The last FLIGHT II Arleigh Burke-class sestroyer bears the name of not one but two naval legends: Commodore David Porter (1780-1843) and Admiral David Dixon Porter (1813-1891). Their legendary naval exploits earned them a place of honor in U.S. Navy history.
Commodore David Porter served in the Quasi War with France as a midshipman on board Constellation where he participated in the capture of L’INSURGENTE in 1799. He later served as the First Lieutenant of EXPERIMENT and in command of AMPHITRITE. During the Barbary Wars (1801-1807), David Porter was First Lieutenant of ENTERPRISE, NEW YORK, and PHILADELPHIA and was taken prisoner when he remained in the Mediterranean as acting Captain of CONSITUTION. He later commanded the ENTERPRISE in the Mediterranean. Upon returning to the U.S., he was placed in charge of the naval forces at New Orleans from 1808 to 1810.
As commander of ESSEX in the War of 1812, Captain Porter achieved fame by capturing ALERT, the first British warship taken in the conflict. In 1813 he waged war on British whalers in the Pacific Ocean to severely disrupt British commerce. On March 28, 1814, he was forced to surrender only when his ship was too disabled to offer further resistance after a contest with two British frigates. From 1815 to 1822 he was a member of the Board of Navy Commissioners but gave up his post to command the expedition tasked to suppress piracy in the West Indies from 1823 to 1825. Commodore Porter resigned his commission in 1826 and became the Commander-in-Chief of the Mexican Navy (1826-1829) before returning to the United States to become our charge d’affaires to Istanbul in 1831 and U.S. Consul to Turkey in 1841.
His youngest son, Admiral David Dixon Porter (1813-1891), entered the services as a midshipman in February 1829. He served in the Mediterranean until 1835 and was then employed for several years in coastal surveys and river explorations. At the close of 1845, he was placed on special duty at the Washington Observatory and then took part in the Mexican War in 1846. At the outbreak of the Civil War he was promoted to the rank of Commander and in 1862 he led the mortar fleet in the bombardment of forts south of New Orleans. David Dixon Porter spent much of 1862-1863 along the Mississippi River and its tributaries. He directed campaigns against a long list of Confederate positions in the Mississippi Delta and, after the capture of New Orleans, went up the river with his fleet to engage the Confederate Army in the siege of Vicksburg in July 1862. At the second siege of Vicksburg in 1863, he again bombarded the Confederate Army. For his efforts at Vicksburg, he was promoted to Rear Admiral. Porter did not have the Mississippi until General Pemberton’s surrender in July 1863. He also engaged in two combined attacks on Fort Fisher which commanded the approaches to Wilmington, North Carolina. For his Civil War services, Porter received four letters of thanks from Congress and was promoted to Vice Admiral in July 1866.
After the death of Admiral Farragut in October 1870, Porter was promoted to Admiral and received command of the United States Navy. Admiral Porter was an early proponent of littoral warfare as he emphasized the importance of protecting the coastal approaches to the large, seaboard cities of the United States with heavily armored monitors and the heaviest guns.
Admiral Porter is among the foremost naval heroes of the Civil War. He rose faster through the ranks, commanded more men and ships, won more victories, and was awarded more Congressional letters of thanks than any other officer in the Navy. A hero of New Orleans, Vicksburg, and Fort Fisher, his unique tactics and techniques rank among the most imaginative and successful in naval history. The crew onboard his flagship engaged in daring, brilliant attacks against punishing batteries at Vicksburg. He garnered the respect and friendship of President Lincoln and General Grant and Sherman. He was a potent mix of energy, ambition, and courage.