|Sailors at the helm of the USS Hartford, probably taken after the battle. Naval History and Heritage Command.|
After the surrender of the Tennessee, Cdr. William E. Le Roy, captain of the USS Ossipee, lay alongside the stricken Confederate ironclad and called out to his good friend, CSN Cdr. James D. Johnston, to come aboard for some cold water and “something better than that for you down below.” Interestingly, Farragut himself did not go aboard the Tennessee to accept Buchanan’s surrender. He sent Acting Volunteer Lt. Pierre Giraud to take possession of the Admiral’s sword, and subsequently sent Fleet Surgeon Palmer aboard to assist CSN Surgeon Conrad in caring for Buchanan and the other wounded. Although Farragut and Buchanan had served together aboard USN warships, and knew each other, the relationship was purely professional and a friendship between the two had never developed. Buchanan was sent to Pensacola to recuperate, despite Confederate Gen. Page’s request that he be sent to Mobile.
Losses on the Confederate side were remarkably light, considering the overwhelming superiority of the Union in terms of number of guns. Twelve Confederate sailors were killed (most on the other gunboats, only two on the Tennessee), and 20 wounded, although every Confederate warship was lost (sunk or captured). The “butcher’s bill” on the Union side was quite a bit more severe; 93 men lost when the Tecumseh went down, and Farragut reported 52 of his sailors killed and 170 wounded on the other ships. Landsman John Lawson, an African American sailor on the Hartford serving on a gun crew, received the Medal of Honor authorized by the US Congress (now called the “Congressional Medal of Honor”) for his gallantry during the action.
|View of the Union fleet from Ft. Morgan after capture. Alabama Historical Society.|
Much legend has accumulated over what Farragut actually said in the early stages of the battle, as things appeared to deteriorate after the loss of the monitor Tecumseh. An article in the most recent Naval History magazine analyzes this in detail based on “ear-witness” accounts. It appears obvious that he made a statement that struck a chord with those around him. No matter what exactly he said, I think we have to acknowledge that it ranks right up there with other legendary statements in U.S. Navy history, including John Paul Jones’ “Sir, I have not yet begun to fight.” and George Dewey’s “You may fire when you are ready, Gridley.”
|U.S. Navy recruiting poster from WW I, showing Farragut and his famous order. Wikipedia/U.S. Navy archives.|