams fell in the very moment of victory.

His career during the rest of the season was distinguished chiefly for hard work, without any great battles. Among the incidents illustrative of his character that abound on the Mississippi, is one which showed his sang froid. In order to show how impervious ironclads could be made against the heaviest shot, he was asked one time to accompany the Benton, the strongest boat in Davis’s fleet, in a reconnoissance of a new battery that had been erected near Vicksburg. He did so; but the vessel had been but a short time under the fire of the battery, when a heavy shot crashed through the mailed sides, and, striking a person beside him, tore him to fragments, throwing the blood and clotted flesh over his own person. Gazing a moment at the frightful spectacle, he coolly turned to the officer beside him and said: "I am not going to stay here; I am going on deck." It seemed a curious place to go for safety; but the anecdote throws a world of light on the character of the man. When the storm raged fiercest, and shot and shell fell thickest on the vessel, he wished to stand on her exposed deck.

But the next year, in the very month (April) in which he passed the batteries of forts Philip and Jackson, he again showed what wooden vessels could do against formidable shore batteries. Grant was working his slow, toilsome way towards Vicksburg, and Farragut was ordered up to cooperate with him. But since he was there the year before, the rebels, owing to the stupidity of the War Department, which, in the face of Porter’s earnest representations, refused to occupy Port Hudson, had erected formidable works, which were more difficult to pass than the batteries at Vicksburg.

With the flagship Hartford, accompanied by the Richmond, armed with twenty-six eight and nine-inch Columbiads, the Mississippi, with twenty-one, the Monongahela with sixteen heavy guns, and the gunboats Kineo, Albatross, Sachem, and Gennessee, carrying each three Columbiads and two rifled 32-pounders (all screw propellers except the Mississippi), he, on the morning of the 14th of April, anchored below the place. Here the preparations were all completed, and as Farragut determined to run the terrible gauntlet in the night, and hence could have no lights aboard the vessels, the decks, gun-carriages and nettings were whitewashed, so that the gunners could distinguish enough to work their pieces. The next morning he reached Prophet’s Island, in full view of the rebel batteries. Four mortar-boats were anchored some three miles distant, to throw shells into the hostile works. At one o’clock these opened fire, and all the afternoon the blazing shells swept in long curves over the stream and dropped amid the hostile guns. They seemed, however, to produce but little effect. A small land force had been sent to the rear of the garrison to distract their attention; for Farragut, notwithstanding his former success, saw clearly enough that his vessels were to be put to a severer test than ever before.

That night, when all was ready, the Hartford ran up a red light—the signal to weigh anchor—and the little fleet moved cautiously up the stream. The Hartford, with the Albatross lashed to her side, led the van, followed by the Richmond with the Gennessee, and the Monongahela with the Kineo. The Mississippi and Sachem came last. The rebel batteries extended for nearly four miles along the banks, tier above tier. The experience of the past year had not been lost on the enemy, and they had fortified the place so that it was thought impossible for boats to get past it. Made perfectly aware by their men on watch of the movements of Farragut, the latter had scarcely started, when signal-lights flashed from battery to battery, and then a blaze leaped up on the shore from a pile of combustibles gathered for the purpose, which soon swelled to a conflagration that made the whole bosom of the stream in front, light as day. Notwithstanding all his precaution, it was plain that Farragut would have light enough on his awful passage. When the silent, dark vessels entered this illuminated space, the fire of the rebel batteries was awful beyond conception. The vessels at once poured in their starboard broadsides, as rapidly as the guns could be loaded and fired. There was but little air stirring. The huge volumes of smoke, rolling out in fierce contortions over the ruddy bosom of the stream, added indescribably to the terror of the combat, while above it the shells rose and fell incessantly, with shrieks that ribbed the continuous thunder-peal below with a strange, unearthly sound. The immense volumes of smoke soon wrapped river and shore in impenetrable darkness, rent only by the solid sheets of fire that burst through. Amid this terrific uproar there arose from the water the despairing cry of "Help! oh, help! "from a drowning man who had fallen overboard. But amid this wild hurricane of death no help could be given, and the cry grew fainter and fainter, as the poor fellow was borne down by the swift current, till it was lost in the distance. The river was narrow at this point, and soon the ships, in the smoke and darkness, could not see each other, and again and again barely escaped firing a broadside into each other. The shouts of the officers rose over the din, and the whole scene became one of complete bewilderment; yet the brave ships struggled on, stemming the mighty current, in the stern endeavor to pass this gateway of hell. An officer stood on the prow of each vessel, striving to pierce the gloom, while a line of men stretched from him to the stern, to transmit orders; for if she should run aground in the darkness, her doom was sealed. For an hour and a half this fearful nightly combat lasted, before the Hartford, with the Albatross lashed to her side, succeeded in passing beyond the batteries. Farragut now turned his eye down stream, to see what had become of the rest of his fleet; but not a vessel greeted his eye, except, through the intervening darkness, now and then a black hull would start out amid the gushes of flame, that, like a blaze of lightning, illuminated the river, showing that they were still struggling below. The Richmond came next to him, but a shell had entered her starboard port, bursting inside with a terrific explosion that almost lifted the strong ship from the water. Soon after a storm of shot burst through her bulwarks, sending everything to wreck in its passage. Lieut.-Commander Cummings, with speaking trumpet in hand, was shouting out over the uproar to his crew at the time, and by his side stood Captain Alden, and both fell at once to the deck-the former with his left leg torn off just below the knee. As they bore him away, he said: " Put a tourniquet on my leg, boys. Send my letters to my wife, and tell her I fell in doing my duty." As the surgeon took off the shattered limb, he said, "I would willingly give my other leg, if we could but pass those batteries." The vessel struggled on amid flame and smoke, and succeeded in passing the most powerful batteries, when a shot entered her steam-chest, which so disabled her that she began to drift helplessly down stream. Just then, a torpedo burst under her stern, with a force that made all her timbers quiver. The Gennessee, which was alongside, now took her in tow; and steamed rapidly down stream. The Monongahela, with the Kineo, that came next, fared but little better. Her commander (McKinstry) fell early in the battle, and the command devolved on Lieutenant Thomas. In the smoke and darkness, she lost the channel, and suddenly found herself aground directly under the fire of a heavy battery, where she lay for nearly a half an hour, riddled and torn by shot and shell. At length she succeeded in backing off, and once more boldly turned her prow up stream, and began to stem the rapid current. But the tremendous fire to which she had been so long exposed had disabled her machinery, and it was soon evident that the gallant struggle was in vain, and she too dropped down to the mortar fleet at Prophet’s Island. Last of all came the noble Mississippi, with a crew of three hundred aboard, sweeping proudly over the waters whose name she bore, with the Selma lashed to her larboard side, to assist her in case her machinery gave way. She got opposite the town, and, feeling that her greatest danger was over, put on steam and shot swiftly ahead. The next moment she struck bottom near the western shore, having lost her course in the darkness. There she lay, a moveless target. The enemy saw her, and immediately concentrated an awful fire upon her. Captain Smith ordered the gunners to keep up their fire, and her broadsides exploded so rapidly that one could scarcely count the reports, and in the mean time he put forth every effort to get the vessel afloat. Her decks were soon slippery with blood, and the dead and wounded lay strewn around like autumn leaves. The ship, however, under her great headway, had buried herself so deep in the mud that she could not be forced off, and Smith resolved to destroy her. Amid the raining shot, combustibles were piled fore and aft, to be fired as soon as the crew had taken to the boats. By some mistake the torch was applied forward before the order was given, and while the crew still crowded the deck. A panic followed, and some flung themselves overboard, many of whom were drowned. Captain Smith, however, coolly lighted his cigar, and quietly, but rapidly, hurried the men ashore; and then, spiking the guns—many of them with his own hand—he, with Lieutenant Dewey and Engineers Boekelder and Tower, who had stood by him to share his fate, left the vessel, and stepped on board the iron-clad Essex,, which had come to his assistance, commanded by Captain Caldwell, and amid the tempest of shot and shell that incessantly swept both vessels, removed all the sick and wounded, and dropped down stream. As the light of the burning vessel arose on the midnight air, the enemy on shore sent up frantic yells of delight. The next moment two shells burst in the abandoned ship, scattering several casks of turpentine amid the blazing combustibles. A torrent of fire immediately rolled over the vessel, which:, lightened by the removal of her crew and the action of the flames, now slowly floated off; and her bow, catching the downward current, swung heavily down stream, bringing her other broadside to bear, which had not yet been used. The guns, heated by the fire, soon began to go off, one after another, as though fired by an invisible hand. The flag was still floating above the flaming ruin, and the grand old vessel, as if conscious that the country’s honor was committed to her keeping, swept steadily down stream, flaunting her colors in the face of the foe, and in her death-struggles still thundering on the hostile batteries. It was a wild and grand spectacle that she presented, as, erect amid the roaring flames—not wildly swaying with the current, but moving steadily, as though steered by an unseen hand, with her flag still flying and her guns roaring—she passed proudly and all alone, out of the desolating fire. Still drifting with the current, she swept on till Prophet’s Island concealed her form. Then there suddenly arose a pyramid of fire and smoke, lighting up the shores like a conflagration, followed by an earthquake sound. The fire had reached her magazine, and in one loud explosion the proud vessel, which had so long braved the seas, went to the bottom, carrying her flag with her. Of about three hundred that composed her crew, sixty-five, or nearly a quarter, were killed, wounded, or taken prisoners. Seventy, who reached the western shore, made their way through the woods and swamps, and finally reached the ships below.

Farragut, with the Albatross, was now above the place, but all alone. His fleet was cut off from him. He had not only been lucky in getting safely through, but his vessel had been handled with consummate skill; for it was necessary to strike the rapid current running almost at right angles to his course, as he passed the point, so as to keep his bows from being swept around, and the vessel borne back down the stream under the batteries. In the darkness, this was a very difficult matter.

Though he had not succeeded in getting the vessels he needed above the place, he at once began to bombard it, while the fleet attacked it from below.

In the subsequent siege of the place by Banks, Farragut did good service, inflicting severe injury on the rebel batteries.

While at Port Hudson he heard, in the latter part of June, that Donaldsonville was about to be attacked by the rebels, and moved down before it, and on the day of attack opened such a flanking fire on the enemy that he was obliged to withdraw, although the storming party had already got inside. He also bombarded Grand Gulf.

Much impatience was exhibited East at the slowness with which operations went on around Vicksburg. Farragut was blamed by a portion of the press. Among other papers which showed dissatisfaction with his course was the Journal of Commerce. This one he took notice of in a letter to the Secretary of the Navy, saying that he did so because he heard that the information of the writer was obtained from the War Department. His duties on the waters of the Mississippi and coast of Texas, the blockading of which was under his charge, were not of the kind most congenial to his tastes, for a great part of the time he was compelled to keep his squadron scattered on every side. Guerrillas had to be attacked in one place, an annoying little battery silenced in another, streams and channels opened to our forces, or shut to blockade runners, and rebel property destroyed where it was of use to the Confederate government—making those duties varied and harassing. Here and there, too, losses were sustained which he had no means of preventing, as most of the work had to be done by subordinates that, from the peculiar circumstances in which they were placed, had to act without specific orders.

Hence it was with satisfaction that he heard he was to be removed from this sort of guerrilla warfare on the water, and once more hoist his pennant on the deep. The strongholds on the Mississippi having fallen, the Government next turned its attention to Mobile. It was decided that a land and naval force combined should operate against it—the former under Generals Canby and Granger, and the latter under Farragut. In January, 1864, he sailed for Mobile Bay to make a reconnoissance of the forts and batteries, and vessels commanding its entrance, for the purpose of obtaining an accurate knowledge of their strength. Morgan and Gaines were the chief forts barring it, and he gives the following as the results of his investigations:


On the morning of the 20th instant I made a reconnoissance of Forts Morgan and Gaines. I went in over the bar in the gunboat Octorara, Lieutenant Commander Lowe, taking the Itasca in company as a precaution, against accident. We passed up to Land Island, and laid abreast of the light-house on it. The day was uncommonly fine and the air very clear. We were distant from the forts three (3) and three and a half (3½) miles, and could see everything distinctly, so that it was easy to verify the statements of the refugee McIntosh, in respect to the number of guns visible on the bastions of the fort. I could count the guns and the men who stood by them; could see the piles that had been driven across from Fort Gaines to the channel opposite Fort Morgan—the object of which is to force the ships to keep as close as possible to the latter. There were no vessels in the bay except one transport steamer.

I am satisfied that if I had one iron-clad at this time, I could destroy their whole force in the bay, and reduce the forts at my leisure, by cooperation with our land forces-say five thousand men. We must have about two thousand and five hundred men in the rear of each fort, to make regular approaches by land, and to prevent the garrison’s receiving supplies and reinforcements; the fleet to run the batteries, and fight the flotilla in the bay. But without iron-clads, we should not be able to fight the enemy’s vessels of that class with much prospect of success, as the latter would lie on the flats where our ships could not go to destroy them. Wooden vessels can do nothing with them unless by getting within one or two hundred yards, so as to ram them or pour in a broadside.

I am told by Mr. Shock, the first engineer, that two of the iron-clads now being constructed at St. Louis are finished, and that three or four ought to be by this time. If I could get these, I would attack them at once.


There was a very full and elaborate description of the rebel works in and about Mobile bay and harbor furnished by a mechanic from New Hampshire who was employed in the South when the rebellion broke out, and who took work at his trade at Mobile on half-pay to escape conscription. Taking advantage of a furlough granted him that he might visit his father in Alabama or Florida, he escaped to Pensacola, and at this time was on board the Octorara. According to his statement Fort Morgan mounted some thirty guns in all—a portion of them carrying an enormous weight of metal—and Fort Gaines twenty-one. There were also three steamers and four rams inside, waiting to receive any vessels that might succeed in passing the forts. Batteries also lined the shore, and torpedoes passed the bed of the channel. That Farragut thought "with one iron-clad he could destroy all the force in the bay" shows a daring and consciousness of power that would be alarming in any one but a commander who was not born to be beaten.

The latter part of next month (February), he shelled Fort Powell on Shell Island in Grant’s Pass for a week, but made but little impression on it, as he could not, on account of the shallowness of the water, get his vessels nearer than 4000 yards. The powerful rebel ram Tennessee had not at this time got over Dog River Bar into the harbor, and Farragut wished to make his attack before she did.

On the 1st of March he again bombarded Fort Powell, and in an hour and a half silenced it. During the day, however, to his great surprise, he saw the Tennessee steam slowly up opposite Grant’s Pass, where his squadron lay. He now wrote to the Department that it would be "much more difficult to take Mobile with wooden vessels than it would have been a week ago."

A month later he says:


I fully understand and appreciate my situation. The experience I had of the fight between the Arkansas and Admiral Davis’s vessels on the Mississippi, showed plainly how unequal the contest is between iron-clads and wooden vessels in loss of life, unless you succeed in destroying the iron-clad. I therefore deeply regret that the Department has not been able to give us ONE of the many iron-clads that are off Charleston and on the Mississippi I have always looked for the latter, but it appears that it takes us twice as long to build an iron-clad as any one else. It looks as if the contractors and the fates were against us. While the rebels are bending their whole energies to the war, our people are expecting the war to close by default: and if they do not awaken to a sense of their danger soon, it will be so.

But be assured, sir, that the navy will do its duty, let the issue come when it may, or I am greatly deceived.

I think you have many ready and willing to make any sacrifice their country can require of them.

All I ask of them is to do their whole duty; the result belongs to God.


A few weeks subsequent to this he says:


My mail from New Orleans this morning is very discouraging. Our army is not only falling back to that most demoralizing of places, New Orleans, but I am informed by Lieutenant-Commander Cook, at Matagorda, that General Banks has ordered Matagorda to be abandoned, and the forts and earthworks to be destroyed. The general is in New Orleans; the army said to be at Morganza, just above Port Hudson, on the western shore.

I ran in shore yesterday, and took a good look at the iron-clad Tennessee. She flies the blue flag of Admiral Buchanan. She has four ports of a side, out of which she fights, I understand from the refugees, four 7-inch Brooks rifles, and two 19-inch columbiads. She has a torpedo fixture on the bow. Their four iron-clads and three wooden gunboats make quite a formidable appearance.


* * * * * * * * * *


The Department has not yet responded to my call for the iron-clads in the Mississippi, which I was led to believe were intended for this squadron.

I am placing heavy iron cutters on the bows of my vessels, and shall also have torpedoes to place me on an equality with my enemy, if he comes outside. No doubt he will have the advantage of me inside, as they are planting them every day; we can see them distinctly when at work.

Torpedoes are not so agreeable when used on both sides; therefore I have reluctantly brought myself to it; and have always deemed it unworthy of a chivalrous nation; but it does not do to give your enemy such a decided superiority over you.


Thus the winter and spring wore away, and mid-summer came before the preparations were completed for the contemplated attack. Farragut was at length informed that the iron-clad Tecumseh had arrived at Pensacola. There she was detained for want of coal, and had it not been for Captain Jenkins, of the Richmond, Craven said on his arrival, "God knows when I should have got here." He worked incessantly to carry out Farragut’s wishes, and the latter said of him, "He carries out the spirit of one of Lord Collingwood’s best sayings, ’Not to be afraid of doing too much; those who are, seldom do as much as they ought.’"

On the 8th of July he had an interview with General Canby, and it was finally agreed that the latter should first invest Fort Gaines with the army; and the troops were landed for that purpose, and began to throw up works. He, in the mean time, had issued the following order:


Strip your vessels and prepare for the conflict. Send down all your superfluous spars and rigging. Trice up or remove the whiskers. Put up the splinter-nets on the starboard side, and barricade the wheel and steersmen with sails and hammocks. Lay chains or sand-bags on the decks over the machinery, to resist a plunging fire. Hang the sheet-chains over the side, or make any other arrangement for security that your ingenuity may suggest. Land your starboard boats, or lower and tow them to, the port side, and lower the port boats down to the water’s edge. Place a leadsman and the pilot in the port-quarter boat, or the one most convenient to the commander.

The vessels will run past the forts in couples, lashed side by side, as hereinafter designated. The flagship will lead, and steer from Sand Island N. by E. by compass, until abreast of Fort Morgan; then N.W. half N., until past the Middle Ground; then N. by W.; and the others, as designated in the drawing, will follow in due order, until ordered to anchor; but the bow and quarter line must be preserved, to give the chase-guns a fair range; and each vessel must be kept astern of the broadside of the next ahead. Each vessel will keep a very little on the starboard quarter of his next ahead, and when abreast of the fort will keep directly astern, and as we pass the fort will take the same distance on the port-quarter of the next ahead, to enable the stern guns to fire clear of the next vessel astern.

It will be the object of the admiral to get as close to the fort as possible before opening fire; the ships, however, will open fire the moment the enemy opens upon us, with their chase and other guns, as fast as they can be brought to bear. Use short fuses for the shell and shrapnel, and as soon as within three or four hundred yards, give the grape. It is understood that heretofore we have fired too high; but with grape-shot it is necessary to elevate a little above the object, as grape will dribble from the muzzle of the gun. If one or more of the vessels be disabled, their partners must carry them through, if possible; but if they cannot, then the next astern must render the required assistance; but as the admiral contemplates moving with the floodtide, it will only require sufficient power to keep the crippled vessels in the channel.

Vessels that can, must place guns upon the poop and topgallant forecastle, and in the tops on the starboard side. Should the enemy fire grape, they will remove the men from the topgallant forecastle and poop to the guns below, out of grape range.

The howitzers must keep up a constant fire from the time they can reach with shrapnel until out of its range.



Rear-Admiral, Commanding W. B. Squadron


The preparations having been completed, the signal was hoisted at daylight, August 5th, to weigh anchor and get under way. The wooden vessels were lashed in the following order: The Brooklyn, Captain James Alden, commander, led the fleet with the Octorara, Lieutenant-Commander C. H. Greene, on the port side. Next came the flagship Hartford, Captain Percival Drayton, with the Metacomet, Lieutenant-Commander J. E. Jewett; the Richmond, Captain T. A. Jenkins, with the Port Royal, Lieutenant-Commander B. Gheradi; the Lackawana, Captain G. B. Marchand, with the Seminole, Commander E. Donaldson; the Monongahela, Commander F. H. Strong, with the Kennebec, Lieutenant-Commander W. P. McCann; the Ossipee, Commander W. E. LeRoy, with the Itasca, Lieutenant-Commander George Brown; and the Oneida, Commander R. M. Mullany, with the Galena, Lieutenant-Commander C. H. Wells, completed the line.

It was a novel position for Farragut to find himself in—following instead of leading—and one which he took very reluctantly, and only at the earnest solicitations of the officers, who said that the Brooklyn, having four chase guns to the Hartford’s one, and also an ingenious machine for picking up torpedoes, with which they knew the channel to be lined, should be the leading vessel. They stated, moreover, that in their judgment the flagship, on the movements and signals of which all the other movements depended, should not be so much exposed as she would be at the head of the line, for she might be crippled before they came up with the forts. Farragut demurred very much to this arrangement, saying that "exposure was one of the penalties of rank in the navy;" besides, it did not matter where the flagship was, as she would always be the main target of the enemy."

The fleet, with the Brooklyn ahead, steamed slowly on, and at a quarter to seven the Tecumseh fired the first gun. Twenty minutes later the forts opened their fire, when the Brooklyn replied with two 100-pounder Parrott rifles, and the battle fairly commenced. The rebel rams and ironclads, lying under the protection of the fort, added their fire, playing almost exclusively on the wooden vessels.

Farragut had lashed himself near the maintop, so as to be able to overlook the whole scene, and watched with absorbing anxiety the progress of the fleet through the tremendous fire now concentrated upon it. Suddenly, to his utter amazement, he saw the Brooklyn stop and begin to back, causing the order to reverse engines to pass down through the whole fleet, and bringing it to a sudden halt just as it was entering the fiery vortex. "What could this mean?” had hardly leaped to the lips of Farragut, when he heard the cry, "The Tecumseh is going down!" Glancing his eye towards the spot where she lay, he saw only the top of her turrets rapidly disappearing beneath the water. The sight at this moment was enough to try the stoutest heart, and it brought out, like a flash of lightning, all the heroism in the man. What! his whole line halted—the Tecumseh, for which he had waited so long, as the only match in his fleet for the ram Tennessee, gone to the bottom with all her noble crew, and the fiery tempest full upon him! With his usually mild face now blazing with the light of battle, and unalterable resolution written on every lineament, he shouted out, in a voice that rung over the thunder of cannon, to start the engines and steam right on; and, clashing to the head of the line, with his bold signal fluttering aloft "close action," he drove straight for the blazing fort, followed by the squadron, the commanders believing, as he said, "that they were going to a noble death with their commander-in-chief." The buoys were right ahead which had turned the Brooklyn back, indicating where torpedoes were supposed to be sunk, ready to lift his ship into the air as they had the Tecumseh; but, pointing between them, the order was to move on, and with the foam dashing from the bows of his vessel he swept forward, "determined," he said, "to take the chances." The fleet followed, gun answering gun, in one continuous thunder-peal that shook land and water. Wheeling to the northwest as he kept the channel, he brought his whole broadside to bear with fearful effect on the fort. As he moved in flame and smoke past it, still standing high up in the rigging, he saw the ram Tennessee steam out to attack him. He, however, did not stop to engage her, but, giving her one broadside, kept on towards the rebel gunboats Selma, Gaines, and Morgan, that were raking him with a scourging fire. The Selma, especially, by keeping on his bows, made sad havoc with her stern guns, while his own 100-pounder rifle could not be brought to bear, as its carriage had been shattered by a shell. He therefore cast off his consort, the Metacomet, with orders to pursue her. She at once gave chase, and, after a sharp race of an hour, captured her. The Morgan and Gaines ran into shallow water under the guns of the fort, where the latter was set on fire, but the former in the night escaped up the Mobile River. The other vessels following in the wake of the flagship, one after another swept past the batteries, the crews loudly cheering, and were signalled by Farragut to come to anchor. But the officers had scarcely commenced clearing decks when the rebel ram was seen boldly standing out into the bay, and steering straight for the fleet, with the purpose of attacking it. The moment Farragut discovered it, he signalled the vessels to run her down, and, hoisting up his own anchor, ordered the pilot to drive the Hartford full on the monster. The Monongahela, under the command of the intrepid Strong, being near the rear of the line, was still moving up the bay when he saw the ram heading for the line. He instantly sheered out, and, ordering on a full head of steam, drove with tremendous force straight on the iron-clad structure. He struck her fair, then, swinging round, poured a broadside of eleven-inch shot, which, fired at such close range, fell with the weight of descending rocks on her mailed side. Yet they bounded back, and dropped harmlessly into the water. Wheeling, he again struck her, though he had carried away his own iron prow and cutwater.[2] The Lackawana came next, and striking the ram while under full headway, rolled her over on her side. Such was the force of the shock that her own stern was cut and crushed to the planks for a distance of three feet above the water’s edge to five feet below, springing her a leak. If his yards and topmasts had not been down, they would have gone overboard under the shock. As the vessel swung around broadside to, a gunner succeeded in planting a nine-inch shell, fired within twelve feet of the ram, into one of the shutters, breaking it into fragments, which were driven into the casemate. The rebels could be seen through the portholes making defiant gestures, while they cursed and blackguarded our crew in revolting language, which so exasperated them that they fired on them with muskets, and even hurled a spittoon and holy-stone at them, which made them scatter. The next moment, down came Farragut in the Hartford, but just before the vessel struck, the ram sheered so that the blow was a glancing one, and the former rasped along her iron-plated hull and fell alongside. Recoiling for some ten or twelve feet, the Hartford poured in at that short distance a whole broadside of nine-inch solid shot, hurled with charges of thirteen pounds of powder. The heavy metal, though sent with such awful force, and in such close proximity, made no impression, but broke into fragments on the mailed sides, or dropped back into the water. The shot and shell from the Tennessee, on the other hand, went crashing through and through the wooden sides of the Hartford, strewing her deck with the dead. One 150-pound shell, exploding inside, prostrated men on the right hand and left, one of the fragments going through the spar and berth decks, and clean through the launch into the hold below among the wounded.

Farragut now stood off, and began to make a circuit in order to come down again, when the Lackawana, which was driving the second time on the monster, struck by accident the Hartford a little forward of the mizzen mast, and cut her down to within two feet of the water. She was at first thought to be sinking, and "the Admiral! the Admiral!—save the Admiral!" rang over the shattered deck. But Farragut, seeing that the vessel would still float, shouted out to put on steam, determined to send her, crushed and broken as she was, full on the ram.

By this time the monitors had crawled up, and were pouring in their heavy shot. The Chickasaw got under the stern and knocked away the smokestack, while the Manhattan sent one shot clean through the vessel, and disabled her stern port shutter with a shell, so that the gun could not be used, while a third carried away the steering gear. Thus, with her steering-chains gone, her smokestack shot away, many of her port shutters jammed, the Tennessee stood amid the crowding gunboats like a bleeding stag at bay among the hounds, while the Ossipee, Le Roy commanding, was now driving towards her under full headway; and a little farther off, bearing down on the same awful errand, were coming the Hartford, Monongahela and Lackawana. The fate of the poor vessel was now sealed, and her commander hoisted the white flag, but not until the Ossipee was so near, that Le Roy could not prevent a collision, and his vessel rasped heavily along the iron sides of the ram. He received her surrender from commander, Johnson—the admiral, Buchanan, having been previously wounded in the leg. This ended the morning’s work, and, at ten minutes past ten, Farragut brought his fleet to anchor within four miles of Fort Morgan.

The killed and wounded on board the fleet amounted to two hundred and twenty-two—among the latter was Captain Mallory, of the Galena. Fifty-two were killed, of which twenty-five, or about half, were killed on board the Hartford, showing to what a fearful fire the flagship had been exposed. The Brooklyn was the next severest sufferer, receiving the heaviest fire of the fort.

The loss of the Tecumseh, with her gallant commander Craven and his crew, nearly all of whom went to the bottom, chastened somewhat the joy over this great victory. Craven was in the turret when the torpedo exploded, which almost lifted the iron-clad from the water, and blowing such a huge opening in her bottom that she sunk before the men from below could get on deck. Farragut, when he saw her go down, and just as he was starting to the head of the line, sent Acting Ensign Henry C. Nields with a boat to rescue any of the survivors that might be swimming in the water, and nobly did he perform the perilous duty assigned him. Sitting in the stern of the boat, he gave his orders coolly as his great commander could have done, and the rowers bent steadily to their oars while shot and shell fell in a perpetual shower around them. He succeeded in picking up ten within six hundred yards of the fort. A smile of pleasure lighted for a moment Farragut’s face as he saw from his high perch how faithfully and heroically the daring youth performed his perilous task.

The only other vessel lost was the Philippi, which followed the fleet against orders, and being struck by a shot was run ashore by her commander and deserted, when the rebels burned her.

Some idea of the terrible fire that had rolled over the waters that morning may be obtained by reflecting what an enormous amount of powder must have been exploded, since the Hartford and Brooklyn alone fired nearly five thousand pounds. The fleet and batteries together must have expended enough, if put together, to have lifted the city of Mobile bodily from its firm foundations.

The spirit of the commander in this great combat seemed to have actuated every officer and man. Farragut said of his flag-lieutenant, G. Crittenden Watson, who stood on the poop during the entire action, attending to the signals, "He is a scion worthy of the noble stock he sprang from." Drayton, the flag-captain, said that although many of the crew had never before seen a battle, not one flinched. At different times the greater part of four guns’ crews were swept away, yet in every case the killed and wounded were quietly removed, the injury at the guns made good, and in a few moments, except from the crimson deck, nothing could lead one to suspect that anything out of the ordinary routine had happened. Charles Melville, knocked down and wounded with fifteen others, and presenting a ghastly spectacle, no sooner got his wounds dressed than he returned to his gun, and, though scarcely able to stand, worked it bravely to the last. Thomas Fitzpatrick set the same splendid example, moving a hero amid the crew, though his face was streaming with blood. The same could be said of James R. Garrison, Thomas O’Connel, James E. Sterling, and Alexander Mack, all wounded—and all fighting bravely till the last shot was fired. But to mention all who bore themselves worthily and well, one would have to give the entire list of the officers and crews.

Two days after the victory, Farragut issued the following order:



Mobile Bay, Aug. 7th, 1864

The admiral desires the fleet to return thanks to Almighty God for the signal victory over the enemy on the morning of the 5th instant.


Rear-Admiral Commanding W. G. B. Squadron


Thus, after every battle, this great yet humble commander exclaimed, "Not unto us, but to Thy name be all the praise and glory!" His dependence on God was full and complete, yet all his plans were laid with care and consummate skill. Hie showed admirable forethought in lashing his ships together; for the one on the farther side from the fort would necessarily receive but little injury; and therefore if her consort was disabled by the enemy’s fire, could carry her out of range, and, if she sunk, pick up her crew. Hence, though he lost half his fleet, he would have the other half safe in Mobile Bay for further service. By this arrangement he also shortened his line of battle one half, and consequently it was only half as long under fire as if he had advanced in single line. If they had sailed two abreast without being lashed together, there would have been great danger of getting fouled.

The night after the battle, Fort Powell was evacuated, the rebels blowing it up. The next morning the Chickasaw went down and shelled Fort Gaines, and the following morning Colonel Anderson, the commander, sent a note to Farragut, offering to surrender, and asking for terms. The reply was, first, unconditional surrender. When this was done the prisoners should be treated in conformity with the custom of civilized nations, and private property, with the exception of arms, be respected. These terms were accepted, and at a quarter to ten o’clock the same morning the rebel flag came down, and the stars and stripes went up, amid the loud and prolonged cheers of the fleet.

Fort Morgan still refused to surrender, and Granger having perfected his siege operations, Farragut moved down on Sunday night, the 21st, with his fleet, and next morning at daybreak opened a terrific bombardment upon it. The batteries on shore joined in with their overwhelming fire, and all day long it rained a horrible tempest on the devoted fort. Farragut said: "A more magnificent fire has rarely been kept up." The inhabitants of Mobile gathered on the shores and house-tops and towers to gaze on the terrific scene, while the buildings, though miles away, rattled under the awful explosions, and one vast sulphurous cloud heaved and tossed above the quiet waters of the bay. Just at twilight the citadel of the fort took fire, and the garrison, finding themselves unable to extinguish the flames, which now shot heavenward in the increasing darkness, flooded the magazine to prevent its blowing up, and threw large quantities of powder into the wells.

All night long the bombardment was kept up, ribbing the darkness with ghastly seams of light, as shells crossed and recrossed each other in their fiery track.

Thus the fearful night wore on, and at six in the morning a dull, heavy explosion came over the bay from the smoking fort, and half an hour later a white flag was seen to wave from its ramparts. General Page offered to surrender the fort, and asked the terms. The same as those given to Fort Gaines were offered and accepted. In his impotent rage, however, the commander ordered all the guns to be spiked, the carriages disabled, and arms, ammunition, &c., destroyed. He also, with some other officers, broke their swords, under the silly impression that this would lessen the humiliation of the surrender.

"The whole conduct of the officers of Fort Gaines and Fort Morgan," said Farragut, "presents such a striking contrast in moral principle that I cannot fail to remark upon it. Colonel Anderson, who commanded the former, finding himself in a position perfectly untenable, and encumbered with a superfluous number of conscripts, many of whom were mere boys, determined to surrender a fort which he could not defend, and in this determination was supported by all his officers save one; but, from the moment he hoisted the white flag, he scrupulously kept everything intact, and in that condition delivered it over; whilst General Page and his officers, with a childish spitefulness, destroyed the guns which they had said they would defend to the last, but which they never defended at all, and threw away or broke those weapons which they had not the manliness to use against their enemies; for Fort Morgan never fired a gun after the commencement of the bombardment, and the advanced pickets of our army were actually on its glacis."

As before stated, the ceremony of surrender took place at two P. M., and that same afternoon the garrison was sent to New Orleans in the United States steamers Tennessee and Bienville, where they arrived safely.

Farragut remained for awhile blockading the place, and sending off expeditions to destroy public property; but his health needing some relaxation from his duties, he at length received permission to return home.

He sailed in the Hartford on the 20th of November, and on the 12th of December reached New York harbor. The city, apprised of his coming, made preparations to receive him with fitting ceremonies.

A revenue cutter, with the committee of reception on board, met him down in the Narrows, and a crowd welco1med him at the docks in New York. He was then driven to the Custom House, where a more formal reception took place. Collector Draper welcomed him to the city in a flattering address, to which Admiral Farragut made the following reply, which we give as being, in our estimation, the most characteristic, unstudied, and best one of any that he has made:


"My Friends: I can only reply to you as I did before, by saying that I receive these compliments with great thankfulness and deep emotions. I am entirely unaccustomed to make such an address as I would desire to do upon this occasion; but, if I do not express what I think of the honor you do me, trust me I feel it most deeply. I don’t think, however, that I particularly deserve anything from your hands. I can merely say that I have done my duty to the best of my abilities. I have been devoted to the service of my country since I was eight years of age, and my father was devoted to it before me. I have not specially deserved these demonstrations of your regard. I owe everything, perhaps, to chance, and to the praiseworthy exertions of my brother officers serving with me. That I have been fortunate is most true, and I am thankful, deeply thankful for it, for my country’s sake. I return my thanks to the committee for their resolutions, especially for the one in regard to the creation of an additional rank."


On the last day of the year another reception took place at the collector’s headquarters, when the sum of $50,000—a gift from the wealthy men of New York—was presented to him.

Wherever he went ovations awaited him—even the little village of Hastings, to which he retired with his wife in the winter, made an imposing display on his arrival.

His reception at this place contrasted strikingly with his first entrance into it, an unknown man, three years before. Suspected of conspiracy, his movements were then watched; now the wintry heavens rang with acclamations and the shout of "See, the conquering hero comes!"

Farragut was no more afloat during the war; and now, raised to the rank of Admiral, modestly wears the honors a grateful nation loves to heap on his head.

In person Farragut is spare, but his form is firmly knit and very supple. He has always prided himself on the latter quality, and it has been his custom almost daily for years, to interlace his fingers in front of him and thrust his legs, one after another, through the letter "O" made by his clasped hands. A few months ago, however, he caught a severe tumble while going through this difficult operation, which has caused him to abandon it. He finds that age and hard work will tell on limbs, however vigorous and elastic.

Although Farragut possesses the originality, in conception and plan, belonging to true genius, he is not like Napoleon the First, who rarely called a council of war. He advises with his commanders, hears their suggestions, grafts the good ones on to his own plan, and thus makes an admirable use of the ability which surrounds him.

Brave as a lion, he has the dash and daring which a sailor loves, and which, if joined with success, makes a commander the idol of the people. To see him drive on through the deadly fire of batteries towards the enemy’s vessels beyond, one would think him a reckless, desperate man, to whom success, if it came at all, would be pure luck. But this would be an erroneous conclusion, for no man ever planned more carefully his blow beforehand than Farragut. He endeavors to ascertain from the enemy’s defenses and preparations where he least expects that blow to fall, then plants it so suddenly that he has no time to interpose a new defence, and so terribly that it grinds everything to powder. His crouch is as careful and stealthy as the panther, and his leap as sudden and deadly. The awful fury with which he presses the attack when once commenced, does not arise from the frenzied excitement of battle, but from the well-settled conviction that he has chosen the best course that could be adopted, and victory must be reached right onward in it, if reached at all.

Genius, prudence, and judgment in preparing for battle; unconquerable energy and desperate vehemence in pushing it; imperturbable coolness in the most unexpected and sudden disaster, and total unconsciousness of danger, though death and havoc reign supreme on his decks; loving to lead his line where the peril is greatest, and asking his subordinates only to follow him—he possesses all those qualities which go to make up a great and successful commander. Modest and unassuming, he dislikes the pompous ceremony of public ovations-retaining still his boyish frankness of nature and geniality of heart, that make him accessible to the humblest and beloved by all. Many anecdotes are told of the kindness of his heart, playfulness of disposition, and boyish freshness of nature, that add greatly to the interest one takes in his character. Among others, a friend of his has related to us the following, that occurred on a trip the Admiral recently made to the White Mountains. At Conway, a man brought his little daughter, at her own urgent request, some fifteen miles to see him, for she would not be content till she had looked on the great Admiral. Farragut took the child in his arms, kissed her, and talked playfully with her. He was dressed in citizen’s costume, and looked in her eyes very much like any other man, and totally unlike the hero whose praises had been so long ringing over the land. In her innocent surprise, she said, "Why, you do not look like a great general. I saw one the other day, and he was covered all over with gold." The Admiral laughed, and, to please her, actually took her to his room, and put on his uniform, when she went away satisfied. One such little incident as this throws a flood of light on one phase of his character, showing that he is kind and good as he is brave and great. The nation may well be proud of him, not only for the aid he brought to our cause by his astonishing victories, but for the luster he has shed on our navy the world over.

[1] The account of the bombardment by the mortars will be found in the sketch of Vice-Admiral Porter.

[2] Strong, by this bold movement, doubtless saved some of the vessels, and ought to have been promoted.

Chapter III

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