Franklin Buchanan was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on 13 September 1800. In 1815 at the age of 14 he entered the Navy as a Midshipman on board the frigate JAVA. He was promoted to Lieutenant in 1825, to Commander in 1841 and to Captain in 1855. Over the four and a half decades of his U.S. Navy service, Buchanan had extensive and worldwide sea duty.
· Organized the Naval Academy as its first Superintendent (1845-47).
· Commanded the sloop’s of war VINCENNES in the 1940’s and GERMANTOWN in the Mexican War.
· Commanded the steam frigate SUSQUEHANNA, flagship of Perry's squadron, in the expedition to Japan in 1852.
On the morning of July 14, 1853 he became the first American to land on Japanese soil while leading the landing of Perry's party near the village of Kurihama. In 1859 he became Commandant of the Washington Navy Yard.
· Was the Commandant of the Washington Navy Yard 1859-61.
In April 1861 believing that his native state would soon leave the Union, Buchanan resigned his commission. His views were not as a secessionist, but felt it only proper to fight for the well-being of his family in that state. When Maryland held with the Union he tried to recall his resignation, the Secretary of the navy wrote him saying the President had stricken his name from the rolls of the navy. This treatment, coupled with his sympathy for the south, caused Buchanan to join the Confederate Navy with the rank of Captain.
· He joined the Confederate States Navy, receiving a Captain's commission in September 1861.
· In February 1862, after heading the CSN's Office of Orders and Detail, he was placed in command of the navel defense of the James River on board ironclad CSS VIRGINIA ( aka USS MERRIMACK in US Navy before capture at Norfolk and conversion into ironclad). Buchanan was able to destroy the Union frigate CUMBERLAND and capture the CONGRESS. He was severely wounded and relieved of command and therefore unable to participate during the first battle of the ironclads the following day (The Battle of Hampton Roads - MONITOR/MERRIMAC).
· These successful assaults resulted in his promotion to Admiral in August 1862 (the ranking officer in the Confederate Navy) and sent to command Confederate Navy forces on Mobile Bay, Alabama.
· He oversaw the construction of the ironclad CSS TENNESSEE and was on board her during her gallant battle with the Union fleet on 5 August 1864 at the Battle of Mobile Bay. Which was made famous by his opponent Rear Admiral David Glasgow Farragut's famous statement " Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead."
He was twice wounded severely and was taken prisoner of war, 5 August 1864, he was not exchanged until February 1865. He was on convalescent leave until the Civil War ended a few months later.
Following the conflict, Buchanan lived in Maryland, then was a businessman in Mobile until 1870, when he again took up residence in Maryland. He died there on 11 May 1874.
Admiral Buchanan died at his home "The Rest" in Talbot County, Md. 11 May 1874.
Three U.S. Navy destroyers have been named in honor of Admiral Franklin Buchanan, including Buchanan (DD-131), Buchanan (DD-484) and Buchanan (DDG-14).
Each year Phil Beinke (who served on DDG 14) places wreath from Buchanan Association DDG 14 at Admiral Franklin Buchanan’s grave site. The ribbon reads on left “USS BUCHANAN DDG 14 ORG” on right “FOR ALL WHO SAILED UNDER THE BUCHANAN NAME”
For more information on Franklin Buchanan Reference - Confederate Admiral: The life and wars of Franklin Buchanan (Library of Navel Biography) by Craig L. Symonds
Links to sites with more information on Franklin Buchanan
An after action report, written by Franklin Buchanan