Academic journal article Parameters

Farragut's "Damn the Torpedoes!"

Academic journal article Parameters

Farragut's "Damn the Torpedoes!"

Article excerpt

On the morning of 5 August 1864, a flotilla of Union warships was preparing to enter and attack Confederate naval and artillery defenses at Mobile Bay, Alabama. Union ships, commanded by David G. Farragut, exchanged fire with Confederate shore cannon and gunboats. To better see above the heavy gunsmoke, Farragut climbed into the rigging of USS Hartford and was lashed to a shroud with a leadline to prevent falling to the deck below. The first ship to enter the harbor struck a tethered mine (called a torpedo in the 1860s), and sunk. The other ships cautiously slowed their advance. Farragut asked, "What is the trouble?"

Shouted through a trumpet was the reply "Torpedoes!"

"Damn the torpedoes!" Farragut exclaimed, followed by either "Full steam ahead!" or "Full speed ahead!" (Indeed, at least one source suggests his words were "Full sail ahead!") His ship then took the lead in steaming through the minefield, sustaining damage from Confederate guns but none from "torpe does." The Federal Navy then fought and defeated the Confederates at Mobile Bay, cutting off a key Southern supply route. …

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