Oscar Walter Farenholt : biography
Rear Admiral Oscar Walter Farenholt (May 2, 1845 – June 30, 1920) was an officer in the United States Navy during the American Civil War, the Spanish-American War and is the first enlisted man in the Navy to reach flag rank.Encyclopedia Americana pp. 18-19
Farenholt was born to German immigrants in San Antonio, Texas, who had settled on a ranch on the Salado River 1842, not far from the famous Alamo Mission.Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York pg. 612 Speaking only German until the age of eight, he was sent to New Orleans to a French school where he learned English for the first time. He continued his schooling until twelve years of age, entering a preparatory school, near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Farenholt eventually broke off his studies believing dismissal from this institution to be in short order due to a boyish scrape, traveled to New Orleans, and shipped out to New York aboard the American sailing ship Saint Charles. He continued sailing as a merchant sailor until the outbreak of the American Civil War.
Post Spanish-American War
He served at the Boston Navy Yard and at the Naval War College in February, 1899. He was promoted Captain in September, 1900, served as Commandant of the Navy Yard at Cavite in the Philippine Islands in 1901, was Commander of the monitor in the Asiatic station during 1901, and was promoted Rear Admiral September 1, 1901. He was the first enlisted man in the Navy to reach flag rank, and voluntarily retired after giving 40 years of active service.
Oscar married Miss Ella Mortimer Ames (born 1848 in Massachusetts). Rear Admiral Farenholt retired September 1, 1901 and died June 30, 1920 at Mare Island, California. Ella died March 21, 1925 in California and both are buried at the San Francisco National Cemetery in San Francisco, California.Ships' Data, U.S. Naval Vessels p. 393 Two ships have been named for Farenholt, and .
During the Spanish-American War, Farenholt was put in command of the . The ship was an old vessel with about 50 crew members. The Monocacy was once said to be "only fit for a museum shelf."Men and women of America p. 587 His ship was used as base of procurement at Shanghai for Dewey's fleet. Farenholt spent no time in the Caribbean during the war, even though that was where the majority of the fighting took place.Wade p. 371 He was given the task of obtaining a source for coal and supplies for the Asiatic Squadron through a Chinese intermediary. The efforts were kept secret, because this was against the neutrality laws.Leonard's, Marquis's p. 471
American Civil War
Farenholt entered the Navy as a seaman April 24, 1861, after 3 years in the merchant service. He participated in engagements and battles at Battle of Hatteras Inlet Batteries, Battle of Port Royal, Battle of Fort Pulaski, and numerous others. On Oct 22, 1862 while serving as a member of the howitzer gun crew aboard the , ordinary seaman Farenholt was severely wounded at the Battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina and was discharged from the Navy.A thousand American men of mark to-day pp. 67-68 He reentered the U.S. Navy in February, 1863 after recovering and was assigned to the monitor participating in almost daily engagements with defenses of Charleston, South Carolina from April 1863 to April 1864. He participated in the unsuccessful storming party of Fort Sumter in September, 1863. Distinguished service led to his appointment as Acting Ensign on August 19, 1864 and he was in command of the mortar schooner attached to the squadron in the Sounds of North Carolina later that year. He also participated in the recapture of Plymouth, North Carolina, and several engagements on the Roanoke, Chowan, and Blackwater rivers as well as the capture of Fort Fisher, North Carolina.Hamersly's pp. 115-116
Post Civil War
Farenholt was assigned various duties and was promoted to Ensign on March 12, 1868, Master on December 18, 1868, Lieutenant on March 21, 1870, Lieutenant Commander on May 11, 1882, and Commander on June 19, 1892. In 1890 he was on sea duty attached to the which was in port in Sitka Borough, Alaska.
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