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Bible Encyclopedias

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

David Dixon Porter

DAVID DIXON PORTER (1813-1891), American naval officer, son of Captain David Porter, was born in Chester, Pennsylvania, on the 8th of June 1813. His first voyage, with his father 1 While he was in New Orleans he adopted David Farragut, who later served with him on the "Essex." in West Indian waters in 1823-1824, was terminated by the Fajardo affair (see Porter, David). In April 1826 he entered the Mexican navy, of which his father was commander-in-chief, and which he left in 1828, after the capture by the Spanish of the "Guerrero," on which he was serving under his cousin, David H. Porter (1804-1828), who was killed before the ship's surrender. He became a midshipman in the United States navy in 1829, and was in the coast survey in 1836-1842. In 1839 he married the daughter of Captain Daniel Tod Patterson (1786-1839), then commandant of the Washington navy-yard. Porter became a lieutenant in February 1841; served at the naval observatory in 1845-184.6; in 1846 he was sent to the Dominican Republic to report on conditions there. During the Mexican War he served, from February to June 1847, as lieutenant and then as commanding officer of the "Spitfire," a paddle vessel built for use on the rivers, and took part in the bombardment of Vera Cruz and in the other naval operations under Commander M. C. Perry. From the close of the Mexican War to the beginning of the Civil War he had little but detail duty; in 1855 and again in 1856 he made trips to the Mediterranean to bring to the United States camels for army use in the south-west. In April 1861 he was assigned to the "Powhatan," and was sent under secret orders from the president for the relief of Fort Pickens, Pensacola, an expedition which he had urged. Porter was promoted commander on the 22nd of April, and on the 30th of May was sent to blockade the South-West Pass of the Mississippi. In August he left the gulf in a fruitless search for the Confederate cruiser "Sumter." Upon his return to New York in November he urged an expedition against New Orleans, and recommended the appointment of Commander D. G. Farragut, his foster-brother, to the chief command. In the expedition Porter himself commanded the mortar flotilla, which, when Farragut's fleet passed the forts on the early morning of the 24th of April 1862, covered its passage by a terrific bombardment that neutralized the fire of Fort Jackson. At Vicksburg Porter's bombardment assisted Farragut to run past the forts (June 28). On the 9th of July Porter was ordered, with ten mortar boats, to the James river, where. McClellan's army was concentrated. On the 15th of October he took command of the gun-vessels which had been built on the upper waters of the Mississippi, and to which he made important additions at an improvised navy-yard at Mound City, Illinois. With this he took part in the capture of Arkansas Post on the firth of January 1863. In the operations for the capture of Vicksburg in 1863 unsuccessful attempts were made in February and March by Porter's vessels to penetrate through connecting streams and bayous to the Yazoo river and reach the right rear of the Confederate defences on the bluffs. But in May the fleet ran past the Vicksburg batteries, mastered the Confederate forts at Grand Gulf, and made it possible for Grant's army to undertake the brilliant campaign which led to the fall of the place (see American Civil War and Vicksburg). Porter received the thanks of Congress for "opening the Mississippi River" and was promoted rear-admiral. He co-operated with Major-General N. P. Banks in the Red River expeditions in March-May 1864, in which his gun-boats, held above Alexandria by shallow water and rapids, narrowly escaped isolation, being enabled to return only by the help of a dam built by Lieut.-Colonel (BrigadierGeneral) Joseph Bailey (1827-1867). On the 12th of October 1864 he assumed command of the North Atlantic blockading squadron, then about to engage in a combined military and naval expedition against Fort Fisher, North Carolina. Porter claimed

that his guns silenced Fort Fisher, but Major-General B. F. Butler, in command of the land forces, refused to assault, asserting that the fort was practically intact. After Butler's removal, Porter, co-operating with Major-General Alfred H. Terry, and commanding the largest fleet assembled at any one point during the war, took the fort on the 15th of January 1865; for this he again received the thanks of Congress. From 1865 to 1869 he was superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, which he greatly improved; his most notable change being the introduction of athletics. On the 25th of July he became vice-admiral. From the 9th of March to the 25th of June 1869, while Adolph E. Borie (1809-1880), of Pennsylvania, was secretary of the navy in President Grant's cabinet, Porter was virtually in charge of the navy department. In 1870 he succeeded Farragut in the grade of admiral, which lapsed after Porter's death until 1899, when it was re-established to reward Rear-Admiral George Dewey for his victory at Manila. Porter urged the reconstruction of the navy, which he saw begun in 1882. He died in Washington, D.C., on the 13th of February 1891.

Porter wrote a Life of Commodore David Porter (1875), gossipy Incidents and Anecdotes of the Civil War (1885), a none too accurate History of the Navy during the War of the Rebellion (1887), two novels, Allan Dare and Robert le Diable (1885; dramatized, 1887) and Harry Marline (1886), and a short "Romance of Gettysburg," published in The Criterion in 1903. See J. R. Soley, Admiral Porter (New York, 1903) in the "Great Commanders" Series.

Admiral Porter's three brothers were in the service of the United States: William David Porter (1809-1864) entered the navy in 1823, commanded the "Essex" on the Tennessee and the Mississippi in the Civil War, and became commodore in July 1862; Theodoric Henry Porter (1817-1846) was the first officer of the American army killed in the Mexican War; and Henry Ogden Porter (1823-1872) resigned from the United States navy in 1847, after seven years' service, fought under William Walker in Central America, returned to the American navy, was executive officer of the "Hatteras" when she was sunk by the "Alabama," and received wounds in the action from the effects of which he died several years later.

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'David Dixon Porter'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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