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David Dixon Porter, 1813-1891


David Dixon Porter, 1813-1891


Admiral David Dixon Porter (1813-1891) served an incredibly active military career during both the Mexican-American War and the United States Civil War and played a significant role in the military engagement that led to the Union capture of Fort Fisher, a Confederate fort charged with protecting the city of Wilmington, North Carolina which served as a vital Confederate safe haven for blockade runners and a crucial supply hub.


Feasel, John


Admiral David Dixon Porter was born into a family with a rich history of distinguished naval service on July 8, 1813 in Chester, Pennsylvania. Porter was the son of Commodore David Porter, a distinguished United States naval officer. Appointed to the Navy under the recommendation of his grandfather, United States Congressman William Anderson, in February of 1829, Porter rose through the ranks of command until he was appointed to acting rear admiral in October of 1862 for the Vicksburg campaign, an appointment that was made permanent on July 4, 1863. The port at Wilmington, North Carolina served as a vital supply hub for the Confederate Army and was the only remaining Confederate port open for running the Union blockade. As such, by the latter months of the summer of 1864, the Navy Department recognized its significance and began to devise a plan to close the port, starting with the capture of Fort Fisher, the Confederate fort and battery charged with protecting the port at Wilmington. The difficult task of neutralizing Fort Fisher, which was regarded by both sides as the strongest earthwork ever built, fell to Rear Admiral David Porter in coordination with troops from the Union Army under the command of Major General Benjamin F. Butler. During the First Battle of Fort Fisher, Porter and Butler devised a plan to breach the fort by exploding a ship packed with gun powder coupled with a massive bombardment by Porter’s fleet. When the first assault failed, Ported blamed the failure on the hesitance of Butler and went to Ulysses S. Grant to demand that Butler be removed as commander of the army troops. For the Second Battle of Fort Fisher, Porter remained as the acting Rear Admiral in command of the naval fleet while Butler was replaced by Major General Alfred H. Terry. Under the leadership of Porter in coordination with Terry, Fort Fisher fell to the Union under a massive naval bombardment, approximately three million pounds of ammunition between the two attacks, and a fierce land assault carried out by Union soldiers. The capture of Fort Fisher could not have succeeded without the adept command and coordination of Admiral Porter who received substantial recognition for his role in the assault. (Hearn)


Hearn, Chester. Admiral David Dixon Porter: The Civil War Years. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1996.


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Feasel, John, David Dixon Porter, 1813-1891, Civil War Era NC, accessed April 15, 2024,