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Mobile, Ala.

Under the act of cession of Louisiana from France the United States claimed all of west Florida, including Mobile. A large portion of that territory had been annexed to the Territory of Mississippi, and in the winter and spring of 1812, when war had been determined upon, the importance to the United States of possessing Mobile was very apparent. In March General Wilkinson, in command of the United States troops in the Southwest, was ordered to take possession of it. Wilkinson sent Commodore Shaw, with gunboats, to occupy Mobile Bay and cut off communications with Pensacola. Lieutenant-Colonel Bowyer, then with troops at Fort Stoddart, was ordered to be prepared to march on Mobile at a moment's notice for the purpose of investing the fort there. Wilkinson left Mobile March 29 on the sloop Alligator, and, [214] after a perilous voyage, reached Petit Coquille, when he sent a courier with orders to Bowyer to march immediately. Wilkinson's troops arrived in Mobile Bay April 12, landed the next morning, and at noon 600 men appeared before Fort Charlotte, commanded by Capt. Cayetano Perez, and demanded its surrender. On the 15th the Spaniards evacuated the fort and retired to Pensacola, and the Americans took possession. Placing nine cannon in battery on Mobile Point, Wilkinson marched to the Perdido. There he began the erection of a fort, but the place was soon abandoned and another was begun and finished on Mobile Point and called Fort Bowyer, in honor of the brave lieutenant-colonel of that name. Such was the beginning of a movement which resulted in the acquisition of all Florida by the Americans.

In 1864, after the destruction of the Alabama (q. v.), it was determined to seal up the ports of Mobile and Wilmington against English blockade-runners. These were the only ports then open to them. Admiral Farragut was sent for that purpose to the entrance of Mobile Bay, 30 miles below the city of Mobile, with a fleet of eighteen vessels, four of them iron-clad, while a co-operating land force, 5,000 strong, under Gen. Gordon Granger (q. v.), was sent from New Orleans to Dauphin Island. Farragut entered the bay Aug. 5, 1864. That entrance is divided into two passages by Dauphin Island. On the eastern side of this island was Fort Gaines, commanding the main entrance; and southeasterly from it was Fort Morgan, a still stronger work, with a light-house near it. These forts the Confederates had well earned and manned, and within the bay lay a Confederate flotilla under Admiral Buchanan.

His flag-ship was the Tennessee, a powerful ram, and it was accompanied by three ordinary gunboats. Farragut lashed his wooden ships together in couples, his own flag-ship, the Hartford, being tethered to the Metacomet. Wishing to have a general oversight of the battle, he ascended the rigging, when Captain Drayton, fearing he might be dislodged by a sudden shock, sent up a man with a line, which he passed around the admiral and made it fast. In this position he went into the battle, boldly sailing in between the forts, and delivering terrific broadsides of grapeshot, first upon Fort Morgan. The monitor Tecumseh, which led the National vessels, was struck by the explosion of a torpedo directly under her turret, carryingdown with her Commander Craven and nearly all of his officers and crew—only seventeen of 130 being saved. Farragut ordered the Hartford to push on and the others to follow, unmindful of torpedoes. The forts were silenced by the storm of grape-shot poured upon them, but as the National fleet entered the bay the Confederate vessels opened upon them. The ram Tennessee rushed at the Hartford, but missed her. The fire of the three gunboats was concentrated on the flag-ship. The fight was short. One of the Confederate gunboats was captured, and the other two sought safety under the guns of the fort. Under cover of night one of them

Capture of Fort Morgan, Mobile Bay.

[215] escaped to Mobile. Believing the battle over at dusk, Farragut had anchored his vessels, when, at nearly 9 P. M., the ram Tennessee came rushing at the Hartford under a full head of steam. The other National vessels were ordered to close upon her. A tremendous fight with the monster at short range occurred, and very soon the Tennessee, badly injured, surrendered. Her commander was severely wounded. The Confederate squadron was destroyed. The forts were assailed by land and water the next day, and the three were surrendered, the last (Fort Morgan) on the morning of Aug. 23. With this victory the government came into possession of 104 guns and 1,464 men, and effectually closed the port of Mobile to blockade-runners. This victory, and that at Atlanta, soon afterwards, together with the hearty response given by the people of the free-labor States to the call of the President (July 18, 1864) for 300,000 men, gave assurance that the Civil War was nearly ended.

Capture of Mobile.

Gen. J. E. Johnston said Mobile was the best-fortified place in the Confederacy. It was garrisoned by 15,000 men, including troops on the east side of the bay and 1,000 negro laborers subject to the command of the engineers. The department was then (1865) in command of Gen. Richard Taylor, son of President Taylor. For several months after the harbor of Mobile was sealed there was comparative quiet in that region; but when Sherman had finished his triumphal march from Atlanta to the sea the government determined to repossess Alabama, beginning with a movement against Mobile, and by other operations in the interior. Gen. Edward R. S. Canby (q. v.), commanding the West Mississippi Army, was charged with the conduct of the expedition against Mobile, and the co-operating force was that of Gen. J. H. Wilson, the eminent cavalry leader, under the direction of General Thomas. Early in 1865 Gen. A. J. Smith's corps joined Canby at New Orleans, Feb. 21. That corps went to Dauphin Island, at the entrance to Mobile Bay, where a siege-train was organized, consisting of ten batteries. Knipe's cavalry, attached to the corps, marched overland from New Orleans. Everything was in readiness for an attack on Mobile by the middle of March, with from 25,000 to 30,000 troops, including cavalry; and the West Gulf Squadron, under Admiral Thatcher, was ready to co-operate. It was so strongly fortified by three lines of works on its land side that it was determined to flank the post by a movement of the main army up the eastern side of the bay. The 13th Army Corps began a march on the 17th from Fort Morgan over a swampy region in heavy rain, and the 16th Corps crossed the bay from Fort Gaines and joined the other. At the same time a feint was made on Mobile to attract attention from this movement. General Steele, with Hawkins's division of negro troops and some cavalry, had been marching from Pensacola to Blakely, 10 miles north of Mobile, to induce the belief that Montgomery was Canby's real objective point. On March 25 this force encountered and defeated 800 Alabama cavalry under General Clanton. The Confederates lost about 200 men killed and wounded, and 275 made prisoners. Steele found very little opposition afterwards until he reached the front of Blakely. The Nationals on the east side of the bay pushed on to Spanish Fort, 7 miles east of Mobile. It was invested, March 27, but its garrison of nearly 3,000 of Hood's late army, with its neighbors, made it a stout antagonist, willing to give blow for blow. Warmer and warmer waxed the fight on that day, and before sunset a tremendous artillery duel was in progress, in which gunboats of both parties joined, and kept it up all night. Then a siege was formally begun (March 28). The Nationals finally brought to bear upon the fort sixteen mortars, twenty heavy guns, and six field-pieces. Towards sunset, April 8, Canby began a general assault by a consecutive fire from all his heavy guns, his field-pieces, and his gunboats. An Iowa regiment, encountering some Texas sharp-shooters, charged upon and overpowered them. Sweeping along the rear of the intrenchments, they captured 300 yards of them, with 350 prisoners and three battle-flags. This exploit made the Confederates evacuate the fort, and by 2 A. M. the next day it was in possession of the Nationals. The garrison, excepting 600 made prisoners, escaped. It had expected assistance from Forrest, but Wilson was keeping him [216]

Map of defences around Mobile.

away. The spoils were thirty heavy guns and a large quantity of munitions of war. Forts Huger and Tracy were also captured, April 11. The key to Mobile was now in the hands of the Nationals. Torpedoes were fished up, and the National squadron approached the city. The

Conflagration in Mobile.

army moved on Blakely, and on April 9 the works there were attacked and carried. Meanwhile the 13th Corps had been taken across the bay to attack Mobile.

But the army found no enemy to fight, for Gen. D. H. Maury, in command there, had ordered the evacuation of the city; and on the 11th, after sinking two powerful rains, he fled up the Alabama River with 9,000 men on gunboats and transports. On the 12th General Granger and Rear-Admiral Thatcher demanded the surrender of the city. This was formally done the same evening by the civil authorities, and on the following day Veatch's division entered the city and hoisted the National flag on the public buildings. Generals Granger and Canby entered the city soon afterwards. A large amount of cotton and several steamboats were burned by order of the military authorities, before the city was given up. The “repossession” of Mobile cost the national government 2,000 men and much treasure. Seven vessels of war had been destroyed by torpedoes. During this campaign of about three weeks the army and navy captured about 5,000 men, nearly 400 cannon, and a vast amount of public property. The value of ammunition and commissary stores found in Mobile was valued at $2,000,000. [217]

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