Franklin Buchanan

Franklin Buchanan

Portrait of Admiral Buchanan
Born (1800-09-17)September 17, 1800
Baltimore, Maryland
Died May 11, 1874(1874-05-11) (aged 73)
Talbot County, Maryland
Place of burial Wye House family plot outside Easton, Maryland
Allegiance  United States
 Confederate States
Service/branch  United States Navy
 Confederate States Navy
Years of service USN 1815–1861
CSN 1861–1865
Rank Captain (USN)
Admiral (CSN)
Commands held USS Vincennes
USS Germantown
USS Susquehanna
James River Squadron
CSS Virginia
CSS Tennessee

Mexican-American War
American Civil War

Other work College president and businessman

Franklin Buchanan (September 17, 1800 – May 11, 1874) was an officer in the United States Navy who became the only full admiral in the Confederate Navy during the American Civil War, and commanded the ironclad CSS Virginia.

Early Life

Franklin Buchanan was born in Baltimore, Maryland on September 13, 1800. He was the fifth child and third son of a physician, George Buchanan and Laetitia McKean Buchanan.[1] The Buchanan side of his family arrived in the United States from Scotland. His paternal grandfather was a general with the Maryland Militia during the Revolutionary War while his maternal grandfather was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

He joined the U.S. Navy on January 28, 1815 and became a midshipman; he was promoted to lieutenant on January 13, 1825, commander on September 8, 1841 and then captain on September 14, 1855.[1]

On February 19, 1835, at Annapolis, Maryland, he married Ann Catherine Lloyd. They had nine children, of which one was a boy.

With The U.S. Navy

During the 45 years he served in the U.S. Navy, Buchanan had extensive and worldwide sea duty. He commanded the sloops of war Vincennes and Germantown during the 1840s and the steam frigate Susquehanna in the Perry Expedition to Japan during from 1852-1854.[1] In 1845, at the request of the U.S. Secretary of the Navy, he submitted plans to his superiors proposing a naval school which would lead to the creation of the United States Naval Academy that very year; for his efforts, he was appointed the first Superintendent of the Naval School - its first name - where he served in 1845-1847. This assignment was followed by notable Mexican-American War service in 1847-1848. From 1859–1861, Captain Buchanan was the Commandant of the Washington Navy Yard.

With the Civil War upon him, he resigned his commission on April 22, 1861, expecting his home State of Maryland to eventually secede. When that didn't happen, he tried to recall his resignation, but U.S. Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles said he didn't want half-hearted patriots in his navy and refused to reinstate him.[1] Thus in May, 1861 he was out of the U.S. Navy.

Civil War

On September 5, 1861, Franklin Buchanan joined the C.S. Navy and was given a captain's commission. On February 24, 1862, the Confederate States Secretary of the Navy, Stephen Mallory appointed Buchanan to the office of C.S. Navy James River Squadron Flag Officer and he then selected the newly built ironclad CSS Virginia to be his flag ship.

Buchanan was the captain of the CSS Virginia (formerly the USS Merrimack) during the Battle of Hampton Roads in Virginia.[2] He climbed to the top deck of Virginia and began furiously firing toward shore with a carbine as the USS Congress was shelled.[3] He soon was brought down by a sharpshooter's minie ball to the thigh. He would eventually recover from his leg wound. He never did get to command Virginia against the USS Monitor. That honor went to Catesby ap Roger Jones. But Buchanan had handed the United States Navy the worst defeat it would take until the Attack on Pearl Harbor.[4]

Captain Franklin Buchanan & Josiah Tattnall.

In August 1862, C.S. Navy Captain Franklin Buchanan was promoted to the rank of Full Admiral - the only officer so honored in the C.S. Navy - and was sent to take command of Confederate naval forces stationed at Mobile Bay, Alabama.[5] He oversaw the construction of the ironclad CSS Tennessee whose keel was laid in October, 1862 and was on board her during the Battle of Mobile Bay with Rear Admiral David Glasgow Farragut's Union fleet on August 5, 1864.[6] Wounded and taken prisoner, Admiral Buchanan was not exchanged until February 1865.[6] He was on convalescent leave until the Civil War ended a few months later.

Later life

Following the conflict, Buchanan lived in Maryland, then was a businessman in Mobile until 1870, when he again took up residence in Maryland. He died there on May 11, 1874. He is buried at the Wye House family plot outside Easton, Maryland.

In memoriam

Three U.S. Navy destroyers have been named in honor of Admiral Franklin Buchanan: Buchanan (DD-131), (DD-484) and (DDG-14). See USS Buchanan for U.S. Navy ships named in his honor. The Superintendent's quarters at the United States Naval Academy is also named the Buchanan House.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 Quarstein, "Franklin Buchanan"
  2. Symonds, p. 152.
  3. Jones, Terry L., Historical dictionary of the Civil War, Lanham, Scarecrow Press, 2011, p . 638.
  4. United States Naval Institute Proceedings, Volume 88, U.S. Naval Institute, 1962, p. 68.
  5. Tucker, Spencer, Almanac of American military history, Santa Barbara, ABC-CLIO, 2013, p. 668.
  6. 1 2 Symonds, p. 254.


Military offices
Preceded by
Superintendent of United States Naval Academy
Succeeded by
George P. Upshur
Preceded by
French Forrest
Commander of the James River Squadron
February 27, 1862 – March 29, 1862
Succeeded by
Josiah Tattnall
Academic offices
Preceded by
Charles Minor
President of the Maryland Agricultural College
Succeeded by
Samuel Register
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