Total War: March to September 1864

From Dalton to Atlanta

What famous painting depicts Farragut at the point when history says he shouted, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead”?

Amagnificent painting, executed by William Heysham Overend, depicts Farragut and the crew of the USS Hartford on the morning of August 5, 1864. Seven federal naval officers stand, point, and peer at the enemy, while nearly twenty federal sailors, including one very muscular black man (who has a gold neckerchief on his head), handle the massive cannon that are firing at the Confederates. Admiral Farragut stands grandly atop the scene, leaning with his right arm to one of the ratlines. He looks unconcerned even though the battle is approaching its climax, and the sea is riddled with mines (then called torpedoes).

While the painting naturally takes some artistic liberties, it is not that far from the truth. There were African American sailors in the Union Navy long before there were any black regiments ashore, and the separation between officers and men—as shown in the painting—was a fact of life in nineteenth-century navies. Very likely, Farragut was not standing so unrestrained as in the painting; several reports claim that he ordered his men to tie him into the ratlines so he could watch the battle without being concerned about his footing.


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