Learning Lincoln On-line


Topic Sixty-four:  The Navy and Ironclads in the Civil War


A Comparison Study


Franklin Buchanan


Admiral CSS
September 13, 1800—May 11, 1874

Information from Wikipedia at:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franklin_Buchanan


Franklin Buchanan (September 17, 1800 – May 11, 1874) was an officer in the United States Navy who became the only full admiral in the Confederate Navy during the American Civil War, and commanded the ironclad CSS Virginia.

Early life

Buchanan was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He was the fifth child and third son of a physician, George Buchanan and Laetitia McKean Buchanan. The Buchanan side of his family arrived in the United States from Scotland. He became a midshipman in 1815, was promoted to lieutenant in 1825, commander in 1841 and captain in 1855.

During the 45 years he served in the U.S. Navy, 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.

From 1845–1847, he served as the first Superintendent of the United States Naval Academy, followed by notable Mexican-American War service. From 1859–1861, Captain Buchanan was the Commandant of the Washington Navy Yard. With the Civil War looming, he resigned his commission, expecting Maryland to eventually secede. When that didn't happen, he tried to recall his resignation, but Navy Secretary Gideon Welles said he didn't want half hearted patriots in his navy and refused to reinstate him.

Civil War

Buchanan was the captain of the ironclad CSS Virginia (formerly the USS Merrimack) during the Battle of Hampton Roads in Virginia. He climbed to the top deck of Virginia and began furiously firing toward shore with a carbine as the USS Congress was shelled. He soon was brought down by a sharpshooter's minie ball to the thigh. He would eventually recover from his leg wound. He never did get to command Virginia against the USS Monitor. That honor went to Catesby ap Roger Jones. But Buchanan had handed the United States Navy the worst defeat it would take until the Attack on Pearl Harbor.

Captain Franklin Buchanan & Josiah Tattnall

In August 1862, Buchanan was promoted to the rank of admiral and sent to command Confederate naval forces at Mobile Bay, Alabama. He oversaw the construction of the ironclad CSS Tennessee and was on board her during the Battle of Mobile Bay with Rear Admiral David Glasgow Farragut's Union fleet on August 5, 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.

Later life

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 May 11, 1874. He is buried at the Wye House family plot outside Easton, Maryland.


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