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Young Franklin Buchanan-The Confederacy’s Only Full Admiral

At age 14, young Buchanan received a midshipman’s warrant in January 1815, just in time to miss his desired opportunity to fight the British in the War of 1812.  He was ordered to report to the USS Java and to serve under the heroic Captain Oliver Hazard Perry aboard this new construction frigate.  What an opportunity!!  However the ship was not to embark for two months and so young Buchanan asked for a two-month furlough so he could get some sea experience aboard a merchantman bound for the West Indies.  Now this all sounds like a storytale but 14-yearolds in 1815 had a bit more grit than most of our sons today.  Buchanan sounds like a man with a career vision.

Buchanan eventually reported aboard the Java and began his midshipman training.  In those days midshipman were assigned aboard a war ship and mentored by the Captain and his lieutenants.  On the largest man-of-wars a chaplain might be assigned to instruct in classic languages as well as Spanish and French.  Instruction in navigation, shipboard  duties and managing the compliment of sailors was standard.  At so point later the midshipman would be allowed to sit for the lieutenants exam.  Promotion to lieutenant could take 10 or more years.

Buchanan demonstrated the toughness and determination that would eventually characterize his performance as a fighting Confederate naval commander.


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