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Civil War U.S. Navy Admiral David Farragut 3 – First Command

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Battle of the <em>Essex</em> and the HMS <em>Phoebe</em>

Duel of the USS Essex and HMS Pheobe

Civil War hero and admiral David Farragut literally grew up at sea. In the U.S. Navy since the age of ten, he served under David Porter as a midshipman beginning in 1811 on the USS Essex. A surrogate father, “Porter supervised his education and training while seizing every opportunity to throw responsibility on the boy.”[1] His first command, at the age of twelve, was of a prize ship, the recaptured American whaler Barclay. [2] Success in this command required that the young Farragut deal with the Barclay’s disgruntled captain, and he accomplished this by threatening to throw the man overboard if he came up on deck. The tactic worked and earned him early respect. [3]

David Farragut saw action against the H.M.S. Phoebe while serving on the USS Essex in 1813. [4] During the USS Essex’s losing battle with the HMS Phoebe, “Farragut served as captain’s aide, quarter gunner, and powder boy. He witnessed the evisceration of a boatswain’s mate by one shot, the amputation of a quartermaster’s leg by another, and the killing of four men by a third shot that splattered him with the last man’s brains. He narrowly escaped death himself when a shot struck a man beside him full in the face. The man fell back on him, and the two tumbled down an open hatch, with the man landing on top of him” sans head. [5] So Farragut was intimately familiar with both the fog of war and its horrors.

See an excellent summary of the sea battle between USS Essex and the HMS Phoebe here.

[1] The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea, Peter Kemp, ed., (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 296.
[2] Schneller, Jr., Robert J. Farragut: America’s First Admiral. (Washington, D.C.: Brassey’s, Inc., 2002), 12.
[3] Ibid.
[4] The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea, Peter Kemp, ed., (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 296.
[5] Schneller, Jr., Robert J. Farragut: America’s First Admiral, 13-14.

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Civil War U.S. Navy Admiral David Farragut – 2 First Voyage

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Flatboat

David Glasgow Farragut, the man who would become the first Admiral in the U.S. Navy and a Civil War naval hero, was born on the fifth of July 1801 “in a log cabin on a 640-acre tract of land on the north bank of the Holston River about fifteen miles southwest of Knoxville,” Tennessee.” (1) His father, George Anthony Magin Farragut, (a fascinating character deserving of a biography of his own), was born on the island of Minorca. He went to sea at a young age and found his way to America in 1776.  He served in the American Revolution under Francis Marion, the famed guerrilla leader and American officer who earned the nickname “Swamp Fox.” According to family lore, as captured by David’s son Loyall, George Farragut fought in both the American Revolution and the War of 1812 and is said to have “saved the life of Colonel Washington in the battle of Cowpens.” (2) “By the end of th war, he had risen to the rank of major of horse.” (3)

In 1795, at the age of forty, he married Elizabeth Shine. They moved to Knoxville, Tennessee and began to raise a family. A first son, William, was born in 1797. The family moved to their homestead near Stony Point in 1800 and it was here that David Glasgow was born followed by a sister and brother. The future admiral was called Glasgow by family and friends. (4)

George made what would be a fateful decision to return to the sea. He received an appointment as sailing master with the U.S. Navy on March 2, 1807. Ordered to duty on a gunboat in New Orleans, he decided to move his family to the city by flatboat. In the late summer of 1807, they embarked on a two month journey that began on the Holston River and traveled to the Tennessee, then the Ohio, and finally the Mississippi. (5)

Within a year of settling in New Orleans, Elizabeth would be dead of yellow fever and the family’s lives changed forever.


(1) Schneller, Jr., Robert J., Farragut: America’s First Admiral. (Washington D. C.: Brassey’s, Inc., 2002), 3.
(2) Farragut, Loyall. The life of David Glasgow Farragut: first admiral of the United States Navy Emboying His Jounrals and Letters, (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1882), 5.
(3) Schneller, Jr., Robert J., Farragut: America’s First Admiral. (Washington D. C.: Brassey’s, Inc., 2002), 4.
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(4) Ibid., 5.
(5) Ibid., 6.

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Civil War U.S. Navy Admiral David Farragut 1

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I’m wrapping up my paper on Civil War Admiral David Farragut’s command of the Battle of Mobile Bay. This guy was impressive. To begin with, he came from good stock. This quote is his son Loyall’s 1879 work, The life of David Glasgow Farragut: first admiral of the United States Navy

“George Farragut was descended from the renowned Don Pedro Ferragut, who served under James I., King of Aragon, styled in history El Conquistador, in the campaigns which resulted in the expulsion of the Moors from Majorca in 1229, and from Valencia in 1238. In Majorca Don Pedro was Sergeant before the King—an office of high honor and importance, held only by those of noble blood. James bestowed estates upon the knights who accompanied him in these enterprises, and directed the troubadour Mossen Jaime Febrer to celebrate them in verse. The following is the stanza devoted to Pedro Ferragut:

Sobre camp bermell una ferradura
De finisim or, ab nn elau daurat,
Pere Ferragut pinta, e en tal figura
Esplica lo agnom. La historia asegnra
Ser aragones, de Jaca baixat.
Apres que en Mallorca servi de sargent,
Venint a Valencia, hon gran renotn guanya
De expert capita per lo dilitgent;
Los anys, e sucesos lo feren prudent.
Te en lo pelear gran cordura e inanya,
Pergue a totes armes facilment se apanya.
Henry Howard Brownell, extemporized the following translation, which is sufficiently literal:
A charger’s shoe is borne on his shield,
Of purest gold, on a blood-red field,
Set thereon with a nail of the same:
Thus we know him, device and name.
From Jaca, in Aragon, he came.
At Mallorca and Valencia both,
Well he quitted his knightly troth,
Serving as Sergeant before his liege,
Through the conquest, in field and siege:

Strong in battle, by plain or hold,
Great his fame as a warrior bold,
And a prudent captain to shun surprise;
For -years and victories made him wise.
At every manner of arms expert,
He did on the foe great spoil and hurt.”

Abraham Lincoln – Vampire Hunter?

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Seth Grahame-Smith

Seth Grahame-Smith

Abraham Lincoln a vampire hunter? This may well be the most unusual book I’ll review on Wig-Wags. The good folks at Grand Central Publishing recently sent me an advance review copy of  New York Times best selling author Seth Grahame-Smith’s new book, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. I’ll put it into a genre of historical/fantasy/horror.

The story puts lost journals of Abraham Lincoln into the hands of an undiscovered writer. I have to say that I intended to just peruse the book a bit before this initial posting. Forty pages later, I realized I should probably put it down and get back to that paper I was writing. In other words, it is a good read. An added plus is that it has a fair amount of historical fact weaved in.

Now lest you think of dismissing Grahame-Smith’s book, note that the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum (March 6, 2010) and the Smithsonian (March 9, 2010) will host author appearances, the latter a panel. What’s compelling is that Grahame-Smith may reach new readers and there is some real history amidst the fantasy.

According to the Library’s press release, “Abraham Lincoln was a fan of macabre literature, particularly stories and poems written by Edgar Allan Poe, and had committed Poe’s The Raven to memory.  Lincoln dabbled in poetry himself, and his verse mimicked Poe’s dark themes.”  To explore Lincoln’s poetry, I recommend the National Park Service site, Lincoln’s Notebook and the entry Matthew Gentry featuring a poem about the future President tells of a childhood friend gone insane.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & MuseumAccording to the Library’s press release,

Lincoln also wrote an anonymous narrative published in the Whig and the Sangamo Journal in 1846, “Remarkable Case oPride and Prejudice and Zombiesf Arrest For Murder,” about a real murder case where the alleged victim appeared with amnesia in the courtroom just before the defendants, the Trailor brothers, were to be sentenced to death for murder. In the narrative, Lincoln admitted “while it is readily conceived that a writer of novels could bring a story to a more perfect climax, it may well be doubted, whether a stranger affair ever really occurred. Much of the matter remains in mystery to this day.” The ALPLM has the original letter that Lincoln wrote to Joshua Speed on June 19, 1841 describing the incident that he recounted five years later for the Whig.

Listen to a podcast about the book posted at the ALPLM here.

Grahame-Smith is also author of the wildly successful Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

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