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David Dixon Porter
Among the coincidences of naval and military command in the war for the Union, the association of the names of Farragut and Porter, in the important series of operations on the Mississippi, has not escaped attention.
The former, as the reader has seen in the previous sketch, was introduced to the service in his childhood, under the care and protection of Commodore David Porter, and boy as he was, fully shared the adventures and perils of his famous cruise in the Pacific. Nearly fifty years after that event Captain Farragut, in command of the Department of the Gulf, entered the Mississippi in concert with the son of his old commander of the Essex, to vindicate the national honor by the restoration of New Orleans to the Union--a service which was to prove the ability of both officers, and lead them to the highest rank known to the naval service of the United States. Looking into the future, Commodore Porter, the hero of the War of 1812, would hardly have dreamt that the "boy midshipman, who had been introduced to him at New Orleans, would, with two of his own sons, at the end of half a century, receive the highest honors of their country, the reward of the most arduous and perilous services against a domestic foe on the Mississippi."
Of these sons of Commodore Porter, thus distinguished in this field of duty, William D. Porter, the elder, on more than one occasion, in command of the gunboat Essex, recalled not merely the name of his father's vessel, but the courage and patriotism, the spirit and success which had given the old ship her reputation. The younger, David D. Porter, the subject of this notice, born in Philadelphia, entered the navy as midshipman in the year 1829. His first cruise was in the Mediterranean, under Commodore Biddle, till 1831. After a year's leave of absence, he returned to that station, which has ever proved, in its liberal intercourse with the men of other nations, and its undying associations of nature and art, a most important school in the education of the young naval officers of the United States. Having passed his examination in 1835, young Porter was attached to the coast survey service from 1836 to 1841, when he was promoted to a lieutenancy and was ordered to the frigate Congress, in which he sailed for four years on the Mediterranean and South American stations. In 1845, we find him attached to the National Observatory at Washington in special service. During the Mexican war which succeeded, he was in charge of the naval rendezvous at New Orleans, was subsequently again employed on the coast survey, and from 1849 to 1853 was, by permission of the department, in command of the California mail steamers Panama and Georgia, running from New York to Aspinwall, a rising commercial service of national importance, to which his experience and personal character were of great value. After this he was in various home services, till 1861, when he was promoted to the rank of commander, and placed in command of the steam-sloop Powhatan, in which he joined the Gulf Blockading squadron off Pensacola. He had thus, at the outbreak of the Rebellion, been thirty-two years in the service, over nineteen of which had been spent at sea and nine on shore duty.
A special service of great importance was presently intrusted to him. When in the beginning of 1862, an expedition was set on foot to open the Mississippi River to New Orleans, he was assigned to the command of a fleet of bomb-vessels to co-operate with the squadron of Captain Farragut in that enterprise--a service which he carried out with distinguished ability.
After the capture of New Orleans, Commander Porter continued to co-operate with Captain Farragut on the Mississippi, being engaged in the movement on Vicksburg in May. In the following October he was placed in command of the Mississippi squadron, with the rank of acting rear-admiral, and when, in the ensuing year, operations were actively resumed for the capture of Vicksburg, his squadron, in concert with the victorious army of General Grant, was constantly employed in the most hazardous and honorable service.
It was he who forwarded to the Secretary of the Navy at Washington the brief and authoritative announcement: "Sir, I have the honor to inform you that Vicksburg surrendered to the United States forces on July 4th." This was the first bulletin to the country and to the world of this memorable event. Simultaneously with the victory of General Mead over Lee at Gettysburg, it was hailed as the crowning disaster to the Rebellion. As a reward for his services on the Mississippi, Porter was promoted to the full rank of rear-admiral.
In December, 1864, he commanded the fleet which bombarded Fort Fisher. After a terrific assault the fort was captured January 13, 1865, and Wilmington, the last Confederate port, was closed. Porter received another, his fourth, vote of thanks from Congress, and in 1866 was made vice-admiral. On Farragut's death, in 1870, he was immediately appointed to succeed him as admiral, and held the rank until his death, on February 13, 1891.