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David Glasgow Farragut Letter

Identifier: MS-3206

  • Staff Only

This letter, framed and double-sided, was written by an aide and signed by Admiral Farragut on 14 September 1864. Five and a half weeks earlier, also on board the Hartford and also in Mobile Bay, Admiral Farragut uttered one of the most memorable phrases in United States military history: Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead!

Farragut wrote this letter to order the renaming of several naval vessels to commemorate the recent Battle of Mobile Bay. It reads in part:

I herewith enclose an order Acting Master Jno R. Hamilton, Comdg the Commodore, informing him of the change in the name of his vessel. Also by order of the Department, the side-wheel steamer Tennessee will hereafter be called the Mobile , and the supply steamer Admiral the Fort Morgan.


  • 1864 September 14

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1.5 Linear Feet


This letter, dated September 14, 1864 and signed D. G. Farragut, was written on board Farragut's flagship Hartford while it was anchored at Mobile Bay, Alabama. Addressed to Commodore Jason G. Palmer, it consists of an order to change the names of three vessels.

Biographical/Historical Note

James Glasgow Farragut was born on July 6th, 1801 outside Knoxville, Tennessee in a town that would later be named after him. His father Jorge, an immigrant from the island Minorca off the east coast of Spain, served during both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Famous naval officer David Porter befriended the Farragut family and offered to train young Farragut for a naval career. Under his guardianship, Farragut changed his name to David G. Farragut. He was at sea by the age of 8 and first saw combat at 12.

In 1808, Farragut was assigned to his first ship in New Orleans. His mother died of yellow fever in New Orleans that same year. After meeting Secretary of the Navy Paul Hamilton, Farragut was appointed a midshipman in the Navy on December 17, 1810. The first action he saw was aboard the Essex, serving under Captain David Porter, in the War of 1812 off the coast of Canada and New England. In the spring of 1819, he was appointed an acting Lieutenant at only 18 years of age. He received his first command aboard the Ferret in 1823.

In 1841 he was commissioned as Commander, in charge of the Delaware, his first ship-of-the-line. In 1854 he was assigned as the first naval commandant of Mare Island Shipyard near San Francisco. His job was to oversee the construction of the shipyard, the first Pacific shipyard of the U. S. Navy. In 1855 he was promoted to Captain, the highest grade in the Navy, and upon completion of the shipyard in 1858 he was assigned to his first steamer, the Brooklyn. This would also be the last single vessel he would command.

Farragut's Civil War record brought him from naval officer to American hero. His leading of the naval units in the taking of New Orleans, his passing of Port Hudson and his blockade of Mobile and the subsequent Battle of Mobile Bay made Farragut's name commonplace throughout the United States and Europe. Following the war Congress created the rank of Admiral and bestowed it upon him in July 1866.

Unfortunately, his personal life was not quite as happy as his professional life. He married Miss Susan C. Marchant of Norfolk on September 24, 1823. She passed away on December 27, 1840, after Farragut had been by her side nursing her for almost two years. She had suffered from an illness since shortly after they had gotten married that caused her great pain at times.

On December 26, 1843, Commander Farragut married Virginia Loyall of Norfolk. Their family moved to California while Farragut was at Mare Island, living out of a boat for the first seven months, and then returned to Norfolk in 1858. After the secession of Virginia, Farragut found his Union leanings running counter to the majority of the Norfolk naval officers that he had been associating with and wisely moved to New York in 1860.

Farragut's only child, Loyall, entered the Naval Academy at West Point in 1863 and was there when Farragut received his Civil War fame. He would go on to a short naval career and later publish a biography of his father that would include long extractions from his journals.

After the war, Farragut received great honors from all over the United States and Europe. Entertained by Kings and Princes in Europe, and mayors and businessmen in the United States, he received $50,000 from the citizens of New York, his adopted home during the war, and other wondrous gifts. He also traveled to Spain to learn more of his heritage, spending most of the time in Barcelona and the Balearic Islands.

His health, however, failed him shortly after the end of the war. His weakened constitution from Yellow Fever in the 1830's and his travels after the war took their toll. Farragut passed away in January of 1870. After his passing, Congress approved $20,000 for a statue to be erected in his honor in Washington, and another was erected by the state of New York.


Collection consists of a single box.

Acquisition Note

This collection was purchased on 2006 March 20.

Repository Details

Part of the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives, University of Tennessee, Knoxville Repository

University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville TN 37996 USA