Today in AFJ History

August 26, 2013  

1864: Damn the torpedoes

Rear Adm. David G. Farragut (right), commander of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron, stands with Capt. Percival Drayton at the wheel of the squadron flagship, the USS Hartford, in Mobile Bay, Alabama, 1864. (Naval Historical Center)

Rear Adm. David G. Farragut (right), commander of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron, stands with Capt. Percival Drayton at the wheel of the squadron flagship, the USS Hartford, in Mobile Bay, Alabama, 1864. (Naval Historical Center)

From the archive: August 20, 1864

[Editor’s note: This was published two weeks after Rear Adm. David G. Farragut led his Union fleet through a minefield, smashed a Confederate flotilla, and, with Army help, subdued the last major rebel-held Gulf port east of the Mississippi River.]

The Battle of Mobile Bay

Rear-Admiral FARRAGUT has added another red-letter day to our naval calendar. The fifth of August will be “kept” by old salts, in years to come, as commemorating one of the proudest and most daring accomplishments of our own or any other navy…

No doubt, this last exploit of the American Navy will renew in Europe the discussion about the relative power of ships and forts. Indeed, there is reason for such questions as will be asked; and we may well ask them too. If Mobile Bay was not impregnable to the attack of a wooden fleet, what harbor is? Is that of New York? The Rebels had prepared the most elaborate defenses; they had every advantage possible — a strong fort, mounting it is believed 150 guns; the channel obstructed by rows of ships; torpedoes sunk in the only passage-way left open; and, lying behind, a formidable fleet of iron and cotton-clad steamers, under a captain of undoubted bravery. But all was in vain. Let us not forget, however, that not everyone can do this trick. It requires a man of FARRAGUT’s genius and unconquerable pluck, a man who, to quote the words of the Secretary of the Navy, is willing to take great risks in order to accomplish great results.Tennesseans may be proud that their state has produced two such men as ANDREW JACKSON and D.G. FARRAGUT.

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