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THREE LETTERS CONCERNING A DISPUTED FACT.
The description of the battle of Mobile bay, given in the Life and Letters of Admiral D. G. Farragut, should have put an end to the long controversy respecting the “lashing to the mast.” The discussion has, however, been again revived in several of the public journals, and articles have appeared to prove, on the one hand, that the admiral was not lashed at all to the Hartford's rigging, and, on the other, that he was securely bound to the futtock shrouds on going into the action. The following letters furnished the Institute by Loyall Farragut Esq., will, it it is trusted, forever settle the hitherto moot question, Originally raised on the exhibition of a painting by Page, representing the position of the admiral during the passage of the forts. The first communication is from an old man-of-war’s-man who served all through the war with Admiral Farragut, and reads as follows:—
U. S. Str. PHLox, NAVAL ACADEMY, ANNAPOLIS, MD.
- MARCH 2, 1880. MR. LOYALL FARRAGUT,
Sir :-I see that you have written a life of your father, and that some of the newspapers say that the admiral was not lashed to the Hartford’s rigging during the Mobile fight.* * * * Now, as I was chief quartermaster of the Hartford, and the man that lashed the admiral to the rigging, I Ought to know something about it.
When we got close to the forts, I heard Mr. Kimberly, the executive officer, tell Mr. Watson, our flag lieutenant, to have a rope passed around the admiral. I was at the time busy with some signal flags for the monitors. Mr. Watson ordered me to go up in the port main rigging, where the admiral was, and put a rope around him. I cut off a fathom or two from a new lead line, which was lying on the deck; went up the ratlines to where the admiral was standing with opera glasses in his hands—just under the futtock shrouds, and made the forward end of the line fast. As I took the other end around the admiral he passed the remark that the rope was not necessary; but I went on and made the after end secure. I don’t think he noticed the rope around him, as we were square abreast of fort Morgan ; and it was pretty hot work. But when the ship got clear of the forts the
admiral had to cast the rope adrift before he could come down. Mr. Freeman * was all this time in the main-top, and possibly did not see me come up to lash the admiral. * * * * * * Very Respectfully, JOHN H. KNOWLEs, Quartermaster U. S. Str. Phlox, and late chief quartermaster of U. S. Flag-ship, Hartford.
I certify the above statement is true,
The testimony of Commander J. C. Watson is equally positive, and shows that, though the admiral was in the mizzen rigging during the attack on the Tennessee, he was in the main rigging during the earlier part of the engagement. Commander Watson, writes as follows, to Mr. Meredith, who was on board the Hartford but having been between decks during the action requested an open letter on the subject of controversy. i
MARE ISLAND, CAL., FEB'Y. 20, 1877 . MR. WILLIAM T. MEREDITH, CARE WILLIAM T. MEREDITH & Co. 37 William Street, New York City.
My dear Meredith :—I will gladly tell you how Admiral Farragut was lashed in the rigging of his flag-ship, the Hartford, during the “Bay Fight.”
When the battle of Mobile bay began—with the firing of a shell from the monitor Tecumseh–shortly before seven o’clock, on the morning of August 5, 1864, Admiral Farragut, who you well know was as quick and active as the youngest lad on board, was standing in the port main rigging of the Hartford. As the smoke increased and obscured his view he went up the rigging, step by step, until he found himself partly above the futtock band and leaning against one of the futtock shrouds, where he remained until the fleet succeeded in entering the bay in the wake of his flag ship. While he was there Captain Drayton sent a quartermaster up with a hammock lashing, or piece of small rope, and a request to the admiral to allow it to be passed around him and secured to the rigging. After some little hesitation, or objection, Admiral Farragut took the rope and caught sev
* Freeman was the pilot on board the Hartford, and has held, in several letters published by him, that the admiral was not lashed.
eral turns around his body and the shrouds, admitting that it was a sensible precaution. When the smoke cleared away, and there was no longer any reason for his being there, he came down, and was on the poop deck when the Tennessee followed up our fleet; and when the Hartford rammed the Tennessee he was standing in the port mizzen rigging, to which I secured him with a lashing passed with my own hands, to prevent his being thrown out of that rigging by the shock of the collision, or by a bullet wound, having first begged him not to stand there. a
I was, you know, his flag lieutenant, and in direct communication with him during the battle, receiving orders from and conversing with him during the whole action. Lieutenant-commander A. R. Yates, acted as his aid in carrying orders. Hoping this is a satisfactory answer to your letter I remain your friend,
J. CRITTENDEN WATSON,
Finally the following extract from a letter—of which Mr. Farragut possesses the Original—fully substantiates all the statements previously cited. It was recently discovered among the admiral’s papers, and was evidently written in answer to a request, made by his wife, for particulars in regard to the affair.
MOBILE BAY, SEPT. 25, 1864.
* * * * I told you that Watson brought the rope to tie myself in the rigging; so he did, but Drayton sent one up by the quartermaster When I was up in the main rigging. I was so much interested in what was going on around me that I hardly noticed it, but took it mechanically and fastened it to the shrouds and around myself. * * * * * D. G. FARRAGUT.
To quote the words of one who was for many years associated with the admiral, both personally and officially—
“So far as the results of that great battle (Mobile bay) are concerned, the actual position of the heroic commander may be considered of little consequence; but as the truth of stirring incidents depends upon authenticated evidence it becomes sufficiently important to verify them by personal statements.”