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Rededication of Memorial Statue to Admiral Farragut


Memorial to 1864 Naval Hero Rededicated
By Linda Wheeler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 9, 1997; Page J01
The Washington Post

The Civil War naval commander who bellowed, "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!" and then proceeded to win a strategic battle on the Mississippi River was honored at a rededication of his statue as part of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Adm. David Glasgow Farragut, who gave his famous order in 1864, was memorialized initially on April 25, 1881, when a 10-foot-high likeness was dedicated by President Garfield before a cheering crowd of about 3,000. They included the Capital City Guards, a unit of African American soldiers representing the city.

Last week's rededication ceremony, attended by several hundred people, opened with the U.S. Navy Band playing the Spanish and U.S. anthems as naval officers and the ambassador of Spain stood on a stage decorated with red, white and blue bunting. Behind them, the bronze statue of Farragut holding a telescope and looking out to sea shone with a new coat of wax.

Ambassador Antonio de Oyarzabal said Farragut's father, Jose Farragut, "came from Spain to fight in the war that created this country. . . . We are very honored by his role in the birth of the United States."

Others spoke of how David Farragut, who was adopted by U.S. naval officer David Porter after his mother died, went to sea in 1810 at age 9. Four years later, he was actively involved in the War of 1812 and was captured by the British.

He stayed in the Navy, fought in the Mexican War and, at the outbreak of the Civil War, accepted command of the naval forces sent to control the Mississippi River. He took New Orleans and other ports before the day he issued his famous order. On Aug. 5, 1864, he and his sailors saw the lead ship of his squadron ex- plode when it hit a mine in Mobile Bay. He yelled his order, his men obeyed, and they seized the iron-clad ship Tennessee and nearby forts, effectively cutting off the food supply to the Confederacy from the West.

He was rewarded with the rank of admiral by an admiring Congress that created the rank for him. When he died in 1870, his widow commissioned a statue in his honor. She hired a celebrated female sculptor, Vinnie Ream Hoxie, whose studio was at 235 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.

The bronze propeller of the U.S.S. Hartford, the ship Farragut commanded during the Civil War, was melted down to make the statue. The admiral stands on a ship's deck, his right foot on a capstan and his telescope ready in his hands as he watches a naval engagement. Four mortars, also cast from the propeller, guard the statue atop its granite pedestal.

When the statue was first dedicated, the Civil War was less than 20 years past, and many who attended the ceremony had participat ed in it. The Washington Post noted in the front page story the next day that the statue had been finished just in time for the ceremony and that it was wrapped in an American flag and encir- cled with wreaths.

"The background, look which way one might, was a vista of hand somely decorated residences. Windows, from parlor to attic, were curtained with the National colors, and contained living pictures of beauty in face and costume . . . [and] silken banners flaunted over many roofs, where chairs, and sofas even, had been arranged as furniture for points of observation."

Today, the park, which is two blocks north of the White House, is bordered by office buildings.

Garfield, in dedicating the first Civil War memorial in the city, predicted correctly that Washington would one day be filled with national monuments to heroes and wars.

"As the years pass on, these squares and public places will be rendered more and more populous, more and more eloquently by the presence of the heroes of other days," he said. "Today we come to hail this hero, who comes from the sea, down from the shrouds of his flagship, wreathed with the smoke and glory of victory . . . to take his place as our honored compatriot, and a perpetual guardian of his country's glory."

The organizers of last week's ceremony, the Naval Order of the United States, gave the National Park Service a full-color, engraved metal plaque that will be displayed near the statue in the federal park. Called an "information wayside" by the Park Service, the plaque details Farragut's life and wartime service.

Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company