David Glasgow Farragut, one of the most distinguished officers of the Federal Navy during the Civil War had a life outside his service that was equally unique and interesting.
Before seeing action as a 11-year-old midshipmen in the War of 1812, he was adopted by his commander David Porter, due to the fact his widowed father, a former Navy officer himself, was having difficulty raising five children on his own. (Originally christened James, Farragut would change his first name to David in honor of his foster father.)
The double family arrangement would lead to Civil War duty with both of his foster brothers, William David Porter and David Dixon Porter, who would also gain fame during the conflict.
Farragut would do so as a man in his early 60s, taking part in such campaigns as New Orleans, Vicksburg, Port Hudson and Mobile Bay.
Author and Farragut researcher Robert L. Caleo describes this as a “collection of articles” about the “supporting players” in Farragut’s life. Since first writing about Farragut in 1971, he has “treated his kin…, as separate research subjects.” The underlying theme is whether heroes are born or made, and Caleo takes neither side of the argument but offers the details so the reader can make their own judgment.
The title and description of the book suggests that Farragut himself is a minor character and that does the effort a slight injustice. Each chapter studies Farragut’s relationship to these “supporting players” and Farragut himself is indeed front and center in each. Plus, the Civil War chapter is the largest segment of the book.
Caleo worked previously as a technical writer and magazine editor and his expertise in both is evident as the copy is clearly written and cleanly edited. His familiarity with the Farragut story and his admiration for the protagonist shows through. Although the title might suggest that it’s supporting material for other more extensive looks at Farragut, on its own, Farragut and Family provides a solid look at the life and career of one of the Union’s foremost naval heroes.
Title: Farragut and Family: The Making of an Elder Hero
Author: Robert L. Caleo