Lest We Forget

By Lieutenant Commander Thomas J. Cutler, U.S. Navy (Retired)

Misfortunes seemed to crowd the old ship and it looked that only a miracle could save her. We were hard aground, the engines backing with all their power, and could not relieve her, in flames from water to masthead from the fire raft, the cabin ablaze from an exploded shell, and the ship the center of a terrible storm of shot and shell, the crew in a death struggle with the flames, heat and smoke, the latter at times so thick that we were compelled to grope our way while connecting the hose.

Firing broadsides all the while, the Hartford's crew eventually subdued the flames and finally freed the ship from the mud. A lesser man might have seen this as a reprieve and abandoned the hazardous mission, but Farragut pressed on. "The passing of the forts . . . was one of the most awful sights and events I ever saw or expect to experience," he later reported. "The smoke was so dense that it was only now and then you could see anything but the flash of the cannon and the fireships."

Despite the heavy fire from the forts and numerous attacks by Confederate ships, the Union force successfully passed the forts and continued upriver to New Orleans, where Farragut dropped anchor on the morning of 25 April 1862 and demanded the surrender of the city. Even though the Federal troops had not yet arrived, the high tide caused the powerful Union naval force to look down on the city, and the civil authorities were sufficiently intimidated to surrender. The North was jubilant at the capture of the busiest port in the South, and three months later, when Congress established the grade of rear admiral, David Farragut was the first to be promoted to the new rank.

Lieutenant Commander Cutler is the author of several books, including A Sailor's History of the U.S. Navy and Brown Water, Black Berets.
 

Thomas J. Cutler is a retired lieutenant commander and former gunner's mate second class who served in patrol craft, cruisers, destroyers, and aircraft carriers. His varied assignments included an in-country Vietnam tour, small craft command, and nine years at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he served as Executive Assistant to the Chairman of the Seamanship & Navigation Department and Associate Chairman of the History Department. While at the Academy, he was awarded the William P. Clements Award for Excellence in Education (military teacher of the year).

He is the founder and former Director of the Walbrook Maritime Academy in Baltimore. Currently he is Fleet Professor of Strategy and Policy with the Naval War College and is the Director of Professional Publishing at the U.S. Naval Institute.

Winner of the Alfred Thayer Mahan Award for Naval Literature, the U.S. Naval Institute Press Author of the Year, and the U.S. Maritime Literature Award, his published works include NavCivGuide: A Handbook for Civilians in the U.S. Navy; A Sailor's History of the U.S. Navy [one of the books in the Chief of Naval Operations Reading Program]; The Battle of Leyte Gulf; Brown Water, Black Berets: Coastal & Riverine Warfare in Vietnam; and the 22nd, 23rd (Centennial), and 24th editions of The Bluejacket's Manual. His other works include revisions of Jack Sweetman's The Illustrated History of the U.S. Naval Academy and Dutton's Nautical Navigation. He and his wife, Deborah W. Cutler, are the co-editors of the Dictionary of Naval Terms and the Dictionary of Naval Abbreviations.

His books have been published in various forms, including paperback and audio, and have appeared as main and alternate selections of the History Book Club, Military Book Club, and Book of the Month Club. He has served as a panelist, commentator, and keynote speaker on military and writing topics at many events and for various organizations, including the Naval History and Heritage Command, Smithsonian Institution, the Navy Memorial, U.S. Naval Academy, MacArthur Memorial Foundation, Johns Hopkins University, U.S. Naval Institute, Armed Forces Electronics Communications and Electronics Association, Naval War College, Civitan, and many veterans' organizations. His television appearances include the History Channel's Biography series, A&E's Our Century, Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor, and CBS's 48 Hours.

More by this Author

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12:30pm, “Shifley Lecture Series,” U.S. Naval Academy Museum, 118 Maryland Ave., Annapolis, MD /... Read More

 
 

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