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Xxix. The War on the ocean — Mobile Bay.

  • The Confederate Navy
  • -- their torpedoes -- British-built privateers -- the Sumter -- the Alabama -- the Florida -- seizure of the Chesapeake -- the Tallahassee -- the Olustee -- the Chickamauga -- Capt. Collins seizes the Florida in Bahia Harbor -- Gov. Seward on Rebel belligerency -- the Georgia -- fight of the Kenrsarge and Alabama -- criticisms thereon -- Farragut before Mobile -- bombards and passes Fort Morgan -- the Rebel ram Tennessee fights our fleet -- is captured -- Fort Powell blown up -- Fort Gaines surrenders -- Fort Morgan succumbs -- Mobile scaled up.

the formation of the Southern Confederacy was quickly followed by the resignation of a large proportion — though not nearly all — of the Southern officers of the United States Navy--resignations which should not have been, but were, accepted. Many of these officers had, for fifteen to forty years, been drawing liberal pay and allowances from the Federal treasury for very light work-often, for no work at all: and now, when the Government which had educated, nurtured, honored, and subsisted them, was for the first time in urgent need of their best efforts, they renounced its service, its flag, and their fealty, in order to tender their swords to its deadly foe. Under such circumstances, no resignation should have been accepted, but their names should have been stricken with ignominy from the rolls they disgraced.

These recreants made haste to repair to the Confederate capital, where they were received with flattering distinction, and accorded rank in the embryo Confederate navy at least as high as that which they had respectively attained in the service of the United States. The “Register of the Commissioned and Warrant Officers in the Navy of the Confederate States,” issued at Richmond, Jan. 1, 186., contained several hundred names — over two hundred of them being noted as leaving formerly been officers of the U. S. Navy. Some of these lacked even the poor excuse--“I go with my State,” --as at the head of the list stands their only Admiral, Franklin Buchanan, of Maryland; who entered the service of the United States Jan. 28th, 1815, and that of the Confederacy Sept. 5th, 1861. Of the Captains (twelve) who follow, three were born in Maryland, though one of them (Geo. N. Hollins) claims to be a citizen of Florida; as did another (Raphael Semmes) of Alabama. Of the thirty-six Provisional Captains and Commanders, twelve were born in non-seceding States, though most of them claimed to have since become residents of the “ sunny South.”

Very great ingenuity and nautical (or pyrotechnic) skill was evinced during the war, by the Rebel navy thus constituted, in the construction of rams and iron-clads, and their use for harbor and coast defense, but [642] more especially in devising, constructing, charging, and planting torpedoes, wherewith they did more execution and caused more embarrassment to blockaders and besieging squadrons than had been effected in any former war. Their devices for obstructing the mouths or channels of rivers and harbors were often unsurpassed in efficiency. On the ocean, however, they were hampered by the fact that the Southrons are neither a ship-building nor a sea-faring people; that, while they had long afforded the material for a large and lucrative commerce, they had neither built, nor owned, nor manned, many vessels. They would, therefore, have been able to make no figure at all out of sight of their own coast, but for the facilities afforded them by British sympathy and British love of gain, evading the spirit if not the strict letter of international maritime law. Great ship-building firms in Liverpool and Glasgow, wherein members of Parliament were largely interested, were almost constantly engaged in the construction of strong, swift steamships, calculated for corsairs and for nothing else; each being, when completed, in spite of information from our consuls and protests from our Minister, allowed to slip out of port under one pretext or another, and make for some prearranged rendezvous, where a merchant vessel laden with Armstrong, Whitworth, Blakely, and other heavy rifled guns of the most approved patterns, with small arms, ammunition, provisions, &c., was awaiting her; and, her cargo being quickly transferred to the embryo corsair, a crew was made up, in part of men clandestinely enlisted for the service, in part of such as liberal pay, more liberal promises, and the cajolery of officer, could induce to transfer their services to the new flag; and thus the unarmed, harmless British steamship of yesterday was transformed into the Confederate cruiser of to-day: every stick of her British, from keel up to mast-head; her rigging, armament, and stores, British; her crew mostly British, though a few of her higher officers were not; and, thus planned expressly to outrun any heavily earned vessel and overpower any other, she hoisted the Confederate flag and commenced capturing, plundering, burning, and sinking our merchant vessels wherever she could fall upon them unprotected by our navy: every British port, on whatever sea, affording her not only shelter and hospitality, but the fullest and freshest information with regard to her predestined prey and the quarter wherein it could be clutched with least peril. Shielded from the treatment of an ordinary pirate, by the Queen's proclamation of neutrality, and from effective pursuit by the maritime law which forbids the stronger belligerent to leave a neutral harbor within twenty-four hours after the weaker shall have taken his departure, though the latter may have dodged in just out of range of the former, after a keen chase of many hours--one of these corsairs was able to do enormous damage to our commerce with almost perfect impunity; for, by the time her devastations in one sea had been reported to our nearest naval commander, she would be a thousand miles away (but in what direction none could guess), lighting up another coast or strait with the glare of her conflagrations. [643] If it be gravely held that Great Britain was nowise responsible for the ravages of these marauders, then it must be confessed that the letter of existing international law does no justice to its spirit and purpose, but stands in need of prompt and thorough revision.

The career of the Sumter, Capt. Raphael Semmes, came to an early and inglorious end, as has already been narrated.1 But another and superior cruiser was promptly constructed at Birkenhead to replace her; which our Embassador, Hon. Charles F. Adams, tried earnestly, but in vain, to have seized and detained at the outset by the British Government. Escaping from Liverpool under the name of Oreto, she was twice seized at Nassau, but to no purpose: that island being the focus of blockade-running, and, of course, violently sympathetic with the Rebellion — as was, in fact, nearly every officer in the British naval or military service. Released from duress, she put to sea, and soon appeared as a British ship of war off the harbor of Mobile, then blockaded by Com'r Geo. II. Preble, who hesitated to fire on her lest she should be what she seemed; and in a few minutes she had passed him, and run up to Mobile, showing herself the Rebel corsair she actually was. Preble was promptly dismissed from the service — an act of justice which needed but a few repetitions to have prevented such mistakes in future. Running out2 again under cover of darkness, the Oreto, now commanded by John N. Maffitt,3 became the Florida, thereafter vieing with her consort, the Alabama — a new British vessel henceforth commanded by Semmes-and with other such from time to time fitted out, in their predatory career. Each of these habitually approached her intended prey under her proper (British) colors, but hoisted the Confederate so soon as tile prize was securely within her grasp. Occasionally, a vessel of little value was released on condition of taking to port the crews of several of the most recently burned; a few were bonded, mainly because they carried British cargoes or were insured in British offices; but the great majority were simply robbed of their money, food, &c., and burnt. Among those bonded by the Alabama was the steamship Ariel,4 on her way from New York to Aspinwall, with the California passengers and freight; but the $250,000 which was to have been her ransom, being expressly “payable six months after the recognition [by the United States] of the independence of the Southern Confederacy,” has not yet fallen due. Such was the just alarm caused by this capture, while several National vessels were anxiously looking for the Alabama, that the Ariel dared not bring the specie from California that met her at Aspinwall, but left it there, until a gunboat was sent for it by the Government; and the specie continued to be so transmitted for some months thereafter.

The merchant ships captured and destroyed by these freebooters were hundreds in number, and the value of vessels and cargoes amounted to many scores of millions of dollars. [644] But the damage thus inflicted was not limited to this destruction-far from it. The paralysis of commerce — the transfer (at a sacrifice) of hundreds of valuable ships to British owners (real or simulated) in order that they might be allowed to keep the seas with impunity — with the waste of money and service involved in sending many costly and formidable steamships to every ocean and almost every port in quest of some corsair, which was plundering and burning, perhaps on one side of a petty island, while the Vanderbilt or Tuscarora was vainly seeking it on the other — which was sure to be anywhere but where it was awaited or sought — and which would drop into the neutral harbor whither its pursuer had repaired for coal, or food, or information, and he there by his side, bearding him with impunity; taking its own time to depart in peace and safety, because no pursuit was allowed for the next 24 hours--such are the hare outlines of a system of maritime injury and annoyance which for years sickened the hearts of stanch upholders of the Union. That the officers of the Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and their confreres, were greeted in every British port with shouts and acclamations, receptions and dinners, as though they had been avowed Britons engaged in honorable warfare with their country's deadly foe, was observed by loyal Americans with a stinging consciousness of the hollowness and fraud of British neutrality which will not soon be effaced. And, when every remonstrance made by our Government or its representative against the favor shown to these privateers, not only in their construction, but throughout their subsequent career, was treated as though we had asked Great Britain to aid us against tile Confederates, when we had only required that she cease to aid unwarrantably our domestic foes, the popular sense of dishonesty and wrong was with difficulty restrained from expressing itself in deeds rather than words.

Early in May, 1863, the Florida, while dodging our gunboats among the innumerable straits and passages surrounding the several West Indies, captured the brig Clarence, which was fitted out as a privateer and provided with a crew, under Lt. C. W. Read, late a midshipman in our navy. This new b<*>aneer immediately steered northward, and, sweeping, up our southern coast, captured some valuable prizes; along them, when near Cape Henry, the bark Tacony,5 to which Read transferred his men, and stood on up the coast; passing along off the mouths of the Chesapeake, Delaware, New York, and Massachusetts bays, seizing and destroying merchant and fishing vessels utterly unsuspicious of danger; until, at length, learning that swift; cruisers were on his track, he burned the Tacony (in which he would have been easily recognized), and in the prize schooner Archer, to which he had transferred his armament and crew, stood boldly in for the harbor of Portland; casting anchor at sunset6 at its entrance, and sending at midnight two armed boats with muffled oars up nearly to the city, to seize the steam revenue cutter Cushing and bring her out for his future use. This was done ; but, no sooner [645] had the Cushing left, under her new masters, than she was missed, and two merchant steamers were armed and manned (by volunteers) and started after her. She was soon overhauled, and, having no guns to cope with her armament, the pursuers were about to board, when her captors took to their boats, hiring half-a-dozen shots at her and blowing her up. The Portland boys kept on till they captured first the boats, then the Archer, towed them up to their city in triumph, and lodged Read and his freebooters snugly in prison.

The merchant steamer Chesapeake, plying between New York and Portland, was seized7 by 16 of her passengers, who, suddenly producing arms, proclaimed themselves Confederates, and demanded her surrender; seizing the captain and putting him in irons, wounding the mate, and killing and throwing overboard one of the engineers. After a time, they set the crew and passengers ashore in a boat, and, putting the steamer on an easterly course, ran her into Sambro harbor, Nova Scotia, where she was seized8 by the Union gunboat Ella and Anna, taken, with a portion of her crew, to Halifax, and handed over to the civil authorities. The prisoners were here rescued by a mob; but the steamboat was soon, by a judicial decision, restored to her owners.

During 1864, in addition to those already at work, three new British-Confederate corsairs, named the Tallahassee, Olustee, and Chickamauga, were set afloat; adding immensely to the ravages of their elder brethren. Up to the beginning of this year, it was computed that our direct losses by Rebel captures were 193 vessels; valued, with their cargoes, at $13,455,000. All but 17 of these vessels were burned. But now the Tallahassee, in August, swept along the Atlantic coast of the loyal States, destroying in ten days 33 vessels; while the Chickamauga, in a short cruise, burned vessels valued in all at $500,000. The Florida likewise darted along our coast, doing great damage there and thereafter; finally running into tile Brazilian port of Bahia;9 having just captured and burnt the bark Mondamon off that port. Here she met the U. S. steamer Wachusett, Capt. Collins, and care to anchor, as a precaution, in the midst of the Brazilian fleet and directly under the guns of the principal fort; and here, after ascertaining that he could not provoke her to fight him outside the harbor, Capt. Collins bore down upon her, at 3 A. M.,10 while part of her crew were ashore; running at her under a full lead of steam with intent to crush in her side and sink her; but, not striking her fairly, he only damaged, but did not cripple her. A few small-arm slots were fired on either side, but at random, and without effect. Capt. Collins now demanded her surrender, with which the lieutenant in command--(Capt. Morris, with half his crew, being ashore)-taken completely by surprise and at disadvantage — had no choice but to comply. In an instant, the Florida was boarded from the Wachusett, a hawser made fast to her, and the captor, crowding all steam, put out to sea; main no reply to a challenge from the Brazilian fleet, and unharmed by three shots fired at her from the fort; all [646] which passed over her. The Brazilian naval commander tried to chase; but was not fast enough, and soon desisted. The Wachusett and her prize soon appeared in Hampton roads; where the latter was sunk by a collision a few days afterward.

There call be no reasonable doubt that, if the Florida was a fair, honest vessel, her capture was a foul one. Our consul at Bahia, Mr. T. F. Wilson, had seasonably protested against the hospitality accorded to her in that port, but without effect. As he was known to be implicated in the capture, is official recognition as consul was revoked. On a representation of the case by the Brazilian Minister, Gov. Seward, in behalf of President Lincoln, disavowed the acts of Collins and Wilson, dismissed the latter from office, suspended the former from command, and ordered him to answer for his act before a court-martial. He further announced that the persons captured on board the Florida should be set at liberty. But he took care to place this reparation wholly on the ground of the unlawfulness of any unauthorized exercise of force by this country within a Brazilian harbor — no matter if against a conceded pirate-saying:

The Government disallows your assumption that the insurgents of this country are a lawful naval belligerent; on the contrary, it maintains that the ascription of that character by the Government of Brazil to insurgent citizens of the United States, who have hitherto been, and who still are, destitute of naval forces, ports, and courts, is an act of intervention, in derogation of the law of nations, and unfriendly and wrongful, as it is manifestly injurious, to the United States.

So, also, this Government disallows your assumption that the Florida belonged to the aforementioned insurgents, and maintains, on the contrary, that that vessel, like the Alabama, was a pirate, belonging to no nation or lawful belligerent, and, therefore, that the harboring and supplying of these piratical ships and their crews in Brazilian ports were wrongs and injuries for which Brazil justly owes reparation to the United States, as ample as the reparation which she now receives from them. They hope and confidently expect this reciprocity in good time, to restore the harmony and friendship which are so essential to the welfare and safety of the two countries.

The Georgia was a Glasgow-built iron steamboat, which had left Greenock, as tile Japan, in April, 1863; receiving her armament when off tile coast of France, and at once getting to work as a beast of prey. Having destroyed a number of large and valuable merchant ships, she put in at Cherbourg, and afterward at Bourdeaux; whence she slipped over to England, and was sold (as was said) to a Liverpool merchant for £ 15,000. She now set out for Lisbon, having been chartered, it was given out, by the Portuguese Government; but, when 20 miles from her port of destination, she was stopped11 by the U. S. steam-frigate Niagara, Capt. Craven, who made her his prize; returning with her directly to England, and landing her captain and crew at Dover. Her seizure provoked some newspaper discussion, but its rightfulness was not officially questioned.

The Alabama had already come to grief. After a long and prosperous cruise in the South Atlantic and Indian oceans, she had returned to European waters, taking refuge in the French port of Cherbourg; when the U. S. gunboat Kearsarge,12 which was lying in the Dutch harbor of Flushing, being notified by telegraph, came around at once to look after her. Semmes, however, seems to have been quite ready for the encounter; [647] as he dispatched13 to Capt. Winslow a request that he would not leave, as he (Semmes) purposed to fight him. Winslow was glad to find their views so accordant, and was careful to heed Semmes's reasonable, courteous request.

The two vessels were very fairly matched: their dimensions and armaments being respectively as follows:

Length over all220 feet.214 1/4 feet.
Length on water-line210 feet.198 1/2 feet.
Beam32 feet.33 feet.
Depth17 feet.16 feet.
Horse-power, two engines of300 each.400 h. power.

Armament of the Alabama--One 7-inch Blakely rifle, one 8-inch smooth-bore 68-pounder. six 32-pounders.

Armament of the Kearsarge--Two 11-inch smoothbore guns, one 30-pounder rifle, four 32-pounders.

note — The Kearsarge used but 5 guns; the Alabama 7. The Kearsarge had 162 officers and men; the Alabama about 150.

Having made all imaginable preparations in a friendly port, where he was surrounded by British as well as French sympathizers, Semmes — having first providently deposited on shore his chest of coin, his 62 captured chronometers, the relics of so many burned merchantmen-at his own chosen time,14 steamed out of the harbor, followed by his British friend Lancaster in his steam-yacht Deerhound, and made for the Kearsarge, which was quietly expecting but not hurrying him, seven miles outside. When still more than a mile distant, the Alabama gave tongue; firing three broadsides before the Kearsarge opened in reply. Winslow endeavored to close and board: but his cautious adversary sheered off and steamed ahead, firing rapidly and wildly; while the Kearsarge, moving parallel with her, fired slowly and with deliberate aim. The badness of the Alabama's practice was notable from the fact that her British gunners had been trained on board Her Majesty's ship Excellent in Portsmouth harbor. Several had recently come on board, as if on purpose to take part in tile expected fight.

Firing and steaming on, the combatants described seven circles; the Kearsarge steadily closing, and having diminished, by fully half, the distance at which the Alabama opened fire; when, after a mutual cannonade of an hour, the Kearsarge, at 12 1/4 P. M., was just in position to fire grape, and her adversary, having received several 11-inch shells, one of which disabled a gun and killed or wounded 18 men, as another, entering her coal-bunkers, and exploding, had completely blocked up the engine-room, compelling her to resort to sails, while large holes were torn in her sides, at length attempted to make for the protection of the neutral shore; but she was too far gone to reach it, being badly crippled and rapidly filling with water. Semmes and his crew appear to have had an understanding that she should beat the Kearsarge or sink with all on board; but, when she began to sink in good earnest, he hauled down his flag, and sent a boat to the Kearsarge to accelerate their rescue from the wreck as prisoners.

Semmes, in his letter to envoy J. M. Mason, adds:--

Although we were now but 400 yards from each other, the enemy fired upon me five times after my colors had been struck. It is charitable to suppose that a ship of war of a Christian nation could not have done this intentionally.

Capt. Winslow does not “suppose,” but states, as follows :--

I saw now that she was at our mercy; and a few more guns, well directed, brought down her flag. I was unable to ascertain [648] whether it had been hauled down or shot away but, white flag having been displayed over the stern, our fire was reserved. Two minutes hid not more than elapsed before she again opened on us with the two guns ont he port side. This drew our fire again; and the Kearsarge was immediately steamed ahead and laid across her bows for raking. The white flag was still flying. and our fire was again reserved. Shortly after this, her boats were seen to be lowering, and tn officer in one of then came alongside, and informed us that the ship had surrendered and was fast sinking. In twenty minutes from this time, the Alabama went down: her mainmast, which had been shot, breaking near the head as she sunk, and her bow rising high out of the water as her stern rapidly settled.

Lancaster — a virtual ally and swift witness for Semmes — who was close at hand, watching every motion with intense interest, in his log of the fight, dispatched to The Times that evening, when he arrived in his yacht at Cowes, with Semmes and such of his crew as he had snatched from the water and their captors-clearly refutes Semmes's charge. he says :--

At 12, a slight intermission was observed in the Alabama's firing; the Alabama making head-sail, and shaping her course for tile land, distant about nine miles.

At 12:30, observed the Alabama to be disabled and in a sinking state. We immediately made toward her, and, in passing the Kearsarge, were requested to assist in saving the Alabama's crew.

At 12:50, when within a distance of 200 yards, the Alabama sunk. We then lowered our two boats, and, with the assistance of the Alabama's whale-boat and dingy, succeeded in saving about 40 men, including Capt. Semmes and 13 officers.

At 1 P. M., we steered for Southampton.

The Alabama had 9 killed and 21 wounded, including Semmes himself, slightly. Two of the wounded were drowned before they could be rescued.

The Kearsarge had three men badly wounded, one of them mortally;15 but neither would go below to be treated till the victory was won.

The triumph of the Kearsarge is doubtless in part due to the superior effectiveness of her two 11-inch guns, but in good part also to the cool deliberation and excellent aim of her gunners. As to her being iron-clad, this is Semmes's story:

At the. end of the engagement, it was discovered, by those of our officers who went alongside the enemy's ship, with the wounded, that her midship section on both sides was thoroughly iron-coated; this having been done with chain constructed for the purpose, placed perpendicularly from the rail to the water's edge, the whole covered over by a thin outer planking, which gave no indication of the armor beneath.

This planking had been ripped off in every direction by our shot and shell, the chain broken and indented in many places, and forced partly into the ship's side. She was most effectually guarded, however, in this section, from penetration.

Now let us hear Capt. Winslow on this point:

The Alabama had been five days in preparation. She had taken in 350 tons of coal, which brought her down in the water. The Kearsarge had only 120 tons in; but, as an offset to this, her sheet-chains were stowed outside, stopped up and down, as an additional preventive and protection to her more empty bunkers.


The London Daily News says:

The Kearsarge is spoken of as being iron-clad ; she was no more iron-clad than the Alabama might have been, had they taken the precaution. She simply had a double row of chains hanging over her sides to protect her machinery. Two shots from the Alabama struck these chains, and fell harmlessly into the water.

Of the crew of the Alabama, 65 were picked up by the Kearsarge as prisoners; while Capt. Semmes and his officers and men who were picked up and carried off by Lancaster, with a few picked up by a French vessel in attendance, were also claimed as rightful prisoners of war; but they denied the justice of the claim, and were not surrendered.

The steady increase of our naval force, and our successful combined operations in Pamlico and Albemarle sounds; before Charleston, Savannah, and among the Sea Islands; up the months of the Mississippi; along the coasts of Florida; and at the mouth of the Rio Grande, had gradually closed up the harbors of the Confederacy, until, by the Spring of 1864, their blockade-runners were substantially restricted to a choice of two ports-Wilmington, N. C., and Mobile — where the character of the approaches and the formidable forts that still forbade access by our blockaders to the entrance of their respective harbors, still enabled skillfully-piloted steamers, carefully built in British yards expressly for this service, to steal in and out on moonless, clouded, or foggy nights; not without risk and occasional loss, but with reasonable impunity. To close these eyes of the Rebellion was now the care of the Navy Department; and it was resolved to commence with Mobile — the double entrance to whose spacious bay was defended by Forts Morgan and Powell on either hand, and by Fort Gaines on Dauphine island, which( separates Grant's pass from the main channel. Beside the heavy guns and large garrisons of these forts, there was a considerable fleet, commanded by Franklin Buchanan, sole Rebel Admiral, and formerly a captain in our Navy, whose iron-clad Tennessee, 209 feet long, 48 feet beam, with timber sides 8 feet thick, doubly plated with 2-inch iron, fitted with tower, beak and overhang, and mounting two 7-inch and four 6-inch rifled guns, throwing projectiles respectively of 110 and 95 pounds, propelled by two engines and four boilers, was probably as effective a craft for harbor defense as fleet ever yet encountered. Her three consorts were ordinary gunboats of no, particular force; but when to these forts and vessels are added the vague terrors and real dangers of torpedoes, carefully constructed and planted in a channel where it is scarcely possible for attacking vessels to avoid them, it must be felt that the fleet, however strong, which defies and assails them, can only hope to succeed by the rarest exhibitions alike of skill and courage. Ten years had not elapsed since the immense naval power of Great Britain, wielded by a Napier, recoiled before the defenses of Cronstadt; while no attempt was made on the fortifications of Odessa.

The fleet which Rear-Admiral Farragut led16 to force its way into the bay of Mobile was composed of 4 iron-clads and 14 wooden ships-of-war or gunboats, as follows: [650]

Defenses of Mobile.


Hartford (flag-ship), Capt. P. Drayton;

Brooklyn, Capt. James Alden;

Metacomet, Lt.-Com'r J. E. Jouett;

Octorara, Lt.-Com'r C. H. Green;

Richmond, Capt. T. A. Jenkins;

Lackawanna, Capt. J. B. Marchand;

Monongahela, Com'r J. H. Strong;

Ossipee, Com'r W. E. Leroy;

Oneida, Com'r J. R. M. Mullany;

Port Royal, Lt.-Com'r B. Gherardi;

Seminole, Com'r E. Donaldson;

Kennebec, Lt.-Com'r W. I. McCann;

Itasca, Lt.-Com'r George Brown;

Galena, Lt.-Com'r C. H. Wells;

17Tecumseh, Com'r T. A. M. . Craven;

18Manhattan, Com'r J. W. A. Nicholson;

19Winnebago, Com'r T. H. Stevens;

20Chickasaw, Lt.-Com'r T. H. Perkins.

Gen. Canby had sent from New Orleans Gen. Gordon Granger, with a cooperating land force, perhaps 5,000 strong, which had debarked on Dauphine island, but which could be of no service for the present; and did not attempt to be. Pollard says that our fleet carried 200 guns with 2,800 men.

Thursday, August 4, had been fixed on for the perilous undertaking; but, though the troops were on hand, the Tecumseh had not arrived; and — in contempt for the nautical superstition touching Friday--the attack was postponed to next morning ; when, at 5: o'clock, the wooden ships steamed up, lashed together in couples; the Brooklyn and Octorara leading, followed by the Hartford and Metacomet; the iron-clads having already passed the bar, and now advancing in line on the right, or between the fleet and Fort Morgan. The Tecumseh, leading, at 6:47, opened fire on Fort Morgan, still a mile distant, which responded at 7:06 ; and forthwith, every gun that could be brought to bear on either side awoke the echoes of the startled bay.

The Brooklyn, when directly under the guns of the fort-which, disregarding the iron-clads, were trained especially on the Hartford and her, while their progress was retarded by the slowness of the monitors-had just opened on the fort with grape, driving its gunners from its more exposed batteries, when the Tecumseh, then 300 yards ahead of her, struck a torpedo which, exploding directly under her turret, tore a chasm in her bottom, through which the water poured in a flood, sinking her almost instantly, and carrying down Com'r Craven and nearly all his officers and crew. Out of 130, but 17 were saved; part in one of her own boats and part by a boat sent, by Farragut's order, from the Metacomet, under a terrible fire.

Farragut had reluctantly consented to let the Brooklyn lead the wooden fleet, because of her four chaseguns specially adapted to the work in hand, and because she had a peculiarly ingenious contrivance for picking up torpedoes. “Exposure is one of the penalties of rank in the navy,” is his characteristic observation; in accordance with which, he had stationed himself in the Hartford's main-top, as the point whence every thing that transpired could best be observed; and the strong presumption that the Rebel fire would be concentrated on the flag-ship rendered him specially anxious that she should be accorded the post of preeminent peril and honor. Overruled at the outset, Farragut, when the Brooklyn very naturally recoiled at the spectacle of the Tecumseh's destruction, directed Drayton to go ahead, followed by the rest, in the full belief that several must pay the penalty of heroism just exacted of [652] the Tecumseh. But no more torpedoes were encountered; while the fire of the fort, now checked by the grape of our slips, became comparatively harmless, from the moment that he had fairly passed its front.

The Rebel fleet had opened fire directly after the fort; and the Tennessee, at 7:50, rushed at the Hartford, which simply returned her fire and kept on. The three Rebel gunboats, still ahead, poured their slots into the Hartford; the Selma getting a raking fire on her, which she could not return. Farragut, therefore, at 8:02, ordered the Metacomet to cast off and close with the Selma ; which she captured, after an hour's fight: the Selma's captain, P. N. Murphy, with 9 others, being wounded ; her Lieut. Comstock, with 5 more, being killed. She had 4 great pivot guns and 94 men. The Morgan and Gaines now took refuge under tile guns of the fort; where the Gaines, badly crippled, was run ashore and burned. The Morgan escaped, and ran up to Mobile under cover of the ensuing night.

Farragut now supposed the fight over, and had ordered most of his vessels to anchor; but he was undeceived when the Tennessee, at 8:45, stood bravely down the bay, and, trusting to her invulnerability to shot, made for our flag-ship, resolved to run her down. At once, our iron-clads and stronger wooden slips were signaled to close in upon and destroy her; our fire, save of the very largest guns, seeming scarcely to annoy her.

The Monongahela gave her the first blow; rushing at her at full speed, striking her square in the side, and, swinging around, pouring into her, when but a few feet distant., a broadside of solid 11-inch shot, which seemed to have much the same effect on her that a musket-wad or pop-gun pellet might be expected to produce on a buffalo's skull. Not satisfied with this, (Capt. Jenkins drew off and came at her again, with tile net result of losing his own beak and cut-water.

The Lackawanna next struck the Rebel monster at full speed ; crushing in her own stem to the plank-ends, but only giving the ram a heavy list, without doing her any perceptible harm.

The Hartford came on next but her blow was evaded by an adroit motion of tile Tennessee's helm, so that the Hartford merely hit her on the quarter and rasped along her side: pouring in a broadside of 10-inch shot, at a distance of ten feet.

Our monitors had now crawled up, firing when they could do so; and the Chickasaw ran under her stern; while the Manhattan, also coming up behind her, gave her a solid 15-inch bolt, which struck her on her port quarter, carrying away her steering-gear, and breaking square through her iron plates and their wooden backing, but doing no harm inside.

Farragut had ordered Drayton to strike her a second blow; and he was proceeding to do so, when the Lackawanna, already badly crippled, in attempting to ram the enemy a second time, came in collision with the flag-ship, doing her considerable injury. Both drew off, took distance for another pass at her, and were coming on at full speed, when the Rebel alligator, sore beset from every side — her smoke-stack shot away, her steering-chains gone, several of her port-shutters so jammed by our shot [653] that they could not be opened, and one of them battered to fragments, with the Chickasaw boring away at her stern, and four other great vessels coming at her fall speed — saw that the fight was fairly out of her, with no chance of escape, and, hauling down her flag, ran up a white one, just in time to have the Ossipee back its engine ere it struck her; changing its heavy crash into a harmless glancing blow. On her surrender, Admiral Buchanan was found severely wounded, with 6 of his crew; 3 being killed. Of prisoners, we took 190 with the Tennessee, and 90 with the Selma.

Our total loss in this desperate struggle was 165 killed (including the 113 who went down in the Tecumsch) and 170 wounded: the Hartford having 25 killed, 28 wounded, and the Brooklyn 11 killed and 43 wounded. The Oneida had 8 killed and 30 wounded, including her commander, Mullany, who lost an arm: most of them being scalded by the explosion, at 7:50, of her starboard boiler by a 7-inch shell, while directly under the fire of Fort Morgan. Nearly all her firemen and coalheavers on duty were killed or disabled in a moment; but, though another shell at that instant exploded in her cabin, cutting her wheel-ropes, her guns were loaded and fired, even while the steam was escaping, as if they had been practicing at a target. The Tennessee passed and raked her directly afterward, disabling two of her guns. A shell, in exploding, having started a fire on the top of her magazine, it was quietly extinguished ; the serving out of powder going on as before.

The Rebel fleet was no more; but the Rebel forts were intact. Farragut sent the wounded of both fleets to Pensacola in the Metacomet, and prepared to resume operations. During the ensuing night, Fort Powell was evacuated and blown up, so far as it could be ; but the guns were left to fall into our hands. Fort Gaines was next day shelled by the iron-clad Chickasaw, with such effect that Col. Anderson, commanding there, next morning sued for conditions. He night probably have held out a little longer; but, being on an island, with the fleet on one side and Granger's army on tile other, there was not a possibility of relief or protracted resistance. At 9 3/4 A. M., the Stars and Stripes were raised over the fort, and Anderson and his 600 men were prisoners of war.

Gen. Page, commanding in Fort Morgan, had much stronger defenses, and was on the main land, where he had a chance of relief; at the worst, he might get away, while Anderson could not. He telegraphed the latter peremptorily, “Hold on to your fort!” and his representations doubtless did much to excite the clamor raised against that officer throughout Dixie as a coward or a traitor. But when his turn came — Granger's troops having been promptly transferred to the rear of Morgan, invested21 it, and, after due preparation, opened fire22 in conjunction with the fleet-Page held out one day, and then surrendered at discretion. He doubtless was right in so doing ; since — unless relieved by an adequate land force — his fall was but a question of time. Yet his prompt submission tallied badly with his censure of Anderson. Before surrendering, he had damaged [654] his guns and other material to the extent of his power.

Thus fell the last of the defenses of Mobile bay; sealing that port against blockade-runners thenceforth, and endangering the Rebel hold on the city. With those defenses, we had taken 104 guns and 1,464 men — not without cost certainly; but there were few minor successes of the year which were won more cheaply, or which contributed more directly and palpably to the downfall of the Rebellion.

1 Vol. I., pp. 602-3.

2 Dec. 27, 1862.

3 Of Texas: son of a once noted Methodist clergyman of like name, who was Irish by birth, and a noted pulpit orator.

4 Nov. 18, 1862.

5 June 12, 1863.

6 June 24.

7 Dec. 6, 1863.

8 Dec. 16.

9 Oct. 5, 1864.

10 Oct. 7.

11 Aug. 15.

12 So named after a mountain in New Hampshire.

13 June 15, 1864.

14 Sunday, June 19, 10 1/2 A. M.

15 This hero, William Gowin, of Michigan, must not fade from his country's memory. Surgeon J. M. Browne reports that, being struck quite early in the action, by a fragment of shell, which badly shattered his leg near the knee-joint, Gowin refused assistance, concealed the extent of his injury, and dragged himself from the after pivot-gun to the fore-hatch, unwilling to take any one from his station. During the progress of the action, he comforted his suffering comrades by assuring them that “Victory is ours!” Whenever the guns' crews cheered at the successful effect of their shot, Gowin waved his hand over his head and joined in the shout. When brought at length to the Surgeon, he appeared with a smile on his face, though suffering acutely from his injury. He said, “It is all right, and I am satisfied; for we are whipping the Alabama;” adding, “I willingly will lose my leg or life, if it is necessary” In the hospital, he was calmly resigned to his fate, repeating again and again his willingness to die, since his ship had won a glorious victory. His country owes a monument to William Gowin.

16 Aug. 5, 1864.

17 Iron-clads.

18 Iron-clads.

19 Iron-clads.

20 Iron-clads.

21 Aug. 9.

22 Aug. 22.

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