David Porter (naval officer)

David Porter (naval officer)
David Porter
David Porter.jpg
Porter as a captain in the American Navy.
Born February 1, 1780
Died March 3, 1843
Allegiance United States United States
Mexico Mexico
Service/branch United States Navy
Mexican Navy
Years of service United States: 1799–1825
Mexico: 1826–1829
Rank Commodore
Commands held New Orleans Squadron
USS Essex
West Indies Squadron

Quasi War

  • USS Constellation vs L'Insurgente
  • Action of 1 January 1800

First Barbary War

War of 1812

West Indies Anti-Piracy Operations
For the American Civil War naval figure, see David Dixon Porter, for other persons see David Porter (disambiguation).

David Porter (February 1, 1780 – March 3, 1843) was an officer in the United States Navy in a rank of commodore and later the commander-in-chief of the Mexican Navy.



Born at Boston, Massachusetts, Porter served in the Quasi-War with France first as midshipman on board USS Constellation, participating in the capture of L’Insurgente February 9, 1799; secondly, as 1st lieutenant of Experiment and later in command of USS Amphitheatre.[1] During the Barbary Wars (1801–07) Porter was 1st lieutenant of Enterprise, New York and Philadelphia and was taken prisoner when Philadelphia ran aground in Tripoli harbor October 31, 1803. After his release on June 3, 1805, he remained in the Mediterranean as acting captain of USS Constitution and later captain of Enterprise.

He was in charge of the naval forces at New Orleans 1808–10. As commander of USS Essex (1799) in the War of 1812, Captain Porter achieved fame by capturing the first British warship of the conflict, Cape Horn and cruised in the Pacific warring on British whalers. On March 28, 1814 Porter was forced to surrender to Captain James Hillyar off Valparaíso after an engagement with the frigate HMS Phoebe and the sloop Cherub (1806), when his ship became too disabled to offer any resistance.

From 1815 to 1822, he was a member of the Board of Navy Commissioners but gave up this post to command the expedition for suppressing piracy in the West Indies 1823–25. While in the West Indies suppressing piracy, Porter invaded the town of Fajardo, Puerto Rico (a Spanish colony) to avenge the jailing of an officer from his fleet. The American government did not sanction Porter's act, and he was court-martialed upon his return to the U.S.[2] Porter resigned and in 1826 entered the Mexican Navy as its commander-in-chief 1826–29. He left the Mexican service in 1829 and was appointed United States Minister to the Barbary States. He died on March 3, 1843 while serving as United States Ambassador to Turkey. He was buried in the cemetery of the Philadelphia Naval Asylum, and then in 1845 reburied in the Woodlands Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Portersville was named after him, and henceafterwards renamed "Valparaíso" after Valparaíso, Chile, where he fought during the War of 1812.

Marriage and family

Porter married Evalina Anderson, and they had 10 children who survived, including six sons.

The older David Porter Sr. met and befriended another naval veteran of the Revolution, George Farragut, from Spanish Minorca.[3] In late spring 1808, David Porter Sr. suffered sunstroke, and Farragut took him into his home, where his wife Elizabeth cared for him. Already weakened by tuberculosis, he died on June 22, 1808. Elizabeth Farragut died of yellow fever the same day. Motherless, the Farragut children were to be placed with friends and relatives.

While visiting Farragut and his family a short time later to express thanks for their care of his father and sympathy for their loss, Commodore Porter offered to take eight-year-old James Glasgow Farragut into his own household. Young James readily agreed. In 1809 he moved with Porter to Washington, where he met Secretary of the Navy Paul Hamilton and expressed his wish for a midshipman's appointment. Hamilton promised that the appointment would be made as soon as he reached the age of ten; as it happened, the commission came through on December 17, 1810, six months before the boy reached his tenth birthday. When James went to sea soon after with his adoptive father, he changed his name from James to David, and it is as David Glasgow Farragut that he is remembered.[4]

See USS Porter for ships named in their honor.

The town of Porter and Porter County in Northwest Indiana are named after David Porter. In 1836 the county seat of Porter County, Indiana was originally named Portersville, also named for David Porter. It was changed to Valparaiso in 1837, named for Porter's participation in the naval action near Valparaíso, Chile during the War of 1812.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Long, David F (1970). Nothing Too Daring: A Biography of Commodore David Porter, 1780–1843. Annapolis, Maryland: United States Naval Institute. 
  2. ^ Virtual American Biographies
  3. ^ Jorge Anthony Magin Farragut, a native of Minorca, had anglicized his first name to George when he immigrated to the New World. See Duffy, Lincoln's Admiral, p. 3
  4. ^ Duffy, Lincoln's Admiral, pp. 3–6.

Further reading

  • Porter, David D. Memoir of Commodore David Porter of the United States Navy (Albany, N.Y.: J. Munsell, 1875)
  • Turnbull, Archibald Douglas. Commodore David Porter, 1780- 1843 (New York and London: Century, 1929)

External links

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