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Indeed he was, as the Essex first sailed the Atlantic and then traveled "around the Horn" to the Pacific where it surprised and took possession of British warships and whaling vessels alike. In fact, it was in taking command of one of those captured ships off of Valparaiso, Chile, that Farragut, then only twelve years old, was assigned his first position as full captain and was given the captain's sword he had coveted from the start.
In Take Command, Captain Farragut!, Peter and Connie Roop imagine a series of letters written by Farragut to his father while on a prison ship after the British eventually defeated and captured the Essex. The letters tell of Farragut's drive to excel despite his youth, and bring to life both his courage and confidence in facing challenges far beyond his years.
Chronicles Farragut's early naval career, from his commission as a midshipman through early exploits aboard his first ship, the Essex.
Tuesday, March 29, 1814 -- Day One of Our Captivity
Dear Papa, I begin this letter not knowing if it will reach you. I often think of you, especially now, as I have much time on my hands. I am a prisoner of the English in Valparaiso. I was captured after a fierce battle on Valparaiso Bay.
I think, too, of Mama and miss her. For the year we were together Mrs. Porter loved me like her own son, but it was not the same. And then I went to sea.
I hope you read this letter with patience and understanding. I know I have been wayward in not writing you for more than two years, but you'll see much has happened to me in that time. In this letter I hope you will see that the boy you sent to be cared for by Captain Porter has grown into a man.
Now as a man I must suffer this imprisonment. We hope to be paroled soon. If so, we will be exchanged for British officers and returned to the United States. I do not look forward to the parole. Parole means I may not fight the English again until I am exchanged for a British midshipman. If we are not paroled, however, we will be shipped to England. There we will rot in another dreadful prison ship.
As with my other challenges, I must face this one with courage and determination.
I shall write daily to you long letters, just as a midshipman I wrote daily in my log. I will tell you my adventures to the best of my memory, beginning with my posting to the Esssex.
The Essex, having been shattered by cannon fire, is now in the hands of the English. Yet the day I first walked her decks, her black paint was fresh, her tall masts stood firm, her white sails were furled, her crew was eager to engagethe English enemy.
I was the last new midshipman to climb the Essex's rope ladder.
I will continue in my next entry, for I am tired after this harrowing day.
Good night, Papa.
Text copyright © 2002 by Peter Roop and Connie Roop