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[132] the South Carolina, which was ordered up from Barrataria. A new disposition was made of the vessels, and the blockade was continued by keeping a ship off the mouth of each of the Passes.

On the 16th of September Ship Island had been evacuated by the Confederates. A force was landed from the Massachusetts, and the fort was occupied. The island became an important station, and facilitated the blockade of Mississippi Sound, where the cruisers might intercept the small vessels running between New Orleans and Mobile. On the 19th of October, the steamer Florida came out, under Commodore Hollins, and engaged the Massachusetts off the island. The Florida, being a faster vessel, and of less draft, was able to choose her distance, and the engagement was carried on at long range. A 68-pounder rifle-shell was exploded in the Massachusetts, but it did not seriously injure the vessel, and the enemy finally retreated out of reach. Ship Island served as the depot of the West Gulf Squadron until the evacuation of Pensacola, which then became the headquarters.

Mobile, the second point of importance in the Gulf, presented few natural difficulties to the blockaders; and the same peculiarities that made it an easy port to defend made it an easy port to blockade. The city lies at the head of a bay twenty-four miles long and ten miles wide in its upper part, expanding to twenty miles at its southern end. Very little, however, of this large sheet of water is accessible for vessels of even moderate draught. The upper anchorage has only twelve feet of water. The lower anchorage has from eighteen to twenty feet, and is five miles north of Mobile Point, at the main entrance to the bay. This entrance lies between two long, narrow sand-spits, and is approached by a channel running north and south. The channel, five miles

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