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Lincoln Commission of William D. Porter
as Commodore in the Navy (SOLD)
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The third brother of a famous naval family receives his Civil War commission from Lincoln.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN. Partially Printed Document Signed as President, co-signed by Gideon Welles as Secretary of the Navy and William Pelloran. Washington, D.C., January 26, 1863. 1 p., 16¼ x 18½ in., on vellum.

Inventory #22833       SOLD — please inquire about other items

SKI donated this document to a worthwhile charity, Our Time (helping kids who stutter since 2001). It was auctioned on April 22, 2013. 

Historical Background

William David Porter (1808 – 1864) was born into a strong Navy family. His father, Commodore David Porter, gained fame as captain of the U.S.S. Constitution and later the U.S.S. Essex during the War of 1812. His more famous younger brother, David Dixon Porter, was an admiral during the Civil War and later superintendant of the U.S. Naval Academy, and his adopted brother, David Farragut, also rose to the rank of admiral. William shipped out at 12 years of age on the U.S.S. Franklin, served as lighthouse inspector, and later as ordnance officer at the Washington Navy Yard. He helped develop explosive shells, and from the mid-1840s through 1855, outfitted steamers and commanded supply vessels. He retired in 1855, but at the end of 1858, President James Buchanan promoted him to commander of the sloop-of-war St. Mary’s in the Pacific.

At the outset of the Civil War, he was reassigned to assist Andrew Foote in creating the Western Flotilla to control the Mississippi River. Porter patrolled and engaged Confederate gunboats aboard the U.S.S. Essex, named after his father’s vessel, and was injured when the Essex’s boilers were hit during the attack on Fort Henry, Tennessee, on February 6, 1862. He supervised the vessel’s reconstruction, as well as the construction of Union ironclads, and eventual rejoined the Western Flotilla. In July 1862, he engaged the ironclad C.S.S. Arkansas and after running aground, narrowly escaped capture. A month later, the Essex succeeded in destroying the Arkansas. Porter then participated in the bombardment of Natchez, Mississippi, in September 1862. Returning to New Orleans, he was promoted to the rank of commodore with this commission and reassigned to New York, where he died in May 1864.