French Forrest

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French Forrest
French Forrest - Brady-Handy.jpg
Born 1796
Died December 22, 1866 (aged 69–70)
Georgetown, Washington, D.C.
Allegiance  United States of America
 Confederate States
Service/branch  United States Navy
Virginia Navy
 Confederate States Navy
Years of service 1811 - 1861 (USN)
1861 (Virginia Navy)
1861 - 1865 (CSN)
Rank U.S. Navy captain rank insignia (1864-1866).png Captain (USN)
Csn strap capt.png Captain (CSN)
Commands held Naval Forces, Veracruz
Gosport (Norfolk) Shipyard
Bureau of Orders and Details
James River Squadron
Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy
Battles/wars War of 1812
Mexican–American War
American Civil War

French Forrest (1796 – December 22, 1866) was an American naval officer who served first in the United States Navy and later the Confederate States Navy. His combat experience prior to the American Civil War included service in the War of 1812 and the Mexican–American War.


Born in Helen, Maryland, he became a midshipman on June 9, 1811 and participated in the War of 1812. He fought with Commodore Oliver Perry at the Battle of Lake Erie and was present in the action between the USS Hornet and HMS Peacock on February 24, 1813.[citation needed] He became a lieutenant on March 5, 1817, a commander on February 9, 1837, and a captain March 30, 1844. He was adjutant general in the Mexican–American War, and in 1847, he commanded the American naval forces in the landing at Veracruz, Mexico.[1]

When Virginia seceded from the United States on April 17, 1861, Forrest was made its first and only flag officer in the Virginia Navy and assumed command of the Gosport Shipyard (Norfolk Naval Shipyard).[1] When Virginia joined the Confederate States of America and merged its military on 6 June 1861, he joined the Confederate States Navy as a captain and kept his command, which he held from April 22, 1861 to May 15, 1862. In that capacity he raised and rebuilt the USS Merrimack into the casemate ironclad CSS Virginia, which he expected to command; but that job instead went to Captain Franklin Buchanan. Forrest was then replaced as the Commandant of the Gosport Shipyard, because Secretary of the Navy Mallory thought he had been too slow to repair the ex-Merrimack.

Forrest then headed to the Department of the Navy offices and became the Chief of the Bureau of Orders and Details until March 1863.[2] He commanded the James River Squadron twice, from July 10, 1861 to February 27, 1862 (while also commandant of the shipyard) and again from March 24, 1863 to May 6, 1864 when he became the Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy.

Forrest returned to Washington to find that his property there had been seized, and died shortly after the War in Georgetown on December 22, 1866.


  1. ^ a b John M. Coski (1996). Capital Navy: The Men, Ships and Operations of the James River Squadron. Campbell, CA: Savas Woodbury Publishers. ISBN 1-882810-03-1. 
  2. ^ Office of Naval War Records, Navy Department (1898). "Officers in the Confederate States Navy, 1861-1865" (PDF). Government Printing Office. Retrieved 26 December 2016. 

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Robert B. Pegram
Commander of the Norfolk Navy Yard
April 22, 1861 – May 15, 1862
Succeeded by
Sidney Smith Lee
Preceded by
Commander of the James River Squadron
July 10, 1861 – February 27, 1862
Succeeded by
Franklin Buchanan
Preceded by
Samuel Barron
Commander of the James River Squadron
March 24, 1863 – May 6, 1864
Succeeded by
John K. Mitchell