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. He also commanded the ironclad CSS Virginia.
Photographed in Confederate Navy uniform during the Civil War.
|Born||17 September 1800|
|Died||11 May 1874 (aged 73)|
Talbot County, Maryland
Wye House family plot outside Easton, Maryland
|Allegiance|| United States|
|Service/|| United States Navy|
Confederate States Navy
|Years of service||USN 1815–1861|
|Rank|| Captain (USN)|
|Commands held||USS Vincennes|
James River Squadron
American Civil War
|Other work||College president and businessman|
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. 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 Thomas McKean was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
On February 19, 1835, at Annapolis, Maryland, he married Ann Catherine Lloyd. They had nine children: eight daughters and a son.
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 from 1852–1854. 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, 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 did not want traitors or half-hearted patriots in his navy and refused to reinstate him. Thus in May, 1861 he was out of the U.S. Navy.
On September 5, 1861, Franklin Buchanan joined the Confederate 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 Confederate 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. He climbed to the top deck of Virginia and began furiously firing toward shore with a carbine as the USS Congress was shelled. 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.
In August 1862, Buchanan was promoted to the rank of Full Admiral – the only officer so honored in the Confederate Navy – and was sent to take command of Confederate naval forces stationed at Mobile Bay, Alabama. 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. Wounded and taken prisoner, Buchanan was not exchanged until February 1865. He was on convalescent leave until the Civil War ended a few months later.
Following the conflict, Buchanan lived in Maryland and in Mobile, Alabama 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.
Three U.S. Navy destroyers have been named Buchanan in honor of Admiral Franklin Buchanan: DD-131 (Wickes-class), DD-484 (Gleaves-class), and DDG-14 (Charles F. Adams class). The Superintendent's quarters at the United States Naval Academy is also named the Buchanan House.
- Quarstein, "Franklin Buchanan"
- Symonds, p. 152.
- Jones, Terry L., Historical dictionary of the Civil War, Lanham, Scarecrow Press, 2011, p . 638.
- United States Naval Institute Proceedings, Volume 88, U.S. Naval Institute, 1962, p. 68.
- Tucker, Spencer, Almanac of American military history, Santa Barbara, ABC-CLIO, 2013, p. 668.
- Symonds, p. 254.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Franklin Buchanan.|
- Photos of Buchanan – from the Naval Historical Center, Washington, D.C.
- Franklin Buchanan Naval Papers, 1796–1847 (bulk 1817–1847) MS 1 held by Special Collections & Archives, Nimitz Library at the United States Naval Academy
| Superintendent of United States Naval Academy
George P. Upshur
| Commander of the James River Squadron
February 27, 1862 – March 29, 1862
| President of the Maryland Agricultural College