Redemption at Mobile Bay

dana-collageMy latest Civil War News profile is the story of William Starr Dana and his navy experience. An excerpt:

A hailstorm of rebel artillery pounded Union Rear Adm. David Farragut’s flagship, the Hartford, as she steamed into Mobile Bay at the head of the attacking fleet on August 5, 1864. Shells tore through her planking as heavy metal fragments and wood splinters careened through the air at lightning speed and took a deadly toll on officers and men.

Cmdr. Richard Starr Dana, U.S. Navy, standing, and his brother, Richard Starr Dana. Carte de visite by an unidentified photographer, about October 1863. Collection of the author.
One well-aimed projectile ripped through the Hartford’s battle-scarred wooden hull and blasted the forward berth deck. The commander of this section of the ship, Ensign William S. Dana, recalled, “Fragments of the shell flew over my head and I was covered by the brains and blood of the man next to me.” This single shot killed three and wounded two, which removed more than a third of his 13-man crew.

Read the rest on Medium.

He Received a Formal Thanks from Admiral Farragut

The back of this carte de visite of Richard Starr Dana and William Starr Dana by an unidentified photographer is dated October 1863, which coincides with 20-year-old Ensign William S. Dana’s graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy. Less than a year later, Dana numbered among a small group of officers who received a formal thanks from Admiral David Farragut for the destruction of the blockade runner Ivanhoe, which was chased aground by federal warships near Fort Morgan at the mouth of Mobile Bay. On July 6, 1864, Dana commanded one of several small boats that attacked the Ivanhoe in a daring nighttime raid. Dana and his comrades managed to set the stranded boat afire while hundreds of Union sailors and soldiers observed the action. “The entire conduct of the expedition was marked by a promptness and energy which shows what may be expected of such officers and men on similar occasions,” announced Farragut with evident pride.

Dana went on to a distinguished career in the navy, and rose to the rank of commander.

In 1884, he married botanist and political activist Frances Theodora Parsons (1861-1952). Their marriage was relatively brief, as Dana died in Paris, France, on January 1, 1890.

Three years later, writing under the name “Mrs. William Starr Dana,” Parsons’s How to Know the Wild Flowers was published. Considered the first field guide to North American wildflowers, the book was an instant best seller.

His image is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
He Received a Formal Thanks from Admiral Farragut