Admiral David Farragut: Civil War Facts & Biography

Instructor: Daniel Vermilya
David Farragut was one of the most important and longest serving officers in U.S. naval history. He led Union fleets against Confederate forces during the American Civil War, achieving numerous important victories.


While many today are familiar with the names of famous generals of the American Civil War, few Americans would likely be able to name a single naval officer of that famous conflict. Of those who fought on the seas during the American Civil War, none was more important than Union Admiral David Glasgow Farragut. Let's learn more about this oft forgotten Civil War leader.

Early Life

Oddly enough, the Union war hero David Glasgow Farragut was born in Tennessee, a future Confederate state. He was originally given the name James and was known as such for the first several years of his life. However, when his mother passed away, his father sent his children out to be cared for by others. David Porter, a naval officer in New Orleans, took in the young Farragut, who soon changed his first name to that of the man who adopted him. He was then on known as David Glasgow Farragut.

Farragut began his service at sea at the age of 9, just before the War of 1812. He saw extensive service during the war, navigating a damaged ship back into an American port at one point. Because of this experience, he rose in rank and began a career in the U.S. Navy. In 1822, he became a lieutenant and soon after took command of the USS Ferret. For the next forty years, Farragut had a long and successful career in the Navy.

Civil War

Being from the South caused some to wonder if Farragut would remain loyal to the Union in 1861 when 11 Southern states banded together and joined the Confederacy. Farragut remained true to his country, though. He stayed in the U.S. Navy and would become the most important figure of the war on the waters. At that point, Commander Farragut was a highly respected naval officer.

His first major action of the Civil War came in early 1862. Farragut commanded a fleet of ships that moved on New Orleans with the intent of taking the Confederate port. This was a part of the grand Union strategy of blockading the Confederacy as one of the many ways of defeating the rebellion. Farragut was able to deftly move his ships against forts defending New Orleans, taking the crucial port city itself in late April 1862. New Orleans was one of the biggest and most important ports in the entire Confederacy, and Farragut's success there was one of the biggest Union victories of the war. In a measure of thanks for his extraordinary efforts, Congress created a new rank of Rear Admiral, naming Farragut to the position.

David Farragut in 1863

Farragut's Civil War career was not without its failures; he had his setbacks as well as successes. In mid-1862, Farragut tried to take his fleet of ships up the Mississippi River to take Vicksburg, Mississippi. Despite passing the river, he was unable to make any lasting impact on the important position and had to withdraw. In 1863, at Port Hudson on the Mississippi, Farragut led an uncoordinated attack against Confederate guns on the bank, leading to heavy damage among his ships.

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