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Franklin Buchanan
September 13, 1800(1800-09-13) – May 11, 1874 (aged 73)
Portrait of Admiral Buchanan
Place of birth Baltimore, Maryland
Place of death Talbot County, Maryland
Place of burial Wye House family plot outside Easton, Maryland
Allegiance United States of America
Confederate States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Confederate Navy
Years of service USN 1815-1861
CSN 1861-1865
Rank Admiral
Commands held USS Vincennes, USS Germantown, USS Susquehanna (antebellum), James River Squadron, CSS Virginia, CSS Tennessee (ACW)
Battles/wars Mexican-American War

American Civil War

Other work College president and businessman

Franklin Buchanan (September 13, 1800 – May 11, 1874) was an officer in the United States Navy who became an admiral in the Confederate Navy during the American Civil War, and commanded the ironclad CSS Virginia.


Early life

Buchanan was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He was the fifth child and third son of a physician, George Buchanan and Laetitia McKean Buchanan. He became a midshipman in 1815, was promoted to lieutenant in 1825, commander in 1841 and captain in 1855.

Over the four and a half decades of his U.S. Navy service, 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 during the 1850s.

In 1845-47, he served as the first Superintendent of the United States Naval Academy, followed by notable Mexican-American War service. In 1859-61, Captain Buchanan was the Commandant of the Washington Navy Yard. During the Civil War he joined the Confederate forces.

Civil War

He was the captain of the ironclad CSS Virginia (formerly the USS Merrimack) during the Battle of Hampton Roads in Virginia. He climbed to the top deck of the 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 the 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 Pearl Harbor.

In August 1862, Buchanan was promoted to the rank of admiral and sent to command Confederate naval forces at Mobile Bay, Alabama. He oversaw the construction of the ironclad CSS Tennessee 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, Admiral Buchanan was not exchanged until February 1865. He was on convalescent leave until the Civil War ended a few months later.

Later life

Following the conflict, Buchanan lived in Maryland, then was a businessman in Mobile 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.

In memoriam

Three U.S. Navy destroyers have been named in honor of Admiral Franklin Buchanan: Buchanan (DD-131), (DD-484) and (DDG-14). See USS Buchanan for U.S. Navy ships named in his honor. The Superintendent's quarters at the United States Naval Academy is also named the Buchanan House.

See also


  • Symonds, Craig L., Confederate Admiral: The Life and Wars of Franklin Buchanan, Naval Institute Press, 1999, ISBN 978-1591148463.

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Superintendent of United States Naval Academy
Succeeded by
George P. Upshur
Preceded by
French Forrest
Commander of the James River Squadron
February 27, 1862 – March 29, 1862
Succeeded by
Josiah Tattnall
Academic offices
Preceded by
Charles Minor
President of the Maryland Agricultural College
Succeeded by
Samuel Register


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