Friday, April 29, 2016

A classic cover from The Literary Digest: March 1, 1919

"Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!"

It’s time for a pop quiz on history, but don’t worry. There’s only one question, and I’ll give you the answer. 

We’re all familiar with this famous line: “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” But who said it? Actually, no one, at least not using those precise words. Yet David Farragut, a Union naval officer during the Civil War, came damn close. 

It's worth noting that, on this date in 1862, a force under Farragut’s command captured the city and port of New Orleans. But that’s not when he uttered his famous line, or a version thereof. That happened in August 1864, as Farragut’s fleet of armored monitors and wooden ships entered rebel-held Mobile Bay, Alabama. 

When the lead monitor Tecumseh was demolished by a Confederate mine (also known as a torpedo back then), the Union ship Brooklyn came to a stop. That sent the line of Union ships drifting toward Confederate Fort Morgan, according to the web site of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

As disaster seemed imminent, Farragut, who was lashed to the rigging of his flagship, Hartford, gave the order for which he is now famous. He took his ship over the remaining mines, which did not explode. Most of the fleet followed.

Union forces then defeated the Confederate squadron of Franklin Buchanan. Three rebel forts surrendered and the Union controlled Mobile. 

So just what did Farragut say at that crucial moment after the Tecumseh was destroyed and the fleet hesitated? According to his son, who published The Life of David Glasgow Farragut, First Admiral of the United States Navy in 1879, Farragut addressed two of his subordinate officers this way: "Damn the torpedoes! Four bells! Captain Crayton, go ahead! Joucett, full speed!"

And now, a few words from . . . Maimonides

Truth does not become more true by virtue of the fact that the whole world agrees with it, nor less so even if the whole world disagrees with it.

Editorial cartoonists: keeping the legacy of Thomas Nast alive

by Jeff Danziger