Chapter 44: battle of Mobile Bay.
- Defences of Mobile Bay.
-- Farragut's fleet crosses the bar and makes reconnaissance.
-- Confederate iron-clads.
-- forts Morgan, Gaines and Powell and light-house battery.
-- bombardment of Fort Powell.
-- evacuation of Fort.
-- iron-clad Tennessee makes her appearance.
-- arrival of monitors.
-- co-operation of General Canby.
-- preparing to attack forts.
-- Farragut issues his famous orders of combat.
-- bombarding Fort Morgan.
-- the Tennessee engaged.
-- the Tecumseh sunk.
-- “D — n the torpedoes — follow me!”
-- Farragut in the rigging of the Hartford passing Fort.
-- the Selma surrenders.
-- the Morgan and Gaines ashore.
-- the Tennessee engages fleet.
-- remarkable combat.
-- the Monongahela and Lackawanna damaged.
-- the Tennessee and Hartford fight at close quarters.
-- game to the last.
-- the Tennessee surrenders.
-- incidents of battle.
-- the wounded transferred to Pensacola.
-- names of killed and wounded.
-- Farragut's detailed report of battle.
-- reports of officers.
-- Farragut returns thanks to officers and men.
-- individual acts of heroism.
-- incidents attending sinking of Tecumseh.
-- surrender of Fort Gaines
-- bombardment of Fort Morgan.
-- surrender of Fort.
-- list of officers of the Tennessee and Selma.
-- wanton destruction of property at Fort Morgan.
-- list of killed and wounded.
-- loss of the Phillippi.
-- history and description of Confederate iron-clad Tennessee.
-- list of vessels and officers of West Gulf Squadron, January 1st, 1864.
In January, 1864, Admiral Farragut
began to turn his attention to the forts in Mobile Bay
, which up to that time had been a complete protection to the blockade-runners, which passed in and out almost with impunity in spite of the greatest watchfulness on the part of the blockading fleet.
There were several channels in the Bay
with wide shoal grounds in and about their approaches, over which the Confederate
light-draft vessels could pass, but where the Federal
ships-of-war could not follow them.
The city of Mobile
, in consequence, became one of the most important rendezvous for blockade-runners, as it was situated some miles up the bay, and could only be reached through tortuous channels, with which only experienced pilots were familiar.
The people of Mobile
felt quite secure against any attempt on the part of the Union
gun-boats to pass their defences, and the blockade-runners laid as safely at their wharves as if they had been in the docks of Liverpool
While the forts at the entrance of Mobile Bay
remained intact, the Confederates
could continue to supply their armies through Mobile City and the numerous railroads running from it to all parts of the South
After the fall of Port Hudson
, General Banks
, in New Orleans, had at his disposal over 50,000 troops; and General Grant
, at that time having in his mind the idea of sending Sherman
on the celebrated march to the sea, had urgently requested the authorities at Washington
with a sufficient force to capture that place; while at the same time the Secretary of the Navy
offered naval co-operation with Farragut
's fleet, which was then disengaged from operations on the Mississippi River
, and principally employed in watching Mobile
and blockading the coast of Texas
The Navy Department, as well as General Grant
, was unsuccessful in obtaining an order from the War Department for Banks
to proceed to Mobile
, and act there in conjunction with the Navy; and the fatal move up Red River
having been decided upon, all other objects were for the time being passed over, until the anxiety of the Government
became concentrated upon the problem of how to relieve that expedition from the unfortunate position in which General Banks
' measures had placed it.
itself was poorly fortified against a land attack, and the Confederates
had not more than 10,000 men in and about the city, and the majority of these were artillerists.
Notwithstanding the fact that the weakness of the city was well known to him, General Banks
turned away from the rich prize which he might so easily have taken, and embarked on the unwise expedition into the Red River
region, from which his army was only extricated through the presence of the naval force — which for a time was also seriously embarrassed.
The Navy Department, finding that no co-operation could be expected from General Banks
, directed Farragut
(January, 1864) to prepare his vessels for an attack on the forts in Mobile Bay
, and promised that a land force should be forthcoming at the time the fleet was ready to commence operations.
On the morning of January 20th Farragut
crossed the bar of Mobile Bay
in the Octorara
, taking the Itasca
in company in case of accidents, and made a thorough reconnaissance of the bay and of all the forts commanding its approaches.
He moved up to within three and one-half miles of the enemy's works, where he was able to verify the reports of refugees who had brought him a statement of the condition of the Confederate
He could count the number of guns and see the men standing by them.
A line of piles, which extended from Fort Gaines
to the channel opposite Fort Morgan
, was also plainly visible, and showed the intention of the enemy to compel all entering vessels to pass close under the guns of the latter work.
At that time Farragut
had not an ironclad, and, being convinced that it would be madness to attack these forts without such aid, made his wants known to the Navy Department, and the vessels were eventually supplied.
The reconnaissance made by the Admiral
satisfied him that he had a difficult task before him. Two heavy works protected the entrance to Mobile Bay
--the former mounting 21 guns and the latter 48, while Fort Powell, higher up the bay, commanded the fairway leading to Mobile
A better idea of the situation of these works can be obtained by examining the accompanying chart than from any written description, and the reader is referred to the plan for information, without which he could form but a small idea of the defences of Mooile Bay and the difficulties attending an attack on them.
The lines of piles, extending from the head of the eastern bank to the edge of the tortuous and shallow channel near Fort Gaines
, rendered it impossible for any vessel to pass between the bank and the channel; indeed, only vessels of the lightest draft of water would have dared to make such an attempt under ordinary circumstances.
Every effort had been made by the Confederate engineers to make the channel between Gaines
impassable; but its depth in some places was as much as 60 feet, the bottom was bad (drift-sand, in fact), and the action of ebb and flow, with that of heavy winds, rendered it almost impossible to obstruct it effectually.
Even in time of peace it would have been an immense undertaking, requiring time and taxing the ingenuity of the engineers to the utmost.
Not only that, it would have required means which were not at the disposal of the Confederates
Many plans were offered, but the chief engineer
of the Department rejected them all and undertook to defend the pass with torpedoes, but, with an order from the Department commander to leave a gap in the line of torpedoes, 500 yards wide, through which blockade-runners could pass in safety between Mobile Point
and a buoy marking the eastern end of the lines of torpedoes; which arrangement it was foolishly supposed would keep out a fleet commanded by a man like Farragut
who had already earned the sobriquet
of “The old Salamander.”
Besides the forts above mentioned, the following auxiliary defences were possessed by the Confederates
: Steam ram Tennessee
, 235 feet in length, casemate plated with three thicknesses of 2-inch plates or six inches of iron, speed 7 1/2 knots; battery, four 10-inch columbiads of 16,000 lbs. and two 7 1/2-inch Brooke
rifles of 19,000 lbs. The Tennessee
was the flag-ship of Admiral Franklin Buchanan
, and was commanded by Commander J. D. Johnston
The following gun-boats also belonged