How Mosquitoes prevented capture of Farragut. From the Times-dispatch, December 23, 1907.
New Orleans, La.,. December 22, 1907.That a mosquito bite once stood between Admiral Farragut and death, and that ninety bodies now moulder in the old monitor Tescumseh, lying in the gulf off Fort Morgan, Ala., are facts discovered by Rear-Admiral E. E. Roberts, U. S. N. (retired), who is here for the first time since 1862, when, as a lieutenant of engineers, attached to Admiral Farragut's Squadron, he was in all the notable naval operations along the Southern coast and came up the Mississippi River and captured New Orleans. Admiral Roberts was with Admiral Farragut in the battle of Mobile Bay. He was at the capture of Fort Fisher, at the mouth of Cape Fear River, and at that time was a messmate of Admiral Dewey, who was then a lieutenant-commander. Admiral Roberts recently visited the old forts near Mobile, Ala. “I have learned,” said Admiral Roberts,
that in the summer of 1863, before the attempt was made to run by Forts Morgan and Gaines, mosquitoes prevented the death or capture of Admiral Farragut. The mortar fleet of Admiral Farragut, while anchored in Mississippi Sound, within shelling distance of Fort Powell, at Grant's Pass, was bombarding that stronghold. Admiral Farragut was on one of the blockading vessels at Sand Island, in the gulf off Mobile Bay. In order to personally look after the shelling operations the admiral would run down the island on the gulf side, land in a small boat opposite the mortar fleet, and cross Dauphin Island, which was very narrow at that point. He would meet a small boat on the sound side, which conveyed him to the mortar fleet. On these trips he was usually accompanied by one man, his secretary or aid, and as the crossing was made within a mile of the woods, which extended not much over a mile from Fort Gaines, a party of Confederates, stationed at Fort Gaines, decided to make an effort to capture Admiral Farragut.  This party included Sergeant Wiley Wagner, Corporal Wiliam Foster and Private Harry Savage, of Company E, 1st Confederate Georgia Regiment. Taking with them three days rations and water, they went at night to the place where the crossing was usually made and secreted themselves in the marsh grass. Their idea was that if they could capture Admiral Farragut and his companion they could reach the woods in safety. They did not think they would be fired upon because of fear of the bombarding fleet of striking the admiral. The Confederates planned to capture the admiral if possible and hold him as hostage, but to kill him if he resisted and run the risk of injury to themselves. The three Confederates remained hidden in high marsh grass on Dauphin Island for two days and three nights, but for some reason Admiral Farragut did not make his regular daily visit to the mortar fleet. Dauphin Island has a reputation for mosquitoes equal to that of Jersey, and the Confederates suffered tortures as they lay exposed to hordes of the fierce insects. On the morning of the third day the three men, more dead than alive, crawled back to Fort Gaines and abandoned the plan to make Admiral Farragut a prisoner. They were on the sick list for a week. The very day the attempt was abandoned Admiral Farragut resumed his visits to the mortar fleet.“The monitor Tecumseh,” continued Admiral Roberts, ‘still lies in the harbor off Fort Morgan, and ninety bodies are yet in the old war vessel. The Tecumseh was sunk by a submarine torpedo, which blew in the bottom. As the only means of exit was the turret, through which only one man could pass at a time, the ninety fighters aboard went down with the ship.’