Porter's father, 2 of his brothers, and his cousins were all distinguished naval or army officers. When Porter was 10 years old, he went to sea with his father for the first time. He served in the Mexican navy, was captured by the Spanish, then returned to the United States in 1829. Porter joined the U.S. Navy, and advancing slowly because of the peace. He intended to leave the
navy and use his energies and talents elsewhere when the Civil War began, changing his plans.
Porter was given command of the "Powhatan" and took part in the efforts to relieve Fort Pickens in Florida. In 1861, he and his ship stayed in the Gulf of Mexico. In 1862, he began planning the capture of New Orleans, and received the surrender of Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip. In October of 1862, he took command of the Mississippi Squadron, and became responsible for the Mississippi River and its tributaries north of Vicksburg.
Porter worked with the Army to capture Arkansas Port in January 1863, then Vicksburg in July 1863. Promoted to rear admiral because of his performance at Vicksburg, he was given responsibility for the whole Mississippi River system north of New Orleans. He made a valiant effort in the Red River Campaign in the spring of 1864, then took part in the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron. During the assault on Fort Fisher, Porter led the largest U.S. fleet assembled up to that point. His last act of combat service was the capture of the fort and defenses of Wilmington.
As soon as the Civil War ended, Porter became superintendent of the Naval Academy. Promoted to admiral in 1870, he remained active to the end of his life. Porter died on February 13, 1891, in the District of Columbia.
CAMPAIGNS: Fort Pickens, Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip, Arkansas Post, Vicksburg, Red River, Fort Fisher.