Admiral Franklin Buchanan

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Admiral Franklin Buchanan, Confederate States Navy, (1800-1874)

Admiral Franklin Buchanan.jpg
U.S. Naval Historical Center

Franklin Buchanan was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on 13 September 1800. He became a U.S. Navy Midshipman in 1815, was promoted to Lieutenant in 1825, to Commander in 1841 and to Captain in 1855. Over the four and a half decades of his U.S. Navy service, Buchanan had extensive and worldwide sea duty. He commanded the sloops of war Vincennes and Germantown during the 1840s and the steam frigate Susquehanna in the Perry expedition to Japan during the 1850s. In 1845-47, he served as the first Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, followed by notable Mexican War service. In 1859-61, Captain Buchanan was the Commandant of the Washington Navy Yard.

Believing that his native state would soon leave the Union, Buchanan resigned his commission in April 1862. When Maryland did not secede, he tried to withdraw the resignation. Rebuffed by the Navy Department, which dismissed him from the service in May, he joined the Confederate States Navy, receiving a Captain's commission in September 1861. After heading the CSN's Office of Orders and Detail, Buchanan was placed in command of the defenses of the James River, Virginia. He led the pioneer ironclad Virginia in her successful attack on the Federal warships Cumberland and Congress in Hampton Roads on 8 March 1862, but was wounded in the action and had to leave the ship before her battle with USS Monitor on the following day.

In August 1862, Buchanan was promoted to the rank of Admiral and sent to command Confederate Navy forces on Mobile Bay, Alabama. He oversaw the construction of the ironclad CSS Tennessee and was on board her during her gallant battle with Rear Admiral David Glasgow Farragut's Union fleet on 5 August 1864. Wounded and taken prisoner, Admiral Buchanan was not exchanged until February 1865. He was on convalescent leave until the Civil War ended a few months later. Following the conflict, Buchanan lived in Maryland, then was a businessman in Mobile until 1870, when he again took up residence in Maryland. He died there on 11 May 1874.

Three U.S. Navy destroyers have been named in honor of Admiral Franklin Buchanan, including Buchanan (DD-131), Buchanan (DD-484) and Buchanan (DDG-14).

Reference: Department of the Navy, Naval History & Heritage Command, 805 Kidder Breese SE, Washington Navy Yard, Washington D.C., 20374-5060

Recommended Reading: Confederate Admiral: The Life and Wars of Franklin Buchanan (Bluejacket Books) (Blue Jacket Books) [ILLUSTRATED] (Paperback). Description: A leading historian of both the Civil War and American naval history takes a fresh look at Franklin Buchanan, the U.S. Naval Academy's first superintendent who went on to become the Confederate Navy's first admiral. Buchanan's resignation from the U.S. Navy in April 1861 as the nation teetered on the brink of Civil War is one of the many dramatic episodes in this revealing biography. Convinced that his native state of Maryland was about to secede from the Union, Buchanan gave up his commission; when Maryland did not secede, he desperately tried to get it back. Continued below…

Unsuccessful, he eventually went “South,” where as the Confederacy's only full admiral he helped mold its naval strategy and took command of both the CSS Virginia (formerly USS Merrimack) in the battle of Hampton Roads in 1861 and the Tennessee in the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864. While Buchanan's Civil War experiences helped define the drama of the period, his fifty-year naval career illuminates the sweeping changes in the U.S. Navy of the antebellum years. This stimulating and authoritative biography chronicles Buchanan's life as a midshipman on the square-rigged sailing frigate Java and as a commander at the helm of the coal-burning side-wheel steamer Susquehanna. It examines his pivotal role in the establishment of the Naval Academy and his experiences both as the first American to set foot in Japan and the first to conn a U.S. Navy warship up the Yangtze River. More than a record of events in Buchanan's career, this biography helps readers understand Buchanan's character and appreciate the broader issues of politics, slavery, loyalty, and professionalism in the era of America's greatest national trauma.

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Recommended Reading: A History of the Confederate Navy (Hardcover). From Publishers Weekly: One of the most prominent European scholars of the Civil War weighs in with a provocative revisionist study of the Confederacy's naval policies. For 27 years, University of Genoa history professor Luraghi (The Rise and Fall of the Plantation South) explored archival and monographic sources on both sides of the Atlantic to develop a convincing argument that the deadliest maritime threat to the South was not, as commonly thought, the Union's blockade but the North's amphibious and river operations. Confederate Navy Secretary Stephen Mallory, the author shows, thus focused on protecting the Confederacy's inland waterways and controlling the harbors vital for military imports. Continued below…

As a result, from Vicksburg to Savannah to Richmond, major Confederate ports ultimately were captured from the land and not from the sea, despite the North's overwhelming naval strength. Luraghi highlights the South's ingenuity in inventing and employing new technologies: the ironclad, the submarine, the torpedo. He establishes, however, that these innovations were the brainchildren of only a few men, whose work, although brilliant, couldn't match the resources and might of a major industrial power like the Union. Nor did the Confederate Navy, weakened through Mallory's administrative inefficiency, compensate with an effective command system. Enhanced by a translation that retains the verve of the original, Luraghi's study is a notable addition to Civil War maritime history. Includes numerous photos.

 

Recommended Reading: Civil War Navies, 1855-1883 (The U.S. Navy Warship Series) (Hardcover). Description: Civil War Warships, 1855-1883 is the second in the five-volume US Navy Warships encyclopedia set. This valuable reference lists the ships of the U.S. Navy and Confederate Navy during the Civil War and the years immediately following - a significant period in the evolution of warships, the use of steam propulsion, and the development of ordnance. Civil War Warships provides a wealth and variety of material not found in other books on the subject and will save the reader the effort needed to track down information in multiple sources. Continued below…

Each ship's size and time and place of construction are listed along with particulars of naval service. The author provides historical details that include actions fought, damage sustained, prizes taken, ships sunk, and dates in and out of commission as well as information about when the ship left the Navy, names used in other services, and its ultimate fate. 140 photographs, including one of the Confederate cruiser Alabama recently uncovered by the author further contribute to this indispensable volume. This definitive record of Civil War ships updates the author's previous work and will find a lasting place among naval reference works.

 

Recommended Reading: Naval Campaigns of the Civil War. Description: This analysis of naval engagements during the War Between the States presents the action from the efforts at Fort Sumter during the secession of South Carolina in 1860, through the battles in the Gulf of Mexico, on the Mississippi River, and along the eastern seaboard, to the final attack at Fort Fisher on the coast of North Carolina in January 1865. This work provides an understanding of the maritime problems facing both sides at the beginning of the war, their efforts to overcome these problems, and their attempts, both triumphant and tragic, to control the waterways of the South. The Union blockade, Confederate privateers and commerce raiders are discussed, as is the famous battle between the Monitor and the Merrimack. Continued below…

An overview of the events in the early months preceding the outbreak of the war is presented. The chronological arrangement of the campaigns allows for ready reference regarding a single event or an entire series of campaigns. Maps and an index are also included. About the Author: Paul Calore, a graduate of Johnson and Wales University, was the Operations Branch Chief with the Defense Logistics Agency of the Department of Defense before retiring. He is a supporting member of the U.S. Civil War Center and the Civil War Preservation Trust and has also written Land Campaigns of the Civil War (2000). He lives in Seekonk, Massachusetts.

 

Recommended Reading: Confederate Ironclad vs Union Ironclad: Hampton Roads 1862 (Duel). Description: The Ironclad was a revolutionary weapon of war. Although iron was used for protection in the Far East during the 16th century, it was the 19th century and the American Civil War that heralded the first modern armored self-propelled warships. With the parallel pressures of civil war and the industrial revolution, technology advanced at a breakneck speed. It was the South who first utilized ironclads as they attempted to protect their ports from the Northern blockade. Impressed with their superior resistance to fire and their ability to ram vulnerable wooden ships, the North began to develop its own rival fleet of ironclads. Eventually these two products of this first modern arms race dueled at the battle of Hampton Roads in a clash that would change the face of naval warfare. Continued below…

Fully illustrated with cutting-edge digital artwork, rare photographs and first-person perspective gun sight views, this book allows the reader to discover the revolutionary and radically different designs of the two rival Ironclads - the CSS Virginia and USS Monitor - through an analysis of each ship's weaponry, ammunition and steerage. Compare the contrasting training of the crews and re-live the horrors of the battle at sea in a war which split a nation, communities and even families. About the Author: Ron Field is Head of History at the Cotswold School in Bourton-on-the-Water. He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in 1982 and taught history at Piedmont High School in California from 1982 to 1983. He was associate editor of the Confederate Historical Society of Great Britain, from 1983 to 1992. He is an internationally acknowledged expert on US Civil War military history, and was elected a Fellow of the Company of Military Historians, based in Washington, DC, in 2005. The author lives in Cheltenham, UK.

 

Recommended Reading: A History of Ironclads: The Power of Iron over Wood. Description: This landmark book documents the dramatic history of Civil War ironclads and reveals how ironclad warships revolutionized naval warfare. Author John V. Quarstein explores in depth the impact of ironclads during the Civil War and their colossal effect on naval history. The Battle of Hampton Roads was one of history's greatest naval engagements. Over the course of two days in March 1862, this Civil War conflict decided the fate of all the world's navies. It was the first battle between ironclad warships, and the 25,000 sailors, soldiers and civilians who witnessed the battle vividly understood what history would soon confirm: wars waged on the seas would never be the same. Continued below…

About the Author: John V. Quarstein is an award-winning author and historian. He is director of the Virginia War Museum in Newport News and chief historical advisor for The Mariners' Museum's new USS Monitor Center (opened March 2007). Quarstein has authored eleven books and dozens of articles on American, military and Civil War history, and has appeared in documentaries for PBS, BBC, The History Channel and Discovery Channel.

 

Recommended Reading: Lincoln and His Admirals (Hardcover). Description: Abraham Lincoln began his presidency admitting that he knew "little about ships," but he quickly came to preside over the largest national armada to that time, not eclipsed until World War I. Written by prize-winning historian Craig L. Symonds, Lincoln and His Admirals unveils an aspect of Lincoln's presidency unexamined by historians until now, revealing how he managed the men who ran the naval side of the Civil War, and how the activities of the Union Navy ultimately affected the course of history. Continued below…

Beginning with a gripping account of the attempt to re-supply Fort Sumter--a comedy of errors that shows all too clearly the fledgling president's inexperience--Symonds traces Lincoln's steady growth as a wartime commander-in-chief. Absent a Secretary of Defense, he would eventually become de facto commander of joint operations along the coast and on the rivers. That involved dealing with the men who ran the Navy: the loyal but often cranky Navy Secretary Gideon Welles, the quiet and reliable David G. Farragut, the flamboyant and unpredictable Charles Wilkes, the ambitious ordnance expert John Dahlgren, the well-connected Samuel Phillips Lee, and the self-promoting and gregarious David Dixon Porter. Lincoln was remarkably patient; he often postponed critical decisions until the momentum of events made the consequences of those decisions evident. But Symonds also shows that Lincoln could act decisively. Disappointed by the lethargy of his senior naval officers on the scene, he stepped in and personally directed an amphibious assault on the Virginia coast, a successful operation that led to the capture of Norfolk. The man who knew "little about ships" had transformed himself into one of the greatest naval strategists of his age. A unique and riveting portrait of Lincoln and the admirals under his command, this book offers an illuminating account of Lincoln and the nation at war. In the bicentennial year of Lincoln's birth, it offers a memorable portrait of a side of his presidency often overlooked by historians.

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