David Dixon Porter

United States Navy admiral
I don't believe in natural-born generals except where they have had proper military training.

David Dixon Porter (8 June 181313 February 1891) was a United States Navy admiral and a member of one of the most distinguished families in the history of the U.S. Navy. Promoted as the second U.S. Navy officer ever to attain the rank of admiral, after his adoptive brother David G. Farragut, Porter helped improve the Navy as the Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy after significant service in the American Civil War.

QuotesEdit

 
I never encouraged officers to discuss politics at all, and, as a rule, officers of the navy were exempt from political bias, and considered that it was their duty to heartily support the Government in any measures which might be taken to preserve the Union. This was my view of the subject, and I tried to impress it upon others, and succeeded in excluding politics from the mess-table.
 
If he could have lived to write the anecdotes of the war, I am sure he would have furnished the most readable book of the century. To me he was one of the most interesting men I ever met; he had an originality about him which was peculiarly his own, and one felt, when with him, as if he could confide his dearest secret to him with absolute security against its betrayal. There, it might be said, was 'God's noblest work an honest man,' and such he was, all through. I have not a particle of the bump of veneration on my head, but I saw more to admire in this man, more to reverence, than I had believed possible.
 
He had a load to bear that few men could carry, yet he traveled on with it, foot-sore and weary, but without complaint; rather; on the contrary, cheering those who would faint on the roadside. He was not a demonstrative man, so no one will ever know, amid all the trials he underwent, how much he had to contend with, and how often he was called upon to sacrifice his own opinions to those of others, who, he felt, did not know as much about matters at issue as he did himself. When he did surrender, it was always with a pleasant manner, winding up with a characteristic story.
 
Lincoln was surrounded by these people, who had treasured up the recollection of him caught from a photograph, and had looked up to him for four years as the one who was to lead them out of captivity.
 
He did not say a monument to what, but he meant, I am sure, to leave it as a monument to the loyalty of our soldiers, who would bear all the horrors of Libby sooner than desert their flag and cause.
 
Abraham Lincoln — who of his own will struck the shackles from the limbs of four millions of people — will be honored thousands of years from now as man's name was never honored before... The scene was so touching I hated to disturb it, yet we could not stay there all day; we had to move on.
 
I am not now, and never have been, given to great emotions; but when I heard of Mr. Lincoln's cruel death I was completely unmanned. I went immediately to Washington and saw him as he lay in his grave-clothes; the same benevolent face was there, but the kindly smile had departed from his lips, and the soft, gentle eyes were closed for ever.
 
There lies the best man I ever knew or ever expect to know; he was just to all men, and his heart was full to overflowing with kindness toward those who accomplished his death.
 
It looked queer to me to see boxes labeled 'His Excellency, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America'. The packages so labeled contained Bass ale or Cognac brandy, which cost 'His Excellency' less than we Yankees had to pay for it. Think of the President drinking imported liquors while his soldiers were living on pop-corn and water!

Incidents and Anecdotes of the Civil War (1885)Edit

Full text of Incidents and Anecdotes of the Civil War (1885)
  • I think every man should be obliged to take that oath, for I have seen more treason in the last ten days than I ever supposed could exist in the United States Navy.
    • pp. 34– 35
  • As to the navy, it is said the several commanding officers grounded on the beef-bones thrown overboard from their flag-ships, but this I do not believe.
    • p. 38
  • I was much disappointed at seeing those who had once belonged to the United States navy excelled in matters of honor and propriety by the officers of another corps.
    • p. 56
  • By breaking up the great wooden navies of Europe, Ericsson helped to place us more on an equality with them as a naval power, and the distance is not so great between us but that we may hope to overtake them when the people of this country demand a navy commensurate with our national importance, and when the exigencies of politics can no longer prevent proper measures being taken for the defense of the nation, which should at all times be in a position to protect its citizens at home and abroad.
    • p. 63
  • The people fairly went wild; they set fire to the cotton along the levees, and seemed determined that nothing valuable should fall into our hands. They did not apparently remember that, so far, our navy had respected private rights and protected those made homeless by the actions of wild mobs.
    • p. 66
  • There was a time not long ago when Vicksburg could have been easily captured, but it is now a second Gibraltar, and the navy alone could do nothing toward capturing it.
    • p. 122
  • Why, Mister President, the general impression is that Grant won the battle of Shiloh; as he commanded the army, he would seem entitled to the credit.
    • pp. 122–123
  • Well, Mister President, with all due deference to you, I don't believe in natural-born generals except where they have had proper military training, and it seems to me the siege of Vicksburg is too important a matter to trust to anybody except a scientific military man; besides, if you take troops from Grant and Sherman to give them to McClernand, you will weaken the army.
    • p. 123
  • Great complaints were made by both sides as to whose fault it was that there was a failure, but I told the navy I didn't want to hear anything about it; they did not get through, and didn't get the fort, and the less said about it the better.
    • p. 144
  • Regulations of the Navy provide that medical officers shall exercise no military authority. If I give you a flag, the line officers will think I have gone crazy.
    • pp. 202– 203
  • I never encouraged officers to discuss politics at all, and, as a rule, officers of the navy were exempt from political bias, and considered that it was their duty to heartily support the Government in any measures which might be taken to preserve the Union. This was my view of the subject, and I tried to impress it upon others, and succeeded in excluding politics from the mess-table.
    • p. 204
  • [T]he navy must be an adjunct to the army, yet the officers and men of the navy should always have full credit for the service they perform.
    • p. 212
  • [T]he navy performed its part of the operations.
    • p. 214
  • 'Good wine needs no bush' is an old and good saying, and I think that the navy had very little cause to exculpate itself on any occasion when it co-operated with the army, and never entertained a difference of opinion when it came in contact with regular officers.
    • pp. 214
  • I then made some observations to the general on the beautiful weather we were having, and the satisfaction I experienced at seeing him in a position requiring so much judgment and forbearance, and that our co-operation so far had been of such a pleasant nature that I should always look back to this time with the most delightful recollections, as there could not by any possibility be any mis-understanding between the army and navy, their duties being so distinct from each other, and the only chance of their clashing would be through the stupid blunder of an irresponsible officer.
    • pp. 256–257
  • The army and navy had plenty of bad powder and worthless vessels in fact, material for half a dozen powder-boats if necessary. I don't know whether the general claimed the powder-boat as an original idea, but there is nothing new under the sun, and such a means of attack has been employed before.
    • p. 269
  • The navy and the powder-boat would be all-sufficient, and I rather liked the notion, as the expedition would be entirely a naval affair.
    • p. 269
  • It looked queer to me to see boxes labeled 'His Excellency, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America'. The packages so labeled contained Bass ale or Cognac brandy, which cost 'His Excellency' less than we Yankees had to pay for it. Think of the President drinking imported liquors while his soldiers were living on pop-corn and water!
    • p. 274
  • Lincoln had a wonderful faculty for understanding the topography of a country, and he was quite familiar with the one in which the army was about to operate; he carried a small chart in his pocket, on which were marked all the rivers and hills about Richmond, with the city itself, and the different points where General Lee had his forces posted, the lines of defense, and, in fact, all the information that a general of an army wanted. During our rides which were always within the lines he would stop and spread out his chart on his knees and point out to me what he would do if he were the general commanding, taking good care, at the same time, never to interfere in any way with General Grant, whom, I rather think, he considered the better strategist of the two.
    • p. 282
  • I had often heard of the wonderful power of the President in telling anecdotes, but no one could form an adequate idea of his ability in this line unless he had been alone with him for ten days as I was. He had an illustration for everything, and if anything particular attracted his attention he would say, 'That reminds me of something that occurred when I was a lawyer in Illinois,' or 'when I was a boatman on the Mississippi.' He was not at all ashamed of any business he had ever been engaged in, because it was honest business, and he made an honest living by it; and he told me many stories of his earlier life, which were as creditable to him as anything he was engaged in while occupying a higher sphere.
    • pp. 282–283
  • Lincoln seemed to me to be familiar with the name, character, and reputation of every officer of rank in the army and navy, and appeared to understand them better than some whose business it was to do so; he had many a good story to tell of nearly all, and if he could have lived to write the anecdotes of the war, I am sure he would have furnished the most readable book of the century. To me he was one of the most interesting men I ever met; he had an originality about him which was peculiarly his own, and one felt, when with him, as if he could confide his dearest secret to him with absolute security against its betrayal. There, it might be said, was 'God's noblest work an honest man,' and such he was, all through. I have not a particle of the bump of veneration on my head, but I saw more to admire in this man, more to reverence, than I had believed possible; he had a load to bear that few men could carry, yet he traveled on with it, foot-sore and weary, but without complaint; rather; on the contrary, cheering those who would faint on the roadside. He was not a demonstrative man, so no one will ever know, amid all the trials he underwent, how much he had to contend with, and how often he was called upon to sacrifice his own opinions to those of others, who, he felt, did not know as much about matters at issue as he did himself. When he did surrender, it was always with a pleasant manner, winding up with a characteristic story.
    • p. 283
  • In the strife between the North and the South there was no bitterness in Mr. Lincoln's composition; he seemed to think only that he had an unpleasant duty to perform, and endeavored to perform it as smoothly as possible.
    • p. 283
  • The results of a battle pained him as much as if he was receiving the wounds himself, for I have often heard him express himself in pained accents while talking over some of the scenes of the war; he was not the man to assume a character for feelings he did not possess ; he was as guileless in some respects as a child. How could one avoid liking such a man?
    • pp. 283–284
  • I do think if I had given him two fence-rails to sleep on he would not have found fault. That was Abraham Lincoln in all things relating to his own comfort. He would never permit people to put themselves out for him under any circumstances.
    • p. 285
  • There was a small house on this landing, and behind it were some twelve negroes digging with spades. The leader of them was an old man sixty years of age. He raised himself to an upright position as we landed, and put his hands up to his eyes. Then he dropped his spade and sprang forward. 'Bress de Lord,' he said, 'dere is de great Messiah I I knowed him as soon as I seed him. He's bin in my heart fo' long yeahs, an' he's cum at las' to free his chillun from deir bondage! Glory, Hallelujah!' And he fell upon his knees before the President and kissed his feet. The others followed his example, and in a minute Mr. Lincoln was surrounded by these people, who had treasured up the recollection of him caught from a photograph, and had looked up to him for four years as the one who was to lead them out of captivity.
    • p. 295
  • It was a touching sight that aged negro kneeling at the feet of the tall, gaunt-looking man who seemed in himself to be bearing all the grief of the nation, and whose sad face seemed to say, 'I suffer for you all, but will do all I can to help you.'
    • p. 295
  • Mr. Lincoln looked down on the poor creatures at his feet; he was much embarrassed at his position. 'Don't kneel to me,' he said. 'That is not right. You must kneel to God only, and thank him for the liberty you will hereafter enjoy. I am but God's humble instrument; but you may rest assured that as long as I live no one shall put a shackle on your limbs, and you shall have all the rights which God has given to every other free citizen of this Republic.'
    • p. 295
  • His face was lit up with a divine look as lie uttered these words. Though not a handsome man, and ungainly in his person, yet in his enthusiasm he seemed the personification of manly beauty, and that sad face of his looked down in kindness upon these ignorant blacks with a grace that could not be excelled. He really seemed of another world.
    • p. 296
  • Ah this scene was of brief duration, but, though a simple and humble affair, it impressed me more than anything of the kind I ever witnessed. What a fine picture that would have made Mr. Lincoln landing from a ship-of-war's boat, an aged negro on his knees at his feet, and a dozen more trying to reach him to kiss the hem of his garments! In the foreground should be the shackles he had broken when he issued his proclamation giving liberty to the slave.
    • p. 296
  • Twenty years have passed since that event; it is almost too new in history to make a great impression, but the time will come when it will loom up as one of the greatest of man's achievements, and the name of Abraham Lincoln — who of his own will struck the shackles from the limbs of four millions of people — will be honored thousands of years from now as man's name was never honored before.
    • p. 296
  • It was a minute or two before I could get the negroes to rise and leave the President. The scene was so touching I hated to disturb it, yet we could not stay there all day; we had to move on; so I requested the patriarch to withdraw from about the President with his companions and let us pass on.
    • p. 296
  • He did not say a monument to what, but he meant, I am sure, to leave it as a monument to the loyalty of our soldiers, who would bear all the horrors of Libby sooner than desert their flag and cause. We struggled on, the great crowd preceding us, and an equally dense crowd of blacks following on behind all so packed together that some of them frequently sang out in pain.
    • p. 296
  • It was not a model style for the President of the United States to enter the capital of a conquered country, yet there was a moral in it all which had more effect than if he had come surrounded with great armies and heralded by the booming of cannon. He came, armed with the majesty of the law, to put his seal to the act which had been established by the bayonets of the Union soldiers the establishment of peace and goodwill between the North and the South, and liberty to all mankind who dwell upon our shores.
    • p. 296
  • We forced our way onward slowly, and, as we reached the edge of the city, the sidewalks were lined on both sides of the streets with black and white alike all looking with curious, eager faces at the man who held their destiny in his hand; but there was no anger in anyone's face; the whole was like a gala day, and it looked as if the President was some expected guest who had come to receive great honors. Indeed, no man was ever accorded a greater ovation than was extended to him, be it from warm hearts or from simple ceremony.
    • p. 296
  • I now realized the imprudence of landing without a large body of marines; and yet this seemed to me, after all, the fittest way for Mr. Lincoln to come among the people he had redeemed from bondage. What an ovation he had, to be sure, from those so-called ignorant beings! They all had their souls in their eyes, and I don't think I ever looked upon a scene where there were so many passionately happy faces.
    • p. 297
  • It was a warm day, and the streets were dusty, owing to the immense gathering which covered every part of them, kicking up the dirt. The atmosphere was suffocating, but Mr. Lincoln could be seen plainly by every man, woman, and child, towering head and shoulders above that crowd; he overtopped every man there. He carried his hat in his hand, fanning his face, from which the perspiration was pouring. He looked as if he would have given his Presidency for a glass of water I would have given my commission for half that.
    • p. 299
  • Grant's most generous treatment of the Confederate army at Vicksburg, after its surrender, satisfied the President that he would be equally generous to Generals Lee and Johnston. I am quite sure that General Grant shared the convictions of the President, that we should deal with the Confederates in the most generous manner and thereby bring about a lasting peace. I was present almost always at the interviews between the President and General Grant, and, though the former did most of the talking, General Grant agreed with him in his views of the situation.
    • p. 317
  • Thus it was that Sherman, after his interview with the President on board the River Queen, became impressed with the latter's desire to terminate hostilities without further bloodshed, and that the most liberal terms should be conceded to his opponents. Why it was that such a howl was sent up at the North when General Sherman entered into an agreement with General Johnston I don't know, especially as that agreement was to be submitted to the Government for confirmation. There are points in those terms of capitulation which, it seems to me, should only have been decided upon by the Government itself, which, it will be perceived, is what General Sherman intended in the agreement drawn up between him and General Johnston. He had been so impressed with the President's views of concluding a peace that he desired only to carry out after his death what he supposed to be his policy, and which, if living, he felt certain Mr. Lincoln would have approved. At least he would have considered it, and would not have 'rejected it with the disdain' exhibited by the new President, Andrew Johnson, through his Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton.
    • p. 317
  • It seemed to be the policy of the Secretary of War to lose no opportunity to throw a stone at those who had made themselves prominent in the Rebellion. Even if Sherman had made a mistake, his great services entitled him to better treatment than he received at the hands of Mr. Stanton. How deeply he felt this treatment was shown when he arrived in Washington with his troops, and was invited upon the platform whence the President and his Cabinet were reviewing them. He deliberately refused to take Stanton's hand when the secretary stepped forward to greet him. It is now twenty years since the interesting events referred to took place; most of the actors in those scenes have gone to their final resting places.
    • pp. 317–318
  • The passions which animated men in high places have died out, but Grant and Sherman still live, and are gratefully remembered by their countrymen for the invaluable services they rendered during the most trying times of the Republic's existence.
    • p. 318
  • 'What is the matter with you?' I asked. 'Be a man and tell me; is the President dead?' My prophetic soul told me that must be so. It was some time before the man could speak. At length he stammered out, 'Assassinated!' and then I knew I had come too late. I might, perhaps, have saved his life with my persistent precautions, which he did not at all object to. I should have been about him until all excitement was over, and would have impressed the Cabinet with the necessity of guarding his person. I am not now, and never have been, given to great emotions; but when I heard of Mr. Lincoln's cruel death I was completely unmanned. I went immediately to Washington and saw him as he lay in his grave-clothes; the same benevolent face was there, but the kindly smile had departed from his lips, and the soft, gentle eyes were closed for ever.
    • p. 319
  • 'There,' I said to a friend, 'lies the best man I ever knew or ever expect to know; he was just to all men, and his heart was full to overflowing with kindness toward those who accomplished his death.' I have been satisfied that the persons who called at the Malvern were some of the assassins who would have killed him there if they could have got on board, and they could easily have escaped in the confusion by jumping overboard and swimming to the shore, which was not more than twenty yards distant. More-over, I do not think that the prime instigator of the deed was ever suspected, though I have my own opinion on the subject, as also had Senator Nye, that stanch old patriot who held, in the latter part of the war, a position somewhat analogous to that of a minister of police, or was in consultation, by the wish of President Lincoln, with the police authorities of our great cities. He picked up many interesting incidents in relation to the President's assassination which he talked about freely to me; but he was a prudent man, and a politician, and did not desire to raise questions which might affect his personal interests in the future.
    • pp. 319–320
  • Perhaps it was better for Mr. Lincoln's happiness that he died when he did. Had he lived, he would likely have been involved in bitter political feuds, owing to his liberal opinions in regard to the reconstruction of the States. He was of too sensitive a nature not to feel the shafts that would have been hurled at him by those whom he thought to be his friends, and he would not likely have been permitted to carry out his ideas. As it was, he died a martyr to a great cause, and venerated by all those who loved the Union; and while the names of many who held high places in the State will be forgotten, the memory of Abraham Lincoln will live in the hearts of his countrymen while the art of printing exists by which his name can be handed down to posterity.
    • p. 320
  • Such was the discipline of the navy at that time, and such the anxiety to conform to the law of Congress against spirituous liquors, that no officer or man in the service would take a drink out of a bottle unless it was marked 'Medicine.'
    • p. 324

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