Jane Phillips: A son’s rise to greatness
Near the Neuse River at Kinston Elizabeth was born the fifth of eight children to Eleanor McIver and John Shine on June 7, 1765. John was one of the founders of Kinston. When Richard Caswell laid out the street plans for Kinston, one of those streets was named Shine in John’s honor.
The Shine family was very prominent during that time period. John and his brother served as high ranking officers in the North Carolina Militia. It was the Shine family that hosted President George Washington near Comfort in Jones County when he made his Southern Tour.
Elizabeth grew up during a period of civil unrest. Resentment was taking place against the King’s taxation and revolution would soon be upon them. Exposed early to colonial struggles against oppression she grew into a hardy woman that would be able to handle the challenges that she would later face on the Tennessee frontier.
A young Spaniard, Gorge Farragut arrived in North Carolina in 1776 during the midst of the American Revolution. He anglicized his name Gorge to James. He soon found himself joining up with the Patriot’s Army and as the years passed, he rose through the ranks to Major.
This charming man met a young lady from Kinston. Her name was Elizabeth Shine. In 1795 they were married and soon after moved to Tennessee. In Tennessee the Farragut’s lived in a log house with rifle slots to defend themselves against Indians.
In later years one of her sons, David recalled, he was about five years old his father was away from home on business. His brave and courageous mother had seen marauding Indians in the area; she hid her children in the loft of the barn and cautioned them to remain quiet. Standing strong she conversed with the Indians who were looking whisky. After a while they left much to her relief. She went and gathered her children in her arms. David Farragut never forgot that frightening time.
Later they moved to the Gulf Coast and then to New Orleans where James became a seaman and made good friends amongst his fellow naval officers. During this time, they prospered and had five children. In 1808 Elizabeth fell victim to a yellow fever epidemic and died leaving her husband with the children to care for. James’s own health was not what it once was and caring for all the children was more than he could handle.
Close friend Captain David Porter stepped up and offered to take care of one of the boys and raise him. It was his son James that asked for Capt. Porter to become his guardian and he took the name David and dropped James.
Thus, began the naval career of the 9-year-old boy. He received his “baptism of fire” under Captain David Porter during the War of 1812 when he was a midshipman at only 13 years old. He had many naval adventures while serving with Capt. Porter.
The coming years would pave a path for one of the greatest naval officers in American history. By the time of the American Civil War in 1861, Farragut had already proven his ability repeatedly.
He was to receive great acclaim for his service to the Union during this War (1861-65).
Farragut commanded the Union blockade of Southern ports, helped capture the Confederate city of New Orleans and provided support for General Ulysses S. Grant’s siege of Vicksburg.
Farragut’s greatest fame came from the August 5, 1864 Battle of Mobile Bay. The Confederates had placed many “torpedoes” in the waters. The monitor USS Tecumseh struck a torpedo and began to sink, causing the rest of the fleet to back away from the mine-infested waters.
At the time, Farragut was watching the battle while lashed to the rigging of his flagship (USS Hartford). Alarmed, Farragut shouted, “What’s the trouble?” The USS Brooklyn answered, “Torpedoes!” Farragut shouted back, “Damn the torpedoes! Four Bells! Captain Drayton, go ahead full speed!” In the end, Farragut’s fleet defeated Confederates and the last open seaport on the Gulf of Mexico fell to the Union.
He was the flag officer of the United States Navy but after Mobile Bay his country honored him by creating for him the rank of rear admiral on July 16, 1862, a rank never before used in the US Navy. In 1866 after the war he was made a full admiral.
Admiral Farragut stayed on active duty for the remainder of his life and died in 1870 at the Naval base at Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York (Farragut’s grave has been designated as a national historic site).
In Washington, D.C. walk north of the White House along Connecticut Avenue till you come to Farragut Square and see a statue of a man looking out over the horizon. This is America's first admiral, David Farragut. Here respect is paid to a man who in a lifetime of service beginning at the age of nine represented American ideals of bravery, loyalty and honor.
Respected even by his foes, David Farragut fought with integrity for the continued existence of the United States of America. His contributions on the water matched those of Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant on land during the Civil War. Largely forgotten today, his service is remembered here in the nation's capital.
Elisabeth Shine, who once walked the streets of Kinston would have been so proud of her son, ADMIRAL DAVID GLASGOW FARRAGUT, an American hero.