Porter* L David, an American naval officer, born in Boston, Feb. 1,1780, died in Pera, Turkey, March 28, 1843. He entered the navy in April, 1798, and was a midshipman in the frigate Constellation in her action with the French frigate Insurgente, Feb. 9, 1799. In October, 1799, he became a lieutenant, and served on the West India station. In January, 1800, his schooner, the Experiment, while becalmed off the coast of Santo Domingo, with several American merchantmen under her protection, was attacked by ten barges, which after a conflict of seven hours were beaten off. Lieut. Porter was wounded in this engagement. Subsequently the Experiment had several successful affairs with privateers, and captured the French schooner La Diane, 14 guns and 60 men. In August, 1801, the schooner Enterprise, 12 guns, to which Porter was attached, fell in off Malta with a Tripolitan cruiser of 14 guns and 80 men, which surrendered after an engagement of three hours. Subsequently, while attached to the frigate New York, he commanded a boat expedition which destroyed several feluccas in the harbor of Tripoli, and was again wounded. In October, 1803, he was captured in the frigate Philadelphia, and remained a prisoner in Tripoli until peace was proclaimed.
In April, 1806, he was made master commandant, and in July, 1812, captain. On the outbreak of the war of 1812 he sailed from New York in command of the frigate Essex, 32, and in a short cruise captured several British merchantmen and a transport with 150 troops on board. Soon afterward he fell in with and captured, after an action of eight minutes, H. B. M. S. Alert, of 20 18-lb. carronades, with a full crew. On Dec. 11 he captured near the equator the British government packet Norton, with $50,000 in specie on board. Capt. Porter continued to cruise in the south Atlantic and upon the coast of Brazil until the close of January, 1813, when he determined to proceed to the Pacific and destroy the English whale fishery in that ocean, and sailed for Valparaiso. Having there refitted, he went to sea, and on March 25 captured the Peruvian privateer Nereyda, of 19 guns, which had taken two American whale ships, and had their crews on board as prisoners. They were transferred to the Essex, and the armament and ammunition of the Nereyda were thrown overboard, when she was released. One of her prizes was shortly afterward recaptured and restored to her commander.
After this, Capt. Porter cruised about ten months in the Pacific, capturing 12 British ships employed chiefly in the sperm whale fishery, amounting in the aggregate to 3,369 tons; 400 prisoners were made; and for the time that important British interest in the Pacific was destroyed. The Georgiana, whaler, was converted into a vessel of war, named the Essex Junior, and cruised in company with the Essex. On Feb. 3, 1814, the Essex and Essex Junior arrived at Valparaiso. On the 8th H. B. M. frigate Phoebe and sloop Cherub arrived and anchored near the Essex, and after obtaining supplies cruised off Valparaiso six weeks. On March 28 the Essex made an attempt to get to sea, but in doubling a headland was struck by a squall, which carried away her maintopmast, and caused the loss of several men. In this crippled state the ship anchored 3 m. from the town, and was attacked by the Phoebe and Cherub. The Essex was a frigate of 860 tons, mounting 32 guns, 6 of which were long 12s, the rest 32-lb. carronades, with a crew of 255. The Phoebe was a frigate of 926 tons, mounting 46 guns, viz., 30 long 18s and 16 32-lb. carronades, with a crew of 320. The Cherub mounted 28 guns, viz., 18 32-lb. carronades, 8 24-lb. carronades, and 2 long 9s, with a crew of 180. At 4 P. M. the Phoebe, nearly astern of the Essex, opened her fire, the Cherub opening hers at the same time on the starboard bow, and the action continued 2 h. 30 m.
The Essex Junior took no part in it, her armament of 18-lb. carronades being too light to be of the least service in such an action. The Essex finally surrendered, with a loss of 58 killed, 66 wounded, and 31 missing, who were probably drowned in attempting to swim ashore when the ship was on fire during the engagement; and when she surrendered, Capt. Porter and Lieut. McKnight were the only commissioned sea officers who remained unhurt. A large portion of her guns were disabled. The British loss was 5 killed and 10 wounded. The Essex Junior brought the survivors of the Essex to the United States, where Capt. Porter was received with great distinction. His narrative of this remarkable cruise was published in New York in 1822 (2 vols. 8vo). From April, 1815, to December, 1823, he was a member of the board of navy commissioners, which post he resigned to take command of an expedition fitted out against pirates in the "West Indies. In October, 1824, upon evidence that a quantity of valuable goods had been carried by pirates to Faxardo on the E. end of Porto Rico, the Beagle, one of the schooners of the squadron, was sent there, but the officers on landing were thrown into prison.
After their release Com. Porter sailed for the island, landed a force of 200 men, and demanded an apology, which was given. The government, deeming that he had exceeded his powers, recalled him, and a court martial sentenced him to suspension for six months. He soon afterward resigned, and entered the service of Mexico as commander-in-chief of her naval forces, at a salary of $25,000 per annum. He remained in this service till 1829, when he returned to the United States, and was appointed by President Jackson consul general to the Barbary powers, from which post he was transferred to Constantinople as charge d'affaires, and finally became resident minister there, which office he held when he died. His remains were interred in the grounds of the naval asylum at Philadelphia. He wrote " Constantinople and its Environs " (2 vols. 12mo, New York, 1835).
David Dixon, an American naval officer, son of the preceding, born in Philadelphia in June, 1813. He entered the navy as midshipman in 1829, and became lieutenant in 1841. In the first 18 years of his service he is accredited with ten years' sea service in the Mediterranean, and the remainder of the time with duty in the coast survey and at the naval observatory. He served in the Mexican war, and then returned to the coast survey. On the discovery of gold in California he obtained leave from the navy department, and for three years commanded a mail steamer between New York and the isthmus of Panama. He afterward returned to the navy, and on the breaking out of the civil war in 1861 was ordered to supersede a post captain in command of the steam frigate Powhatan, which was despatched to aid in the reinforcement of Fort Pickens. For the expedition against New Orleans in 1862 Commander Porter organized and commanded a mortar flotilla; and in 1863 he was appointed acting rear admiral and assigned to command the Mississippi squadron, comprising in all 125 vessels with more than 1,300 officers. For his services in reducing Vicksburg, he received a commission as rear admiral, dated July 4, 1863. In the spring of 1864 he cooperated with Gen. Banks in the unsuccessful Red river expedition.
In October he was transferred from the Mississippi to the North Atlantic blockading squadron, and directed to attack the defences of "Wilmington. He appeared before Fort Fisher on Dec. 24, with 35 regular cruisers, 5 ironclads, and a reserve of 19 vessels. The bombardment continued through the next day, and was resumed on Jan. 13, 1865, by an augmented naval force, and kept up until the evening of the 15th, when the firing was stopped and the works were carried by a combined body of soldiers, sailors, and marines. Rear Admiral Porter was promoted to vice admiral, July 25, 1866, and became superintendent of the naval academy at Annapolis; and on the death of Farragut he succeeded him as admiral, his commission dating from Aug. 15, 1870.