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Closing operations in the Gulf and western rivers.

by Professor James Russell Soley, U. S. N.
In the operations against Mobile, in March and April, 1865, the navy bore its full share of the work, and met with heavy losses. The West Gulf squadron, after Farragut's retirement from the command in September, 1864, had been under the direction of Commodore James S. Palmer, who was in turn relieved at the end of February by Acting Rear-Admiral Henry K. Thatcher. Palmer, however, an officer of great energy and skill, continued to serve with the squadron. Admiral Thatcher took personal direction of the closing operations against Mobile in cooperation with General Canby. His force included among other vessels the iron-clads Cincinnati, Winnebago, Chickasaw, Milwaukee, Osage, and Kickapoo. Among the wooden vessels were the double-enders Genesee, Sebago, Octorara, and Metacomet, the gun-boats Itasca and Sciota, the tin-clads Rodolph, Elk, Meteor, Tallahatchie, Nyanza, and Stockdale (flag-ship). The upper waters of the bay were thickly sown with stationary torpedoes, and great numbers of floating mines were sent down from above, so that the naval operations were full of danger.

The Confederate torpedo service at Mobile was particularly efficient, and the lighter vessels of the Union fleet were constantly employed in sweeping for torpedoes. In the closing attacks on Fort Alexis and Spanish Fort, which resulted in their capture, the gun-boats joined in the bombardment, while a naval battery on shore under Lieutenant-Commander Gillis rendered efficient service. Previous to this attack, and while it was in progress, 150 large submerged torpedoes were removed from Blakely River and the adjacent waters by the Metacomet, Commander Pierce Crosby. On the following days Forts Huger and Tracy were shelled by the gun-boats, causing their evacuation on the evening of the 11th of April. On the 12th the fleet convoyed 8000 troops under General Granger to the western shore of the bay above Mobile, while the monitors took position in front of the city. In the afternoon the mayor of Mobile made a formal surrender to the army and navy. The Confederate iron-clads Huntsville and Tuscaloosa had already been sunk in Spanish River, and the other vessels, the Morgan, Nashville, and Baltic, had taken refuge in the Tombigbee, whither they were presently pursued and where they were finally captured. The surrender of Commodore Farrand and the naval forces under his command to Admiral Thatcher was agreed upon at Citronelle on May 4th, at the same time as the surrender of Taylor to Canby. The formal surrender, in accordance with the agreement, was made to Fleet-Captain Edward Simpson, on May 10th, at Nanna Hubba Bluff, on the Tombigbee. It included four vessels, 112 officers, 285 enlisted men, and 24 marines.

The loss of vessels during the campaign was unusually large. On March 28th the Milwaukee, Lieutenant-Commander James H. Gillis, returning to the fleet from an attack on a transport lying near Spanish Fort, exploded a torpedo, and sank in three minutes. Next day the Osage struck a torpedo under her bow and went down almost immediately. A similar accident resulted in the loss of the tin-clad Rodolph on April 1st. A fortnight later, immediately after the surrender of Mobile, the gun-boat Sciota was lost in the same way, as were also the tugs Ida and Althea, and a launch belonging to the Cincinnati. These disasters resulted in a loss of 23 killed and 32 wounded.

In the Mississippi squadron, now under the command of Acting Rear-Admiral S. P. Lee, the last months were chiefly occupied in convoy duty and keeping up communication on the Mississippi, in blockading the Red River, and in active operations in conjunction with the army by the fleets on the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers, the former under Lieutenant-Commander Shirk and the latter under Lieutenant-Commander Fitch. Both these officers displayed great energy and resource in an exacting and difficult service, and they were ably seconded by the volunteer officers who commanded the light gun-boats in frequent and hotly contested engagements with the Confederate batteries and troops on the banks.

The last effort of the Confederate navy on the Western rivers was the brilliant but unsuccessful dash of the ram Webb, under Commander C. W. Read, out of Red River in April with a load of cotton. Read's plan was to run the Mississippi blockade and carry his vessel and cotton to Havana. It was one of the boldest exploits of the war. The Webb made a rush through the fleet at the Red River mouth and escaped without injury. Her approach was telegraphed to New Orleans, but under the disguise of an army transport she nearly passed the vessels lying off the city before they discovered her character, too late to stop her progress. Twenty miles below the city she met the Richmond, and finding farther advance impossible Read ran her ashore and burnt her. On the 3d of June Lieutenant-Commander W. E. Fitzhugh received the surrender of Lieutenant J. H. Carter and the Confederate naval forces under his command in the Red River.

On the west Gulf coast the blockade continued until the end, several important cutting-out expeditions occurring during January and February. Among these the most noteworthy were the capture of the Delphina, January 22d, in Calcasieu River, by Lieutenant-Commander R. W. Meade; of the Pet and the Anna Sophia, February 7th, at Galveston, by an expedition organized by Commander J. R. M. Mullany; and of the Anna Dale, February 18th, at Pass Cavallo, by a party sent in by Lieutenant-Commander Henry Erben. After the surrender of Mobile, Admiral Thatcher turned his attention to the coast of Texas, and on May 25th Sabine Pass was evacuated. On the 2d of June Galveston surrendered, and the war on the Texas coast came to an end. [413]

The Levee at Nashville, looking down the Cumberland. From a War-time photograph.

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