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Turning Points In The Life Of A Hero
by [?]


David Farragut was acting as cabin boy to his father, who was on his way to New Orleans with the infant navy of the United States. The boy thought he had the qualities that make a man. “I could swear like an old salt,” he says, “could drink as stiff a glass of grog as if I had doubled Cape Horn, and could smoke like a locomotive. I was great at cards, and was fond of gambling in every shape. At the close of dinner one day,” he continues, “my father turned everybody out of the cabin, locked the door, and said to me, ‘David, what do you mean to be?’

“‘I mean to follow the sea,’ I said.

“‘Follow the sea!’ exclaimed father, ‘yes, be a poor, miserable, drunken sailor before the mast, kicked and cuffed about the world, and die in some fever hospital in a foreign clime!’

“‘No, father,’ I replied, ‘I will tread the quarterdeck, and command as you do.’

“‘No, David; no boy ever trod the quarterdeck with such principles as you have and such habits as you exhibit. You will have to change your whole course of life if you ever become a man.’

“My father left me and went on deck. I was stunned by the rebuke, and overwhelmed with mortification. ‘A poor, miserable, drunken sailor before the mast, kicked and cuffed about the world, and die in some fever hospital!’ ‘That’s my fate, is it? I’ll change my life, and I WILL CHANGE IT AT ONCE. I will never utter another oath, never drink another drop of intoxicating liquor, never gamble,’ and, as God is my witness,” said the admiral, solemnly, “I have kept these three vows to this hour.”


The event which proved David Glasgow Farragut’s qualities as a leader happened before he was thirteen.

He was with his adopted father, Captain Porter, on board the Essex, when war was declared with England in 1812. A number of prizes were captured by the Essex, and David was ordered by Captain Porter to take one of the captured vessels, with her commander as navigator, to Valparaiso. Although inwardly quailing before the violent-tempered old captain of the prize ship, of whom, as he afterward confessed, he was really “a little afraid,” the boy assumed the command with a fearless air.

On giving his first order, that the “main topsail be filled away,” the trouble began. The old captain, furious at hearing a command given aboard his vessel by a boy not yet in his teens, replied to the order, with an oath, that he would shoot any one who dared touch a rope without his orders. Having delivered this mandate, he rushed below for his pistols.

The situation was critical. If the young commander hesitated for a moment, or showed the least sign of submitting to be bullied, his authority would instantly have fallen from him. Boy as he was, David realized this, and, calling one of the crew to him, explained what had taken place, and repeated his order. With a hearty “Aye, aye, sir!” the sailor flew to the ropes, while the plucky midshipman called down to the captain that “if he came on deck with his pistols, he would be thrown overboard.”

David’s victory was complete. During the remainder of the voyage none dared dispute his authority. Indeed his coolness and promptitude had won for him the lasting admiration of the crew.


The great turning point which placed Farragut at the head of the American navy was reached in 1861, when Virginia seceded from the Union, and he had to choose between the cause of the North and that of the South. He dearly loved his native South, and said, “God forbid that I should have to raise my hand against her,” but he determined, come what would, to “stick to the flag.”