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David G. Farragut Union Rear Admiral Civil War Letter Signed March 23, 1863 “U.S. Flag Ship Hartford / Below Warrenton” to Lt. Commander A. Adams Commanding the U.S. Sloop Vincennes

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DAVID G. FARRAGUT (1801-1870). Flag Officer of the United States Navy during the American Civil War; the First Rear Admiral, Vice Admiral, and Admiral in the United States Navy; hest remembered for his order at the Battle of Mobile Bay usually paraphrased as: "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead". Farragut’s Naval service began when he was just nine years old and culminated when he was named the nation’s First Full Admiral in 1866.

March 23, 1863-Dated Civil War Date Letter Signed, “D(avid) G. Farragut Rear Admiral” Letter Signed, to “Lt. Commander A. Adams Commanding the U.S. Sloop Vincennes” March 23, 1863 from “U.S. Flag Ship Hartford / Below Warrenton”. Written in rich brown ink on clean light blue lined period wove paper and easily readable with a couple old hindge traces on the blank reverse. This Letter reads, in full:

“Sir --- You will be pleased to furnish me monthly lists of the officiers attached to the U.S. Vessel under your command. --- Very Respectfully / (Signed) D. G. Farragut / Rear Admiral”

USS Hartford, was a Sloop-of-War, steamer. It was the first ship of the United States Navy named for Hartford, Connecticut. The Hartford served in several prominent campaigns in the American Civil War as the Flagship of David G. Farragut, most notably the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864. She survived until 1956, when she sank awaiting restoration at Norfolk, Virginia.

The Battle of Mobile Bay took place on August 5th 1864. Farragut, with USS Hartford, captained by Percival Drayton, as his flagship, led a fleet consisting of four Ironclad Monitors and 14 wooden vessels. The Confederate naval force was composed of newly built ram Tennessee, Admiral Franklin Buchanan's flagship, and gunboats Selma, Morgan, and Gaines; and backed by the powerful guns of Forts Morgan and Gaines in the Bay. The Confederates had only 32 casualties, while the Union forces suffered 335 casualties, including 113 men drowned in Tecumseh when the monitor struck a "torpedo" mine and sank. Twelve of Hartford's sailors were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions at the Battle of Mobile Bay.

Provenance Ex: Collection of Ambassador J. William Middendorf II. Sold to our present consignor.


David Glasgow Farragut (1801-1870) was the Union Admiral who served most of the war as commander of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron. The Southern-born officer led the Union capture of New Orleans in April 1862 and the Battle of Mobile Bay in August 1864, in which he closed the Confederacy’s last big port on the Gulf of Mexico. He was less successful in operations on the Mississippi River around Vicksburg in 1862 and 1863.

After a controversial period of sea service, Farragut had relocated in 1860 to his wife’s home town of Norfolk, Virginia to await official orders that never came. At the beginning of the Civil War, Farragut was in professional limbo - suspected of Confederate sympathies because of his and his wife’s southern birth and suspected of northern sympathies because of his own public statements.

Farragut was in Virginia when Virginia seceded. Biographer Charles Lee Lewis wrote that the next morning, Farragut went as usual “to the store to talk over the latest developments with the naval officers who had been gathering there for political discussions, [and] he at once sensed a change in their attitude toward him. He soon learned that most of the Southern naval officers had already sent in their resignations, though some had done so with great regret.

When Farragut endeavored to defend Lincoln’s call for volunteers to defend government property, he was very bluntly told by a former brother officer that Virginia had seceded and that he must either resign or leave Norfolk. Farragut replied, “I can not live here, and will seek some other place where I can live, and on two hours’ notice.’”

Naval historian Alfred T. Mahan wrote that Farragut “went to his house and told his wife the time had come for her to decide whether she would remain with her own kinsfolk or follow him North. Her choice was as instant as his own, and that evening, they, with their only son, left Norfolk, never to return to it as their home.”

The family shipped out for New York and rented a home in a hamlet on the Hudson north of the city. “At first, some of the citizens of Hastings looked askance at the Southern-born newcomer, who often took long walks in the hills surrounding the village. Gossip had it that he was actually a Confederate agent who spent his ramblings concocting a scheme to destroy the Croton Aqueduct, which carried water to New York City,” wrote biographer Robert J. Schneller, Jr.. “But even the worst suspicions soon evaporated as the neighbors got to know the genial, athletic old man.”

Farragut volunteered for active naval duty, but Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles was having difficulty sorting between the loyal and disloyal, fit and unfit officers still on the navy roster. Instead of active service, Farragut was assigned to head a board to determine officer competence.

Schneller wrote that Welles had two reasons for not assigning Farragut to sea duty: “Early in the war the Navy had more high-ranking officers than ships for them to command. But more important, Secretary Welles remained wary of naval officers born in the South, for good reason.” But there was much to recommend Farragut.

As biographer Charles Lee Lewis observed, Farragut was “a remarkable seaman; he had commanded every kind of ship of war, from schooner to ship of the line under sail and the steam sloop Brooklyn, then one of the most powerful ships in the United States Navy; and though he had been confronted with dangerous situations on treacherous coasts, he had never had an accident.”

Farragut volunteered for active naval duty, but Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles was having difficulty sorting between the loyal and disloyal, fit and unfit officers still on the navy roster.

Instead of active service, Farragut was assigned to head a board to determine officer competence. Schneller wrote that Welles had two reasons for not assigning Farragut to sea duty: Early in the war the Navy had more high-ranking officers than ships for them to command. But more important, Secretary Welles remained wary of naval officers born in the South, for good reason.

But there was much to recommend Farragut. As biographer Charles Lee Lewis observed, David Farragut was a remarkable seaman; he had commanded every kind of ship of war, from schooner to ship of the line under sail and the steam sloop Brooklyn, then one of the most powerful ships in the United States Navy; and though he had been confronted with dangerous situations on treacherous coasts, he had never had an accident.

But when the Lincoln Administration decided on a plan to attack and capture New Orleans, it was Farragut who was chosen to command the operation after Welles and Assistant Secretary Gustavus Fox reviewed all the options. Both Welles and Fox both claimed credit for making the initial choice.

Montgomery Blair claimed that Fox first proposed Farragut’s name, but Gideon Welles claimed that his long-standing good impression of Farragut was enhanced by his departure from Norfolk. Blair recalled that Fox subsequently brought Farragut to his home: After breakfast, Fox laid before Farragut the plan of attack, the force to be employed, and the object to be attained, and asked his opinion.

Farragut answered unhesitatingly that it would succeed. Fox then handed him the list of vessels being fitted out, and asked if they were enough. Farragut replied he would engage to run by the forts and capture New Orleans with two thirds the number. Fox told him more vessels would be added, and that he would command the expedition. Farragut’s delight and enthusiasm were so great that when he left us Fox asked if I did not think he was too enthusiastic. I replied I was most favorably impressed with him, and sure he would succeed.

Shortly after New Orleans fell to Farragut’s fleet on April 25, 1862, presidential aide John Hay wrote in a newspaper column that one of the neatest pieces of news that any Sunday has brought us has been the intelligence to-day of the capture of New Orleans by [David] Porter and Farragut. This furnishes one most important link in the chain which we have been drawing around our revolted provinces, and fastens, to use a played-out metaphor, one more coil of the anaconda around his doomed victim.

Two weeks later, Hay noted: “The unparalleled gallantry of the officers and seamen of our Gulf Squadron and the mortar fleet before the guardian forts of New Orleans accounted very satisfactorily for the brilliant and astounding victory there.” When officers direct and men fight like Porter and Farragut and the blue jackets under them, probabilities are out of the question, and the possibles become the practicable.

Unlike his foster brother, Captain David Dixon Porter, Admiral Farragut seldom visited President Lincoln during the Civil War. He spent much of the late summer and fall of 1863, however, in New York where some of his ships were refitted “and made occasional trips to Washington. Farragut was greatly admired by the often-critical Secretary of the Navy and that admiration was shared by the President.

Welles discussed the selection of navy commanders with President Lincoln in early September: In the selection of Farragut and Porter, I thought we had been particularly fortunate; and Du Pont had merit also. He thought there had not been, take it all in all, so good an appointment in either branch of the service as Farragut, whom he did not know or recollect when I gave him command.

Du Pont he classed, and has often, with McClellan, but Porter he considers a busy schemer, bold but not of high qualities as a chief. For some reason he has not so high an appreciation of Porter as I think he deserves, but no man surpasses Farragut in his estimation.

Farragut’s public image was fixed when he led a naval attack on Mobile Bay on August 5, 1865. Smoke had already made it difficult for his Union fleet to maneuver when one of his ships struck a mine. Confusion reigned in the fleet.

Farragut decided that aggressive action was the only possible course. His response to the threat of mines and Confederate guns from Fort Morgan was to order: Damn the torpedoes. Four bells, Captain Drayton. Full speed ahead!

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles recalled on the 29th of August, the day on which the Chicago [Democratic] convention assembled, information was received, through the rebel lines, that Fort Morgan, which guarded the entrance to the bay of Mobile, had surrendered. This intelligence, after a summer of inaction of the great army on the James, was inspiring and invigorating. It cheered the President and the whole administration.

Biographer Charles Lee Lewis wrote: August 8, the first news of Farragut’s great victory in Mobile Bay reached Washington through telegrams to President Lincoln and Assistant Secretary of the Navy Fox from General [Benjamin] Butler. The report was based on an official statement in the Richmond papers of the same day, announcing that Farragut’s fleet had passed Fort Morgan with the loss of the Tecumseh, and that the Tennessee had been captured.

While elated by the news of Farragut’s triumph, Welles was disappointed by the President’s reaction: The President, I was sorry, spoke of it as important because it would tend to relieve [General William T.] Sherman. Welles blamed this reaction on General Henry W. Halleck who Halleck never awarded honest credit to the Navy; the President never knowingly deprived them of any merit.
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