A Civil War Biography

Andrew Hull Foote

Foote was born 12 September 1806 in New Haven, Connecticut. At an early age he decided upon a career in the military and succured an appointment to West Point. After entering West Point in 1822, however, he decided he wanted to pursue a career in the military at sea. Only 16 years old, he resigned from West Point and joined the navy as a midshipman. He advanced steadily through the ranks while sailing through out the world. By 1843 he was executive officer of the USS Cumberland. A deeply religious man he made the Cumberland the first temperance ship in the navy. It was largely due to his efforts that in 1862 the navy ended its practice of providing sailors alcohol rations. During the period from 1849 until 1851 Foote operated against slave traders off the coast of Africa. In 1854 he published "Africa and the American Problem" detailing his views on the serious problem that loomed over his nation's very existance. In 1856 he was in command of the USS Portsmouth operating near Guangzhou, China. He led a small force of marines and sailors that captured four barrier forts that protected Guangzhou in retaliation for attacks against the American flag. After returning from China he was assigned to command the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York City.

When the war began Foote, still commanding in Brooklyn, was given command in August 1861of all Union naval forces in the upper Mississippi River with the rank of commodore by his friend Gideon Wells, Lincoln's Secretary of the Navy. Foote proved to be a master at taking what resources were available and building or converting ships to form an effective fighting naval force. In February 1862 his fleet proved to be a major part in Ulysses S. Grant's success in taking Forts Henry and Donelson. Although the attacks of the naval forces and the army were not coordinated much was learned that would prove useful later in the war. At Fort Henry, Foote arrived on 6 February 1862 before Grant's forces and, with the river high sailed right into the fort forcing the defenders to surrender. At Fort Donelson, Grant's forces arrived first on 14 February and did not wait for his naval support. When the fleet finally arrived its attack was not coordinated and was repulsed. Foote was wounded in the foot by flying splinters. His next engagement was at Island #10, where still on crutches, Foote was forced to watch the engagement from shore. His wound would prevent him from further combat command and he was recalled to Washington DC. Promoted to rear admiral and voted the thanks of Congress for his efforts in the Mississippi, he was assigned as chief of the Bureau of Equipment and Recruiting. Still hoping for sea duty he managed to get himself assigned to command the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. He died 26 June 1863 on his way to Charleston, South Carolina to assume his new command.

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