On January 9, 1862, Farragut was appointed to the command of the western gulf blockading squadron. “On February 2,” says the National Cyclopedia of American Biograph, “he sailed on the steam sloop Hartford from Hampton Roads, arriving at the appointed rendezvous, Ship Island, in sixteen days. His fleet, consisting of six war steamers, sixteen gunboats, twenty-one mortar vessels, under the command of Commodore David D. Porter, and five supply ships, was the largest that had ever sailed under the American flag. Yet the task assigned him, the passing of the forts below New Orleans, the capture of the city, and the opening of the Mississippi River through its entire length was one of difficulty unprecedented in the history of naval warfare.”
Danger or death had no terror for the brave sailor. Before setting out on his hazardous enterprise, he said: “If I die in the attempt, it will only be what every officer has to expect. He who dies in doing his duty to his country, and at peace with his God, has played the drama of life to the best advantage.”
The hero did not die. He fought and won the great battle, and thus executed the command laid upon him,—“the certain capture of the city of New Orleans.” The victory was accomplished with the loss of but one ship, and 184 men killed and wounded,—“a feat in naval warfare,” says his son and biographer, “which has no precedent, and which is still without a parallel, except the one furnished by Farragut himself, two years later, at Mobile.”
“Without vision the people perish”
Without a high ideal an individual never climbs. Keep your eyes on the mountain top, and, though you may stumble and fall many times in the ascent, though great bowlders, dense forests, and roaring torrents may often bar the way, look right on, never losing sight of the light which shines away up in the clear atmosphere of the mountain peak, and you will ultimately reach your goal.
When the late Horace Maynard, LL.D., entered Amherst College, he exposed himself to the ridicule and jibing questions of his fellow-students by placing over the door of his room a large square of white cardboard on which was inscribed in bold outlines the single letter “V.” Disregarding comment and question, the young man applied himself to his work, ever keeping in mind the height to which he wished to climb, the first step toward which was signified by the mysterious “V.”
Four years later, after receiving the compliments of professors and students on the way he had acquitted himself as valedictorian of his class, young Maynard called the attention of his fellow-graduates to the letter over his door. Then a light broke in upon them, and they cried out, “Is it possible that you had the valedictory in mind when you put that ‘V’ over your door?”
“Assuredly I had,” was the emphatic reply.