April 22, 1863: Farragut Complains of New Uniforms

Admiral Farragut

Admiral Farragut throughout his career was fairly outspoken, and on April 22, 1863 he sent a letter to Assistant Secretary of the Navy Gustavus Fox.  Among other topics, Farragut expressed his dislike for the new uniforms for naval officers.  Farragut had served in the Navy for 53 years by 1863, beginning his career as a nine-year old midshipman in 1810 and seeing combat duty in the War of 1812.  Over a half century he had seen many changes in the uniforms of the Navy, and no doubt he was simply sick of what he clearly viewed as frequent and unnecessary changes:

Pray do not let those officers at Washington be changing our uniform every week or two.  I think there should have been but one change made.  As you made a new grade it would have been but right to make a uniform of it, and I wish that uniform [for Rear Admiral] had been simply a broad stripe of lace on the cuff say an inch and a quarter wide with a narrow stripe of a quarter of an inch above it, and a little rosette with a silver star in the centre. The star is the designation of the Admiral and therefore should be visible.  The other uniforms were all well enough but this adding stripes until they reach a man’s elbow, appears to me to be a great error .   In the first place you must count the stripes to ascertain the officer’s rank, which at any distance is almost impossible, and I presume the objects of uniforms are principally for the purpose of recognizing the grades in order to pay the honor due on all official occasions.  It appears to me, however, that the object of the present change of uniform is to blend the grades as much as possible;  or, in other words, to avoid distinctions.  If such is the case, bring us down to the simple blue coat with navy buttons;  but if the grade is to be marked, let it be distinct and unmistakable. 

My rule through life has been to vote against a change in uniform, but when one has to be made, make it as good as I could, that is well suited to the necessities of the service, easy to procure, not expensive, easily preserved, and the grades distinctly marked.

Published in: on April 22, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on April 22, 1863: Farragut Complains of New Uniforms  
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