Commodore William D. Porter, USN (1808-1864)

William David Porter, son of Commodore David Porter and elder brother of Admiral David Dixon Porter, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on 10 March 1808. He entered the Navy as a Midshipman in January 1823 and attained the rank of Lieutenant at the end of 1833. He was retired in September 1855, but was later reinstated on active duty with the rank of Commander. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, he was commanding the sloop of war USS Saint Mary's.

Late in 1861, Porter took command of the newly-converted gunboat New Era, serving in the Mississippi River area with the Army's Western Gunboat Flotilla. He renamed her Essex, after his father's old ship of the War of 1812. During late 1861 and early 1862, he had Essex further modified and took her into action on a number of occasions, distinguishing himself for his courageous conduct. After the gunboat was damaged in action with Fort Henry, Tennessee, in February 1862, Porter had the ship virtually rebuilt. He then commanded her in further combat undertakings, including the destruction of the Confederate ironclad Arkansas. A controversial figure in the Navy, Porter received the rank of Commodore in recognition of his achievements, but was detached from Essex in September 1862 and had no further assignments afloat. He died on 1 May 1864.

USS William D. Porter (DD-579), 1943-1945, was named in honor of Commodore Porter.

This page features all our views of Commodore William D. Porter.

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Photo #: NH 58867

Commander William D. Porter, USN

Line engraving, after a sketch by Bill D. Travis, published in "Harper's Weekly", 1862, when Porter was commanding USS Essex in the Mississippi River area.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 148KB; 620 x 675 pixels

Photo #: NH 60993

Commodore William D. Porter, USN

Photograph dated 26 July 1863, probably taken by Fredricks & Company.
The original print is mounted on a Carte de visite, signed by Commodore Porter.

Donation of Frederick C. McKean, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 91KB; 415 x 765 pixels

Photo #: NH 47209

Commodore William D. Porter, USN

Line engraving by John Chester Buttre, after an 1863 photograph taken by Fredricks & Company.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 91KB; 505 x 765 pixels


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