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[347]

Notes on the life of Admiral Foote.

His brother, John A. Foote.
There were six boys and no girls in my father's family. I was the eldest and am the only survivor. The Admiral was next to me in age. We were brought up, I think, upon purely patriarchal and Puritan principles, so I was surprised that my father, on taking me to the law school at Litchfield, should so far unbend as to say to me, “John, I think I have been able to control my family pretty well, all except Andrew — I have never tried to do more than to guide him.” In subsequent life I have thought that in that avowal I find the secret of the Admiral's unconquerable will and of his success as a naval commander. He was very genial and good-natured, and as a subaltern implicitly obedient. His interest in the Christian religion transformed him by subduing his will. There never was any cant about him, and he seemed to enjoy life and to get much out of it. A younger brother of ours said to me, “The world is a clog to me, but it seems to be a help to Andrew.” This justly expressed my opinion of his very decided and cheerful Christian character. I once visited him when he was stationed at the Naval Asylum at Philadelphia. Asking of the sentinel before the door for Lieutenant Foote, I was answered that he was in his church, which proved to be only a large room, at the end of the hall, where I halted to catch his earnest entreaties to his hearers to become good men. Such meetings, or a Sunday-school, or both, he sustained at all his stations ashore or afloat. At one time he doubted whether he could conscientiously continue in the navy. My father having asked him if he did not think a navy necessary, he replied, “Certainly, the seas must be policed.” Then added my father, “Should the navy be in charge of good or bad men?” “Of good men,” he replied — and declared that this view removed his doubts.

Later in life he got bravely over such doubts. It was enough for him that as an officer of the Government he was bound to do and dare everything to put down the rebellion. I was trying still further to intensify him, by other reasons, when he turned on me and said: “John, will you fight?” He saw that I hesitated, and at once added: “I will fight — my life is in my hand for this cause; and if you won't fight, don't talk quite so loud.”

When he began to descend the Mississippi I noticed that he went very slowly, and lay off at a distance when attacking any position. I informed him that I thought the people wanted dash and close fighting-something sharp and decisive. He replied: “Don't you know that my boats are the only protection you have upon your rivers against the rebel gun-boats — that without my flotilla everything on your rivers, your cities and towns would be at the mercy of the enemy? My first duty then is to care for my boats, if I am to protect you. Now when I ran up the Tennessee and the Cumberland, and attacked Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, if my boats were rendered unmanageable as my flag-ship was at Donelson, the current took care of me by carrying me away from the enemy's works. But all this is changed when I descend the Mississippi. Then my boats, if they become unmanageable, are carried directly into the hands of the enemy.” I saw the point and had to give in. As to the comparative value of the two arms of the service — the Army and the Navy — in clearing the Western rivers of the Confederates, my brother said they were like blades of shears — united, invincible; separated, almost useless.

About the middle of May, 1862, being much enfeebled by his wounds received at Fort Donelson and by illness, he made his home at my house in Cleveland, Ohio, until about midsummer of that year. During this time he retained his command, and was in constant receipt of reports from the fleet.

June 17th he wrote to the Navy Department:

If it will not be considered premature, I wish further to remark, that when this rebellion is crushed and a squadron is fitted out to enforce the new treaty for the suppression of the African slave-trade, I should be pleased to have command. But-so long as the rebellion continues, it will be my highest ambition to be actively employed in aiding its suppression.

His interest in Africa was intense. His one book was called Africa and the American flag.

In a message to Congress, dated July 6th, 1862, President Lincoln recommended a vote of thanks to Admiral Foote, which was given. After his return to duty he was for several months at the head of one of the new bureaus of the Navy Department, and notwithstanding the state of his health, after the failure of the attack with monitors and iron-clads upon the Charleston defenses, Admiral Foote was appointed, June 4th, 1863, to the command of the South Atlantic Squadron; but he was stricken down on his way to his command. I was told that Professor Bache--of the Medical Staff at the New York Navy Yard, where Foote had been stationed at the commencement of the war-said that he dreaded to tell the Admiral that his attack was a fatal one, as he thought his heart was set upon attempting to take Charleston. But, instead of his being affected by the solemn intelligence, Foote replied that he felt he was prepared and that he was glad to be through with guns and war. He died at the Astor House, in the city of New York, on the 26th of the same month. The mother of General Tilghman, who surrendered Fort Henry, was at the hotel, and, learning of his illness, tendered her sympathies. His native city of New Haven gave a public funeral, which was attended by the governor and legislature.

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