In August 1864, Admiral David Farragut led his Union fleet past the mine-laden blockade of Mobile Bay with the cry "Damn the Torpedoes!" His move secured the Gulf of Mexico for the North, and crowned a naval career that lasted more than five decades. Farragut entered the navy while barely in his teens, fighting in the War of 1812. Before he was twenty-five, he sailed in the Mediterranean, Tunis, and the Gulf of Mexico, and fought pirates in the West Indies. The following decades offered few opportunities for military men to distinguish themselves in battle; poor timing, along with a sour relationship with his commander, denied Farragut a chance for promotion in the Mexican American War. By 1860, Farragut was living in Norfolk, nearly sixty years old, his career stalled behind those with more formal education and higher social standing. He moved north to New York when Virginia seceded from the Union, and with the onset of war, Farragut's loyalty, long experience, and independence finally earned him the command of the expedition to take the port of New Orleans. His success in April 1862 won the thanks of the President and an appointment as the leading officer of the navy. Lincoln was said to have considered Farragut's appointment the best of the war.

David Glasgow Farragut/Mathew Brady Studio/Albumen silver print (carte de visite),circa 1864
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

By 1864, when John H. Bufford published this portrait of Admiral Farragut, one reviewer insisted that "Bufford's lithographs are sold wherever the flag of our country waves." Based in Boston, Bufford's firm produced lively, accomplished images in many forms, including sheet music, city views, marine views and landscapes, book illustrations, reproductions of paintings, commercial depictions of factories, and contemporary genre views. Bufford also profited from the growing interest in national politics and history by issuing fine lithographic portraits copied from daguerreotypes, and he hired such talented draftsmen as Francis D'Avignon and Leopold Grozelier to translate the photographic images onto lithographic stone. By 1860, Bufford also began to publish photographs and cartes de visite on his own. This portrait, published shortly after Farragut's victory in Mobile Bay, shows how Bufford's draftsmen created full-fledged colorful portraits from Brady's simple cartes de visite.

David Glasgow Farragut/J. H. Bufford Lithography Company (active 1835-1890),
after photograph by Brady studio, Hand-colored lithograph, circa 1864
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

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