“Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” With those words, David Glasgow Farragut led a fleet of Union warships into Mobile Bay, where he achieved one of the most celebrated victories in American naval history. What separates the good officer from the great one, writes Robert J. Schneller, Jr., is the courage to make difficult decisions in the heat of combat despite personal fear or the awful realization that some men will have to pay in blood. Farragut’s personal attributes, such as his sharp intelligence and confidence, and his careful preparations, keen situational awareness, and courage to act boldly at decisive moments produced the Union’s most important naval victories and resulted in his appointment as the U.S. Navy’s first admiral.
Robert J. Schneller., Ph.D., is a historian in the Contemporary History Branch of the U.S. Naval Historical Center. Schneller’s first book, A Quest for Glory: A Biography of Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren. He received the 1996 John Lyman Book Award in Biography from the North American Society for Oceanic History. He also wrote (with Edward J. Marolda) Shield and Sword: The United States Navy and the Persian Gulf War, which received the prestigious Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt Naval History Prize from the Navy League of the United States. Schneller’s other books include an edition of John W. Grattan’s Civil War memoir, Under the Blue Pennant, Or Notes of a Naval Officer, 1863–1865, and Farragut: America's First Admiral (Brassey’s, Inc., 2002), the initial volume in Brassey’s Military Profiles series. He lives in Lake Ridge, Virginia.