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  Name:  Andrew Hull Foote
  Born:  September 12, 1806
  Died:  June 26, 1863
 

 
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Foote, Andrew Hull (September 12, 1806 – June 26, 1863)

Andrew Foote was a religiously devout, reform–minded, talented, and accomplished naval officer who rose to the rank of rear admiral in the United States Navy.  In 1862, his naval victories were crucial to the Union securing control of Kentucky, western Tennessee, and the upper Mississippi River. 

He was born on September 12, 1806, in New Haven, Connecticut, to Eudocia Hull Foot and Samuel Augustus Foot, a merchant shipper, farmer, U.S. congressman, U.S. senator, and governor of Connecticut.  (It is not known when Andrew Foote returned to the traditional spelling of the family name, restoring the final “e” his father had dropped.)  Samuel Foot, whose shipping business failed because of American and British embargoes connected with the War of 1812, moved his family to a farm outside Cheshire, Connecticut, in 1813.  Four years later, the senior Foot began his political career with election to the state legislature.  Young Andrew was educated for three years at the Cheshire common school and then for six years in New Haven at the nationally renowned Episcopal Academy of Connecticut (even though the Foots were strict Congregationalists).  In 1821, at the age of 15, Foote finished his preparatory studies and entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in June 1822, but left in December to pursue his dream of a naval career.  Appointed an acting midshipman, he formally received the rank after a six–month probationary period. 

Foote served in the Caribbean (1823–1824) and then in the Pacific (1825–1827) before returning to the Caribbean, where he was master of the sloop Hornet.  He married Caroline Flagg in 1828; the couple would later have one child.  He returned to duty in the Pacific (1829–1831) as master of the sloop St. Louis before serving for three years (1833–1836) in the Mediterranean as flag lieutenant of the ship of the line Delaware.  In 1837, he served along the U.S. Atlantic Coast aboard the steam frigate Fulton II under the command of Commodore Matthew Perry.  Over the next two years (1838–1840), Foote was executive officer of the John Adams, a sloop of war, stationed off East India.  In 1838, his first wife died, and four years later he wed Caroline Augusta Street; the couple later had two children.

In 1841–1843, Foote served in Philadelphia as executive officer of the Naval Asylum, where he encouraged the retired sailors to refrain from alcohol.  He returned to the Mediterranean (1843–1845) as first lieutenant of the flagship Cumberland, on which he led a prayer group and established a temperance society with extra pay offered in exchange for grog rations.  The latter began a reform movement that finally ended grog rations in the entire U.S. Navy in 1862, thanks in large part to Foote’s leadership.  Because he was executive officer at the Boston Navy Yard in 1846–1848, Foote did not see action in the Mexican War.  As executive officer of the brig Perry in 1849–1851, he vigorously enforced the U.S. ban on the international slave trade against slave ships off the African coast that flew the American flag.

In 1851, Foote returned to shore duty in the United States, and the next year was promoted to the rank of commander.  He served again as executive officer at the Naval Asylum in Philadelphia (1854–1855) and was appointed to the Naval Efficiency Board (1855), a committee that stirred controversy by dismissing 201 naval officers (of whom almost half were later reinstated).  In 1854, he published a book, Africa and the American Flag, which criticized the inhumanity of the international slave trade and urged changes to make the ban against it more effective, including executing slave–traders, increasing the number of American naval vessels stationed off Africa, and prohibiting the sale of American ships in Africa. 

In 1856–1858, Foote commanded the Portsmouth, a sloop of war, in the waters off China and the East Indies.  Shortly after the Second Opium War between Britain and China began in October 1856, he landed a contingent of marines in Canton to defend the warehouses of American merchants.  On November 15, 1856, the Chinese fired on the American naval vessels, which were leaving the dangerous port.  Two American ships were grounded, but the Portsmouth returned fire and quickly captured the Chinese fortifications.  Foote’s skillful leadership in the battle earned him the praise of the British.  The Chinese apologized for the incident against the neutral Americans. 

In 1858, Foote returned to the United States to become the commandant at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where he was serving when the Civil War began in April 1861.  Two months later, he was promoted to captain and assigned in September to command the Union’s flotilla in the West, headquartered at St. Louis.  Named a flag officer, he oversaw completion of the fleet’s construction as well as its manning and supplying with ordnance.  Under the command of General Ulysses S. Grant, Foote established a naval base on the Mississippi River at Cairo, Illinois, and the two planned a campaign against Confederate Fort Henry on the Tennessee River.  After a two–hour naval bombardment on February 6, 1862, the fort fell to Foote’s forces.  It was a major strategic victory and a boost to Union morale.  On February 13–14, his ships fired on nearby Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River, but were seriously damaged and forced to retreat.  Foote had been injured by shrapnel in his ankle, and was criticized for his tactics; however, the naval attack had weakened the Confederates who surrendered on February 16 after an assault by Grant’s army forces.  The important dual victories secured Union control of Kentucky and gave them access to the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers. 

On March 15 1862, Foote joined the Union expedition on the Mississippi River against Island No. 10, which surrendered on April 8.  It was an important victory that gave the Union control of the Mississippi River as far south as Fort Pillow, Tennessee.  His flotilla continued downriver, capturing Confederate strongholds on its way toward Memphis, which fell to the Union on June 6.  Foote did not participate in the latter victory, however, because his wound, which had not healed properly, and other illnesses forced him to take sick leave in May.  Two months later, in July 1862, he was promoted to rear admiral, received the official Thanks of Congress, and was placed in charge of the newly created Bureau of Equipment and Recruiting.  He soon tired of administrative work, though, and in June 1863 secured appointment to head the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.  However, Admiral Andrew Foote died in New York City of Bright’s Disease on June 26, 1863, before he could assume command.

Sources consulted:  Spencer C. Tucker, Andrew Foote:  Civil War Admiral on Western Waters (Naval Institute Press, 2000); Kenneth J. Blume, “Foote, Andrew Hull,” American National Biography (online); “Foot, Samuel Augustus,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress (online); Calvin Lane, “The African Squadron:  The U. S. Navy and the Slave Trade,” “Exploring Amistad at Mystic Seaport,” amistad.mysticseaport.org/discovery/themes/lane.navy.html; Robert W. Love Jr., History of the U.S. Navy, 1775–1941, vol. 1 (Harrisburg, PA:  Stackpole Books, 1992); and, J. Y. Wong, Deadly Dreams:  Opium and the Arrow War in China (1856–1860) (Cambridge University Press, 1998).

 
 

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