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About French Forrest
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 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 Vera Cruz, Mexico.
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 Navy Yard. When Virginia joined the Confederate States and merged its military, he joined the navy of the Confederate States of America and was appointed the commander of the navy yard at Norfolk, Virginia. He served as the Acting Assistant Secretary of the Confederate Navy, and had two stints as Commander of the James River Squadron.
In July 1863, the Navy Department ordered him to inspect each ship's ordnance that comprised the James River Squadron on a quarterly basis.
Civil War Confederate Naval Officer. He was the builder of the Confederate ironclad "CSS Virginia". Born in St. Mary's County, Maryland, he was appointed midshipman in the United States Navy on June 9, 1811, serving aboard the USS Hornet, he saw action in the War of 1812, during the Battle of Lake Erie, and the Mexican War. In the latter he was a Captain, commanding the Cumberland and the Raritan, in which he commanded the landing operations of General Winfield Scott's troops in action off Vera Cruz. He was also the Adjutant General of the land and naval forces during this time. From 1855 to 1856 he was the head of the Washington Navy Yard. Resigning his commission, he was appointed commander-in-chief with the rank of Captain in the Virginia navy after that state seceded.
On June 10, 1861, he received the same rank in the Confederate Navy, becoming third in seniority, which, he believed, entitled him to an active command. Placed in charge of the Gosport Navy Yard at Norfolk, after the Union fleet had abandoned it, he was ordered by Confederate Navy Secretary Stephen R. Mallory to rebuild as an armored ship the hulk that was the USS Merrimack. This he did, despite misgivings, resulting in the CSS Virginia, the South's first ironclad. Though he expected to command the Virginia, the position was given to Captain Franklin Buchanan, which bitterly disappointed him. Three months after the Battle of Hampton Roads, on March 8 and 9, 1862, Mallory had him replaced at Gosport for slowness in repairing the Virginia for service. He became head of the Office of Orders and Details until March 1863, when he finally received the command he coveted, becoming Flag Officer of the James River Squadron. The squadron, however, was not involved in any significant action during his tenure, and May 1864 he was replaced by Commander John K. Mitchell. He later would serve as acting assistant Secretary of the Confederate Navy.
Not long after the end of the war he succumbed to typhoid fever
Captain French Forrest (CSN)'s Timeline
October 4, 1796
St. Mary's Co.,MD
April 18, 1831
August 17, 1838
November 22, 1866
Congressional Cemetery Washington District of Columbia District Of Columbia