French Forrest

French Forrest
Born 1796
Died December 22, 1866 (aged 6970)
Georgetown, Washington, D.C.
Allegiance  United States of America
 Confederate States
Service/branch  United States Navy
Virginia State Navy
 Confederate States Navy
Years of service 1811 - 1861 (USA)
1861 (Virginia)
1861 - 1865 (CSA)
Rank Captain (USA)
Commander (CSA)
Commands held Norfolk Naval Shipyard
Confederate Offices of Orders and Details
James River Squadron
Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy
Battles/wars War of 1812
Mexican–American War
American Civil War

French Forrest (1796 – December 22, 1866) was an American naval officer who served first in the United States Navy and later the Confederate States Navy. His combat experience prior to the American Civil War included service in the War of 1812 and the Mexican–American War.


Born in Helen, Maryland, he became a midshipman on June 9, 1811 and participated in the War of 1812. He fought with Commodore Oliver Perry at the Battle of Lake Erie and was present in the action between the USS Hornet and HMS Peacock on February 24, 1813. He became a lieutenant on March 5, 1817, a commander on February 9, 1837, and a captain March 30, 1844. He was adjutant general in the Mexican–American War, and in 1847, he commanded the American naval forces in the landing at Veracruz, Mexico.[1]

When Virginia seceded from the United States on April 17, 1861, Forrest was made its first and only flag officer of the Virginia State Navy and assumed command at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard.[1] When Virginia joined the Confederate States and merged its military, he joined the navy of the Confederate States of America and kept his command from April 22, 1861 to May 15, 1862. In that capacity he raised and rebuilt the Merrimack, which he expected to command; but that job instead went to Captain Franklin Buchanan. He was then replaced as commandant of the Norfolk Navy Yard, because Secretary of the Navy Mallory thought he had been too slow to repair the Merrimack.

He then headed the Confederate Navy Offices of Orders and Details until March 1863. He commanded the James River Squadron twice, from July 10, 1861 to February 27, 1862 and again from March 24, 1863 to May 6, 1864 when he became the Acting Assistant Secretary of the Confederate States Navy

Forrest returned to Washington to find that his property there had been seized, and died shortly after the War in Georgetown on December 22, 1866.


  1. 1 2 John M. Coski (1996). Capital Navy: The Men, Ships and Operations of the James River Squadron. Campbell, CA: Savas Woodbury Publishers. ISBN 1-882810-03-1.

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French Forrest
Military offices
Preceded by
Robert B. Pegram
Commander of the Norfolk Navy Yard
April 22, 1861 – May 15, 1862
Succeeded by
Sidney Smith Lee
Preceded by
Commander of the James River Squadron
July 10, 1861 – February 27, 1862
Succeeded by
Franklin Buchanan
Preceded by
Samuel Barron
Commander of the James River Squadron
March 24, 1863 – May 6, 1864
Succeeded by
John K. Mitchell

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