Monday, May 30, 2011

David Dixon Porter on the Memory of the Civil War

Today, we celebrate Memorial Day.  Originally designated "Decoration Day" as a day to commemorate fallen Union soldiers during the American Civil War, it was later recognized as "Memorial Day" to honor all Americans who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.  It is a day of reflection and remembrance to the brave men and women of our armed forces.  

Although Admiral David Dixon Porter would never live to see the transformation of Decoration Day into our current day of celebrations, the words he included in the introduction of his 1886 work, The Naval History of the Civil War, tells much of the remembrance of the Civil War navies, especially in comparison to the War of 1812 (which his father David Porter was heavily involved in):

"The Naval incidents of the War of 1812 with Great Britain are better understood to-day by the great mass of American readers than are the naval incidence of the Civil War between the northern and seceding states, which lasted from 1861 to 1865. In the War of 1812 half a dozen frigates and a dozen sloops of war on the ocean, and three small squadrons on the lakes, made up about the sum total of our Navy afloat when the war commenced, and those vessels performed such marvelous exploits, considering the great superiority in ships of Great Britain, that the events, comparatively few in number, have impressed themselves indelibly on the mind of every schoolboy who read of them in books that were put in their hands at an early age: events that were taught them as part of the history of a nation which, previous to that time, had not paid much attention to the Navy, or even calculated that it would become so famed. 

Since that era the Navy of the United States has been making history for the country on a scale almost bewildering, and could the old pioneer captains of 1812 have been permitted to look on from their present abode (wherever that may be), we doubt not but that they would have been astonished at the large fleets we were putting afloat with such wonderful rapidity; and they would also have acknowledged that their descendants had nobly borne themselves in the war for the salvation of this Union, which was as dear to our forefathers as it is to us at the present time."

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