Saturday, October 27, 2007
The Battle of Mobile Bay
Sherman had taken Atlanta and was prepared to leave Atlanta on his march to the sea. Grant, in the Shenandoah Valley had Lee on the run and the Federals controlled the Mississippi River. The capture of Mobile had long been desired. It was an important base of operations and blockade-running could not be entirely prevented with vessels outside the port
The principle defenses of Mobile Bay were Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines, three miles to the northwest. The passage between these two forts was obstructed by torpedoes strung out from Fort Gaines to a point nearly to Fort Morgan. An opening at the eastern end allowed blockade-runners to enter the port.
Rear Admiral David G. Farragut made plans to take possession of the port He needed and wanted a military force to attack and capture the forts, and when the forces were provided, Farragut made careful preparations. The attacking column consisted of four iron-clad monitors and seven wooden sloops-of-war. The heaviest fire was anticipated to come from Fort Morgan, on the right, or starboard, side. The Brooklyn headed the line of the wooden vessels, because she was equipped with an apparatus for picking up torpedoes. As they approached, the forts and the Confederate fleet opened fire upon them. The Hartford, Farragut's flag ship, their primary target. A hundred and twenty-pound ball was lodged in the mainmast, sending splinters flying across her deck killing many of her crew. The other wooden vessels suffered in like manner as they approached. But when they came abreast of the fort they poured in rapid broadsides of grape-shot, shrapnel, and shells, which quickly cleared the bastions and silenced the batteries.
Admiral Farragut, through out the battle was in the rigging of the Hartford where the quartermaster had tied him to the shrouds, so that if he were wounded he would not fall to the deck. All of the Confederate gun boats were captured in short order. The Confederate ram, Tennessee, continued the fight, steaming boldly into their midst and firing in every direction while also attempting to ram them. One of the Federal monitors fired a solid shot that penetrated her armor; they jammed her shutters so that the portholes could not be opened; they shot away her steering-gear and knocked off her smoke stack, so that life on board her became intolerable, and she surrendered. Her commander, Franklin Buchanan, formerly of the U. S. navy, had been seriously wounded.
From a Painting by W. H. Overend
The victory cost Farragut's fleet fifty-two men killed and one hindered and seventy wounded in addition to one hundred and thirteen that went down when the Tecumseh hit a torpedo. The Confederate forts were soon after surrendered to the land forces. Mobile Bay was now occupied by the victors. Sherman would soon split the Confederacy down the middle.
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