Navy v. South Carolina: Connections and Surprises

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(Photo Naval History and Heritage Command)

This weekend the Naval Academy plays the University of South Carolina in football on ESPN. Names at the Naval Academy associated with great men and events such as Bainbridge, Decatur, Farragut, Hull, Porter and Rodgers were once led by a South Carolinian, Paul Hamilton. President Madison selected the former governor of South Carolina to serve as his secretary of the Navy from 1809-1813.  Interestingly, the first classes at the University of South Carolina were held when Paul was Governor of  South Carolina (1804-6).

Paul unleashed his small navy in the first days of the War of 1812 and they gave him victories such as USS Constitution capturing HMS Guerriere and USS President capturing HMS Macedonia.  Secretary Hamilton’s son Archibald served as a midshipman under Stephen Decatur on USS President and he was sent to Washington with the Macedonia’s colors. He arrived while President Madison was hosting a victory celebration for the Constitution and on the announcement of his arrival marched up to First Lady Dolley Madison and laid the Macedonia’s colors at her feet.

USS Constitution v. HMS Guerriere 1812

One day in 1809 Captain David Porter brought a young boy whom he had adopted (both parents had died) in to see Secretary Hamilton. His name was James Glasgow Farragut. After questioning the lad about his desire to serve at sea, Paul promised him a commission as Midshipman and Farragut received it dated 17 December 1810 while he was still nine years old. Farragut later changed his first name to his adoptive father’s, David, and David Glasgow Farragut would rise to become the first Admiral in the United States Navy.

Admiral David Glasgow Farragut (1801-1870)

Tomorrow’s game is heavily favored for the SEC South Carolina Gamecocks, but as Secretary of the Navy Paul Hamilton once let loose his small navy upon the mightiest Navy in the world and placed a boy on his beginning path to greatness…surprises can happen as our history shows…with all the connections and history…a great game tomorrow would not be surprising!

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