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ALFRED THAYER MAHAN
"ADMIRAL FARRAGUT"

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CHAPTER I.

FAMILY AND EARLY LIFE.

1801-1811.

The father of Admiral Farragut, George Farragut, was of unmixed Spanish descent, having been born on the 29th of September, 1755, in the island of Minorca, one of the Balearic group, where the family had been prominent for centuries. One of his ancestors, Don Pedro Ferragut, served with great distinction under James 1, King of Aragon, in the wars against the Moors, which resulted in their expulsion from Majorca in 1229, and from the kingdom of Valencia, in the Spanish Peninsula, in 1238. As Minorca in 1755 was a possession of the British Crown, to which it had been ceded in 1713 by the Treaty of Utrecht, George Farragut was born under the British flag; but in the following year a French expedition, fitted out in Toulon, succeeding in wresting from the hands of Great Britain both the island and its excellent fortified harbor, Port Mahon, one of the most advantageous naval stations in the Mediterranean. It was in the course of the operations which resulted in this conquest of Minorca by the French that the British fleet, under the command of Admiral Byng, met with the check for which the admiral paid the penalty of his life a few months later. At the close of the Seven Years' War, in 1763, the island was restored to Great Britain, in whose hands it remained until 1782, when it was again retaken by the French and Spaniards.

George Farragut, however, had long before severed his connection with his native country. In March, 1776, he emigrated to North America, which was then in the early throes of the Revolutionary struggle. Having grown to manhood a subject to Great Britain, but alien in race and feeling, he naturally espoused the cause of the colonists, and served gallantly in the war. At its end he found himself, like the greater part of his adopted countrymen, called to the task of building up his own fortunes, neglected during its continuance; and, by so doing, to help in restoring prosperity to the new nation. A temper naturally adventurous led him to the border lines of civilization; and it was there, in the region where North Carolina and eastern Tennessee meet, that the years succeeding the Revolution appear mainly to have been passed. It was there also that he met and married his wife, Elizabeth Shine, a native of Dobbs County, North Carolina, where she was born on the 7th of June, 1765. At the time of their marriage the country where they lived was little more than a wilderness, still infested by Indians; and one of the earliest recollections of the future admiral was being sent into the loft, on the approach of a party of these, while his mother with an axe guarded the door, which she had barricaded. This unsettled and dangerous condition necessitated a constant state of preparedness, with some organization of the local militia, among whom George Farragut held the rank of a major of cavalry, in which capacity he served actively for some time.

While resident in Tennessee, George Farragut became known to Mr. W. C. C. Claiborne, at that time the member for Tennessee in the National House of Representatives. Mr. Claiborne in 1801 became governor of Mississippi Territory; and in 1803, when the United States purchased from France the great region west of the Mississippi River, to which the name Louisiana was then applied, he received the cession of the newly acquired possession. This was soon after divided into two parts by a line following the thirty-third parallel of north latitude, and Claiborne became governor of the southern division, which was called the Territory of Orleans. To this may probably be attributed the removal of the Farraguts to Louisiana from eastern Tennessee. The region in which the latter is situated, remote both from tide-water and from the great river by which the Western States found their way to the Gulf of Mexico, was singularly unfitted to progress under the conditions of communication in that day; and it long remained among the most backward and primitive portions of the United States. The admiral's father, after his long experience there, must have seen that there was little hope of bettering his fortunes. Whatever the cause, he moved to Louisiana in the early years of the century, and settled his family in New Orleans. He himself received the appointment of sailing-master in the navy, and was ordered to command a gun-boat employed in the river and on the adjacent sounds. A dispute had arisen between the United States and the Spanish Government, to whom the Floridas then belonged, as to the line of demarcation between the two territories; and George Farragut was at times employed with his vessel in composing disturbances and forwarding the views of his own government.

David Glasgow, the second son of George Farragut, and the future Admiral of the United States Navy, was born before the removal to Louisiana, on the 5th of July, 1801, at Campbell's Station, near Knoxville, in eastern Tennessee. In 1808, while living in his father's house on the banks of Lake Pontchartrain, an incident occurred which led directly to his entrance into the navy, and at the same time brought into curious coincidence two families, not before closely associated, whose names are now among the most conspicuous of those in the annals of the navy. While George Farragut was fishing one day on Lake Pontchartrain he fell in with a boat, also engaged in fishing, in which was an old gentleman prostrated by the heat of the sun. He took him to his own house, where he was cared for and nursed until he died, never having recovered strength sufficient to be removed. The sufferer was David Porter, the father of the Captain David Porter who afterward commanded the frigate Essex in her adventurous and celebrated cruise in the Pacific during the years 1813 and 1814, and grandfather of the still more distinguished Admiral David D. Porter, who, over half a century later, served with David Farragut on the Mississippi in the civil war, and in the end succeeded him as second admiral of the navy. Captain, or rather, as he then was, Commander Porter being in charge of the naval station at New Orleans, his father, who had served actively afloat during the Revolution and had afterward been appointed by Washington a sailing master in the navy, had obtained orders to the same station, in order to be with, though nominally under, his son. The latter deeply felt the kindness shown to his father by the Farraguts. Mrs. Farragut herself died of yellow fever, toward the end of Mr. Porter's illness, the funeral of the two taking place on the same day; and Commander Porter soon after visited the family at their home and offered to adopt one of the children. Young David Farragut then knew little of the element upon which his future life was to be passed; but, dazzled by the commander's uniform and by that of his own elder brother William, who had received a midshipman's warrant a short time before, he promptly decided to accept an offer which held forth to him the same brilliant prospects. The arrangement was soon concluded. Porter promised to be to him always a friend and guardian; and the admiral wrote in after life, "I am happy to have it in my power to say, with feelings of the warmest gratitude, that he ever was to me all that he promised." The boy returned to New Orleans with his new protector, in whose house he thenceforth resided, making occasional trips across Lake Pontchartrain to a plantation which his father had purchased on the Pascagoula River. A few months later Commander Porter appears to have made a visit to Washington on business connected with the New Orleans station, and to have taken Farragut with him to be placed at school, for which there were few advantages at that time in Louisiana. The boy then took what proved to be a last farewell of his father. George Farragut continued to live in Pascagoula, and there he died on the 4th of June, 1817, in his sixty-second year.

The trip north was made by Porter and his ward in the bomb-ketch Vesuvius, a stop being made at Havana; where the commander had business growing out of the seizure by him in the Mississippi River of some French privateers, for which both Spain and the United States had offered a reward. At Havana the lad heard of an incident, only too common in those days, which set his heart, as those of his countrymen were fast being set, against Great Britain. Presuming confidently upon the naval weakness of the United States, and arguing from their long forbearance that insults to the flag would be indefinitely borne for the sake of the profitable commerce which neutrality insured, Great Britain, in order to support the deadly struggle in which she was engaged with France, had endeavored to shut off the intercourse of her enemy with the rest of the world, by imposing upon neutral trade restrictions before unheard of and without justification in accepted international law. Both the justice and policy of these restrictions were contested by a large party of distinguished Englishmen; but upon another principle men of all parties in the old country were practically agreed, and that was the right of the British Government to compel the services of British seamen wherever found. From this grew the claim, which few Englishmen then dared to disavow, that their ships of war could rightfully take from any neutral merchant ship any seaman of British birth who was found on board. In estimating this monstrous pretention, Americans have shown little willingness to allow for the desperate struggle in which Great Britain was involved, and the injury which she suffered from the number of her seamen who, to escape impressment in their home ports and the confinement of ships of war, sought service in neutral merchant ships. Her salvation depended upon her navy; and seamen were so scarce as seriously to injure its efficiency and threaten paralysis. This was naturally no concern of the United States, which set up its simple, undeniable right to the protection the neutral flag should give to all persons and goods under it, which were not involved in any infraction of belligerent rights. The straits of Great Britain, however, were too dire to allow the voice of justice to override that of expediency. Had the United States Navy been a force as respectable in numbers as it was in efficiency, the same dictates of expediency might have materially controlled the action of her opponent; might have prevented outrage and averted war. As it was, right was set up against right--the right of the neutral flag on the one hand against the right of a country to the service of all her citizens on the other. The United States protested and wrote with all the conviction of a state upon whose side justice was. She resorted to measure after measure of peaceable coercion; but she had no military force to show upon the sea, and her utterances were consequently too uncertain to command respect. Great Britain continued to take seamen from American merchant ships upon the plea of her right to impress British seamen in any place; and, though the claim to detain or search ships of war had been explicitly disavowed after the Chesapeake affair of 1807, scant deference was shown to the vessels of a power so little able to stand up for itself. In a day when most vessels carried some guns for self-defense, it was a simple matter to ignore the national character of an armed ship and to stop it unceremoniously. Of such an insult Farragut heard during this stay in Havana. The brig Vixen, of the United States Navy, had been fired into by a British ship of war. "This," wrote Farragut in his journal, "was the first thing that caused in me bad feeling toward the English nation. I was too young to know anything about the Revolution; but I looked upon this as an insult to be paid in kind, and was anxious to discharge the debt with interest." It is scarcely necessary to say how keenly this feeling was shared by his seniors in the service, to whom the Vixen incident was but one among many bitter wrongs which the policy of their Government had forced them humbly to swallow.

After their arrival in Washington Farragut was put to school, where he remained until Porter was relieved from the New Orleans station. During his stay at the capital he was presented by his guardian to the Secretary of the Navy, Paul Hamilton, of South Carolina; who, after ascertaining his wish to enter the service, promised him a midshipman's warrant when he should be ten years old. The promise was more than kept, for the warrant, when issued, was dated December 17, 1810; the future admiral thus finding himself at least a titular officer, in the service which he was afterward to adorn, when not quite nine and a half years of age. Although at that time, and in earlier generations, boys, no older than Farragut then was, were not infrequently turned aboard ship to fight their own way in life, Porter did not so construe his duties to his charge. In the latter part of 1810 he finally left New Orleans and went North again, this time by the Mississippi River and in a gun-boat. The voyage to Pittsburg against the swift current took three months; and it was not till toward the close of the year that he and his family were again settled in their home at Chester, in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of Mrs. Porter. Farragut was then removed from Washington and put to school in Chester, there to remain until his guardian should be able to take him to sea under his own eyes, in a vessel commanded by himself. This opportunity was not long in arriving.

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