David Farragut

Sailor / Civil War Figure

Born: 5 July 1801
Died: 14 August 1870
Birthplace: Campbell's Station, Tennessee
Best known as: The Civil War admiral who said, "Damn the torpedoes..."

Name at birth: James Glasgow Farragut

American naval officer David Farragut is remembered for his Civil War victory at Mobile Bay and his rallying cry, "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!" Farragut was a lifelong sailor, a boy-veteran of the War of 1812 and a career naval officer. A southerner, he nevertheless fought for the Union during the Civil War. His first great success as a commander came with the capture of New Orleans in 1862; his victory led to his promotion to rear admiral, making him the U.S. Navy's first such officer. Farragut's attempts to then take Vicksburg were unsuccessful, but in 1864 he captured the defenses at Mobile, Alabama. During the Mobile Bay battle, one of Farragut's lead ships struck a mine -- then called a torpedo -- and sank, causing confusion among Union sailors. To rally them to order, Farragut shouted to his flag captain, "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead, Drayton!" and proceeded to sail through the minefield and on to victory. In December of 1864, Farragut was promoted to vice admiral (another first), and in 1866 he became the nation's first admiral, although he was no longer in active service.

Extra credit: Farragut changed his first name to David as a boy, in honor of his sea-faring guardian, family friend David Porter... Some sources list Farragut's birthplace simply as "Near Knoxville, Tennessee." According to a 2001 article in The Knoxville News-Sentinel, "Farragut was born in 1801 in a farmhouse at what is now known as Lowe's Ferry... His birthplace was designated as Campbell Station, which at the time was the nearest post office." The nearby town of Farragut, named in his honor, is about 10 miles from Knoxville.

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