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The difficulty of tactical maneuvering consists in turning the devious into the direct, and misfortune into gain.

-- Sun Tzu

Commodore William D. Porter, USN (1808-1864)

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William David Porter, son of Commodore David Porter and elder brother of Admiral David Dixon Porter, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on 10 March 1808. He entered the Navy as a Midshipman in January 1823 and attained the rank of Lieutenant at the end of 1833. He was retired in September 1855, but was later reinstated on active duty with the rank of Commander. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, he was commanding the sloop of war USS Saint Mary's.

Late in 1861, Porter took command of the newly-converted gunboat New Era, serving in the Mississippi River area with the Army's Western Gunboat Flotilla. He renamed her Essex, after his father's old ship of the War of 1812. During late 1861 and early 1862, he had Essex further modified and took her into action on a number of occasions, distinguishing himself for his courageous conduct. After the gunboat was damaged in action with Fort Henry, Tennessee, in February 1862, Porter had the ship virtually rebuilt. He then commanded her in further combat undertakings, including the destruction of the Confederate ironclad Arkansas. A controversial figure in the Navy, Porter received the rank of Commodore in recognition of his achievements, but was detached from Essex in September 1862 and had no further assignments afloat. He died on 1 May 1864.

USS William D. Porter (DD-579), 1943-1945, was named in honor of Commodore Porter.

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This Day in History
1779: British General (and territorial Lt. Governor) Henry Hamilton surrenders Fort Sackville in Vincennes Indiana to George Rogers Clark, thereby assisting in the end of the Revolutionary War and in gaining a large territory for America.

1781: American General Nathaniel Greene crosses the Dan River on his way to attack Cornwallis.

1831: The Polish army halts the Russian advance into their country at the Battle of Grochow.

1836: Samuel Colt patents the first revolving cylinder multi-shot firearm.

1861: The Confederate Marine Corps was organized in Richmond, Virginia.

1861: The Saratoga, a member of the U.S. African Squadron, captures the slaver sloop Express.

1862: The U.S. Congress passes the Legal Tender Act, authorizing the use of paper notes to pay the government's bills. This ended the long-standing policy of using only gold or silver in transactions, and it allowed the government to finance the enormously costly war long after its gold and silver reserves were depleted.

1862: Confederate troops abandon Nashville, Tennessee, in the face of Grants advance.

1862: The ironclad Monitor is commissioned at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

1865: General Joseph E. Johnston replaces John Bell Hood as Commander of the Confederate Army of Tennessee.