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I had rather have a plain, russet-coated Captain, that knows what he fights for, and loves what he knows, than that you call a Gentle-man and is nothing else.

-- Oliver Cromwell

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
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