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'Damn the Torpedoes – Full Speed Ahead': Navy’s First Admiral Was Hispanic Hero

15 September 2020

From Lt. Cmdr. Rolando Machado, Task Force One Navy, via Chief of Naval Personnel Public Affairs

David Glasgow Farragut was the U.S. Navy’s first full admiral. At the time of his death in 1870, Farragut had served a total of 59 years in uniform.

WASHINGTON - David Glasgow Farragut was the U.S. Navy’s first full admiral. At the time of his death in 1870, Farragut had served a total of 59 years in uniform. 

Two separate classes of destroyers and five total U.S. Navy ships have been named in his honor.  The current USS Farragut (DDG 99) is an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer based in Mayport, Fla.

Farragut’s father, Jordi Farragut Mesquida, was a merchant mariner born in Minorca, Spain. Emigrating to the United States in 1766, he commanded a small merchant ship trading goods across the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.  

Responding to a sense of service, he declared his allegiance to the fledgling United States in 1776, anglicized his name to George Farragut, and accepted a commission as a lieutenant in the South Carolina Navy during the American Revolution.  

After the war, George and his wife, Elizabeth Shine, of Scots-Irish descent from North Carolina, moved west to Tennessee where he became a ferry captain on the Holston River and served as a cavalry officer in the state militia.  

In 1801, their son, David Glasgow Farragut was born.  At the age of eight, his mother died of yellow fever. A year later he followed his father’s example of service and the sea and took an appointment as a midshipman in the U.S. Navy and commenced his life at sea.  

A warfighter, Farragut served during the War of 1812 and commanded ships during counter-piracy operations throughout the Caribbean and during the Mexican American War. When the Civil War broke out, despite his career of service and his vocal criticism that secession was treason, superiors in the Union Navy questioned his loyalty.  

With much to prove, Farragut executed an exceptional naval campaign taking New Orleans and in follow-on battles for Vicksburg and Port Hudson.  Best known for the battle of Mobile Bay in August 1864, he was in command of a squadron of ships when one of them was struck by a mine (then referred to as “torpedoes”).  

Recognizing hesitation from his subordinate commanders, he took the bold and decisive action of placing his flagship Hartford in the lead and giving the order, “Damn the torpedoes, Full speed ahead!” His actions in the face of danger led the flotilla to victory.

Farragut’s career as a naval officer is not simply an example for sound naval tactics and determination.  Choosing not to discipline with the lash despite its popularity among other captains, he also proved that tolerance, kindness and moral courage are not disadvantages, but rather strengths to naval leadership. 
A role model for confidence in one’s self, perseverance, integrity, and loyalty, Farragut’s legacy, in words and deeds, lives on with Our One Navy Team.

More can be learned about Farragut from the Navy History and Heritage Command website 

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