Spurred on by a thought about the Battle of Mobile Bay (where for the first and only time, two American admirals were pitted against each other, Farragut and Buchanan), my mind turned to Civil War admirals as a group. Before the Civil War, the American navy's highest formal rank was Captain. Senior captains, those in charge of more than one vessel or commanders of large shore installations like navy yards were frequently accorded the title of "Commodore," but it was a courtesy title with no formal standing. Reformers had pressed for years for the creation of higher ranks for a number of reasons, but Congress had consistently refused; an oft-cited reason was the association of admirals with the British Royal Navy and aristocracy. In truth, the small antebellum U.S. Navy had comparatively little operational need for admirals, as it seldom operated in formations larger than a handful of ships, but this changed decisively and rapidly with the advent of the Civil War. An initial half-measure (from just before the war) was to name senior captains to the generic-sounding rank of "Flag Officer," but it was far from settled as to whether this was a formal rank or merely a position held for a period of time by a captain. But with the war came the permanent establishment of admirals, and "flag officer" was rapidly discarded (other than as a generic term for commodores and admirals).