THE NAVY IN THE CIVIL WAR
Published 1883, 1885
A. T. MAHAN
COMMANDER, U.S. NAVY
Admiral Farragut resumed the command of his squadron on
January 18th, 1864. His wish was to attack at once the defenses of Mobile before
the Confederates had finished the ironclads they were building; but troops were
needed for the reduction of the forts, and the Red River expedition had diverted
those that might have been available.
The city of Mobile is thirty miles from the Gulf, at the head
of a great bay of the same name. The width of the bay varies from fifteen miles
at the lower end to six at the upper; the depth throughout the greater part is
from twelve to fourteen feet, shelving gently near the shores, but at the lower
end there is a deep hole extending from the mouth north-northwest for six miles,
with an average width of two and a half. In this the depth is from twenty to
twenty-four feet. The principal entrance is from the Gulf direct, between
Mobile Point, a long low projection from the mainland, on the east, and
Dauphin Island on the west, the latter being one of the chain which bounds
Mississippi Sound. The distance between these points is nearly three miles, but
from Dauphin Island a bank of hard sand makes out under water both east and
south, defining one side of the main ship channel, which closely skirts Mobile
Point, and narrowing it to a little less than two thousand yards. Near the
southeast point of this bank there rise two small islands, called Sand Islands,
distant three miles from Mobile Point. The channel on the other side is bounded
by a similar sand bank running seaward from the Point, the two approaching so
that at Sand Islands they are not more than seven hundred and fifty yards apart.
Vessels of very light draught could also enter the bay from Mississippi Sound,
but it was not practicable for the fleet.
The entrance from the Gulf was guarded by two works, Fort
Morgan on Mobile Point and Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island. The approach by
Mississippi Sound was covered by Fort Powell, a small earthwork on Tower Island,
commanding the channel which gave the most water, known as Grant's Pass.
Gaines was too far distant from the main ship channel to count for much in the
plans of the fleet. It was a pentagonal work mounting in barbette 1 three X-inch
columbiads, five 32-, two 24-, and two 18-pounder smooth-bore guns, and four
rifled 32-pounders; besides these it had eleven 24-pounder howitzers, siege and
for flank defence. In Fort Powell there were
one X-inch, two VIII-inch and one 32-pounder smooth-bore and two VII-inch Brooke
rifles; these bore on the sound and channels, but the rear of the fort toward
the bay was yet unfinished and nearly unarmed. The third and principal work,
Fort Morgan, was much more formidable. It was five sided, and built to carry
guns both in barbette and casemates; but when seized by the Confederates the
embrasures of the curtains facing the channel were masked and a heavy exterior
water battery was thrown up before the northwest curtain. The armament at this
time cannot be given with absolute certainty.
The official reports of the United States engineer and ordnance officers, made
after the surrender, differ materially, but from a comparison between them and
other statements the following estimate has been made: Main fort seven X-inch,
three VIII-inch and twenty-two 32-pounder smooth-bore guns,
and two VIII-inch, two 6.5-inch and four 5.82-inch rifles.
In the water battery there were four X-inch and one VIIIinch columbiads and
two 6.5-inch rifles.
Of the above, ten X-inch, three VIII-inch, sixteen 32-pounders and all the
rifles, except one of 5.82 caliber, bore upon the channel. There were also
twenty flanking 24-pounder howitzers and two or three light rifles, which were
useless against the fleet from their position.
Such were the shore defenses. In the waters of the bay there
was a little Confederate squadron under Admiral Franklin Buchanan, made up of
the ram Tennessee and three small
paddle-wheel gunboats, the Morgan, Gaines,
and Selma, commanded respectively by Commander George W. Harrison, and
Lieutenants J. W. Bennett and P. U. Murphy. They were unarmored, excepting
around the boilers. The Selma was an
open-deck river steamer with heavy hog frames; the two others had been built for
the Confederate Government, but were poorly put together. The batteries were: Morgan,
two VII-inch rifles and four 32-pounders; Gaines,
one VIII-inch rifle and five 32-pounders; Selma,
one VI-inch rifle, two IX-inch, and one VIII-inch smooth-bore shell-guns. Though
these lightly built vessels played a very important part for some minutes, and
from a favorable position did much harm to the Union fleet in the subsequent
engagement, they counted for nothing in the calculations of Farragut. There were
besides these a few other so-called ironclads near the city; but they took no
part in the fight in the bay, and little, if any, in the operations before the
fall of Mobile itself in the, spring of 1865.
The Tennessee was
different. This was the most powerful ironclad built, from the keel up, by the
Confederacy, and both the energy shown in overcoming difficulties and the
workmanship put upon her were most creditable to her builders. The work was
begun at Selma, on the Alabama River, one hundred and fifty miles from Mobile,
in the spring of 1863, when the timber was yet standing in the forests, and much
of what was to be her plating was still ore in the mines. The hull was launched
the following winter and towed to Mobile, where the plating had already been
sent from the rolling mills of Atlanta.
Her length on deck was 209 feet, beam 48 feet, and when
loaded, with her guns on board, she drew 14 feet. The battery was carried in a
casemate, equidistant from the bow and stern, whose inside dimensions were 79
feet in length by 29 feet in width. The framing was of yellow pine beams, 13
inches thick, placed close together vertically and planked on the outside, first
with 5,, inches of yellow pine, laid horizontally, and then 4 inches of oak
laid up and down. Both sides and ends were inclined at an angle of forty-five
degrees, and over the outside planking was placed the armor, 6 inches thick, in
thin plates of 2 inches each, on the forward end, and elsewhere 5 inches thick.
Within, the yellow pine frames were sheathed with 21 inches of oak. The plating
throughout was fastened with bolts 11 inch in diameter, going en-y tirely
through and set up with nuts and washers inside. Her gunners were thus sheltered
by a thickness of five or six inches of iron, backed by twenty-five inches of
wood. The outside deck was plated with two-inch iron. The sides of the casemate,
or, as the Confederates called it, the shield, were carried down to two feet
below the water-line and then reversed at the same angle, so as to meet the hull
again six to seven feet below water. The knuckle thus formed, projecting ten
feet beyond the base of the casemate, and apparently filled in solid, afforded
a substantial protection from an enemy's prow to the hull, which was not less
than eight feet within it. It was covered with four inches of iron, and being
continued round the bows, became there a beak or ram. The pilot-house was made
by carrying part of the forward end of the shield up three feet higher than the
rest. The casemate was covered with heavy iron gratings, through whose holes the
smoke could rise freely, and it was pierced with ten ports, three in each end
and two on each side. The vessel carried, however, only six guns; one VIIB-inch
rifle at each end and two VI-inch rifles on each broadside. These were Brooke
guns, made in the Confederacy; they threw 110pound and 90-pound solid shot.
The ports were closed with iron sliding shutters, five inches thick; a bad
arrangement, as it turned out.
Though thus powerfully built, armored, and armed, the Tennessee
must have been a very exasperating vessel to her commander. She had two grave
defects; the first, perhaps unavoidable from the slender resources of the
Confederacy, was lack of speed. Her engines were not built for her, but taken
from a high-pressure river steamboat, and though on her trial trip she realized
about eight knots, six seems to be all that could usually be got from her. She
was driven by a screw, the shaft being connected by gearing with the engines.
The other defect was an oversight, yet a culpable one; her steering chains,
instead of being led under her armored deck, were over it, exposed to an enemy's
fire. She was therefore a ram that could only by a favorable chance overtake her
prey, and was likely at any moment to lose the power of directing her thrust.
Such as she was the Tennessee was ready for service early in
March, 1864, when Commander J. D. Johnston was ordered as her captain. She was
taken from the city, through one of the arms of the Alabama, to the mud flats
which reach to a point twenty miles down the bay, and are called Dog River Bar.
The least depth of water to be traversed was nine feet, but throughout the whole
distance the fourteen feet neces sary to float the vessel could not be counted
upon. She was carried over on camels, which are large floats made to fit the
hull below the water line, and fastened to it, on either side, by heavy chains
passing around them and under the keel, while the camels are filled with water.
When the water was pumped out the buoyancy of the camels lifted the ram five
feet, reducing her draught enough to let her go over the bar. Two months were
taken tip in building and placing the camels, during all which time Farragut was
begging either for ironclads or for co-operation by the land forces, in reducing
the forts. In either case he was willing to enter the bay, but he did not like
to run the risk of getting inside with his wooden ships crippled, the forts
intact in his rear, and the enemy's ironclads to contend with as well. Neither
assistance ance was given, and he was therefore compelled to look on while the
Tennessee was moved from a position in
which she could do no harm to one in which she became the principal menace to
the attacking fleet. On the 18th of May she was finally towed across and
anchored in the lower bay six miles from the entrance. That night the camels
were removed, steam raised, and everything made ready to cross the outer bar
and attack the fleet; but when the anchor was weighed the ship was found to be
hard aground. The in. tended attack was given up, and when the tide rose enough
to float her, she was moved down to Fort Morgan, near which she remained from
The preparations for defence of the enemy were not confined
to the forts and the ships. From the point of Dauphin Island a line of pile
obstructions extended across the sand bank, in the direction of Fort Morgan,
blocking the passage of any light vessels that might try to pass that way. Where
the piles ended, near the edge of the bank, a triple line of torpedoes in
echelon began, extending across the main ship channel to a red buoy, distant two
hundred and twenty-six yards from the water battery under Fort Morgan. This narrow
passage, not much exceeding one hundred yards from the beach, was left open for
blockade-runners, and through it the admiral intended his fleet to pass; for the
reports of refugees and the examinations made by officers of the fleet who dared
at night to push their search thus close under the enemy's guns, alike affirmed
that there at least no torpedoes were.
The torpedoes planted in this part of the defenses of Mobile
were principally of two kinds, both of the class known as floating torpedoes.
One was made of an ordinary barrel, lager-beer kegs being preferred, pitched
inside and out and with wooden cones secured to the two ends to keep it from
tumbling over. The barrel was filled with powder and furnished with several,
generally five, sensitive primers, placed near together in that part of the
bilge which was to float uppermost. The primers were exploded by a vessel
striking them and communicated their flame to the charge. The other torpedo was
made of tin, in the form of a truncated cone, the upper diameter being the
greater. It was divided into two parts, the upper being an air-chamber and the
lower containing the charge. On top was a cast-iron cap so secured that a slight
blow, like that from a passing vessel, would knock it off. The cap was fast to a
trigger, and as it fell, its weight pulled the trigger and exploded the charge.
In July, 1864, there were planted forty-six of the former and one hundred and
thirty-four of the latter kind. Besides these which exploded on contact there
are said to have been several electrical torpedoes.
The first six months of 1864 wore away in the monotonous
routine of the blockade, broken only by an attack upon Fort Powell, made from
Mississippi Sound by the admiral with the light-draught vessels. These could not
get nearer than four thousand yards, but at the time, February 28th, Sherman was
on his raid into Mississippi and the attack was believed to be of service as a
diversion. During this half of the year none but wooden vessels lay before
Mobile. Toward the end of July the co-operation of Canby's forces was assured
and the monitor ironclads began to arrive.
The root idea from which the monitor type of ironclads grew
was a raft carrying a fort; their hulls, therefore, floated low in the water,
the deck being but a foot or two above it. Upon the deck were one or more
circular turrets, made of one-inch rolled wrought-iron plates, the whole
thickness depending upon the number of these thin plates bolted together. The
decks, and the hulls to some distance below the water-line, were also armored,
but less heavily. In the turret two guns were mounted, of a size varying with
the size of the vessel. They could be moved in and out, but the aim from side to
side was changed by turning the whole turret, which revolved on a central
spindle. After firing, the ports were turned away from the enemy and the
unbroken iron toward him, until the guns were reloaded. Above and concentric
with the turret was another circular structure, of much less diameter and
similarly armored. This, called the pilot-house, contained the steering-wheel,
and was the station in battle of the captain, helmsman, and pilot if there were
one. It was stationary, not sharing the revolving motion of the gun-turret,
and could be entered only by a hole opening down into the latter, the top being
closed by iron plates, which had been given greater thickness since a shot in
one instance had struck and broken them, killing the captain of the vessel.
Narrow horizontal slits were cut in the armor of the pilot-house, through which
the captain peered, as through the bars of a helmet, to see his enemy and direct
the course of his ship. The gun-turret could be entered or left by the hull
below, which contained the living rooms of the officers and crew and all the
usual and necessary arrangements of a ship of war, or by the gun-ports, which
were large enough for a man to pass through. In action the hatches were down,
and ordinarily the only exit from the hull below was through the turret and its
ports.. Four of these vessels were sent to Farragut after many askings and
months of delay; two from the Atlantic coast, the Tecumseh and Manhattan,
having ten-inch armor on their turrets, and two from the Mississippi River, the Chickasaw
and Winnebago, with eight-and-a-half-inch armor. The former carried two
XV-inch guns in one turret; the latter four XI-inch guns in two turrets. They
were all screw ships, but the exigencies of the Mississippi service calling
for light draught, those built for it had four screws of small diameter, two on
each quarter. The speed of the monitors was poor and, as they had iron hulls,
varied much as their bottoms were clean or foul. From a comparison of differing
statements it may be taken at from five to seven knots.
During these six months, though the admiral paid frequent
visits to the fleet off Mobile, the immediate direction of affairs was left to
the divisional commander, Captain Thornton A. Jenkins, of the Richmond.
In the last week of July, however, Farragut took charge in person, and sent the Richmond, and others of the blockading force that were to attempt
the entry of the bay, to Pensacola to complete their preparations. The Manhattan
had arrived on the 20th and the Chickasaw
came in from New Orleans on the 1st of August. These, with the Winnebago, were anchored under the lee of Sand Island; but the Tecumseh
did not get down until the Richmond,
with the others, returned on the night of the 4th; and it was only by the
untiring efforts of her commander and Captain Jenkins that she was ready even
then. With her, and the return of the blockaders, the admiral's force was
The understanding with General Granger, in immediate command
of the troops, was that he should land on the 4th on Dauphin Island and invest
Gaines, as he had not men enough to attack both forts at once. The admiral was
to pass Morgan and enter the bay the same morning. Granger landed, but Farragut
could not fulfil his part of the bargain, because so many of his ships were
still away. The delay, though he chafed under it, was in the end an advantage,
as the enemy used that last day of his control of the water to throw more troops
into Gaines, who were all taken two days later.
In forming his plan of attack the admiral wanted two favors
from nature; a westerly wind to blow the smoke from the fleet and toward Morgan,
and a flood-tide. In regular summer weather the wind from sunrise till eight
o'clock is light from the southward and then hauls gradually round to the west
and northwest, growing in strength, as it does so. The tide was a matter of
calculation, if no exceptional wind modified its direction. The admiral wished
it flood for two reasons: first, because, as he intended to go in at any cost,
it would help a crippled ship into the harbor; and secondly, he had noticed that
the primers of the barrel-torpedoes were close together on top, and thought it
likely that when the flood-tide straightened out their mooring-lines the tops
would be turned away from the approaching ships.
As at New Orleans, the preparations were left very much to the
commanders of ships. A general order directed spare spars and boats to be
landed, the machinery protected, and splinter-nettings placed. As the fleet was
to pass between the eastern buoy and the beach, or two hundred yards from
Morgan, little was feared from Gaines, which would be over two miles away; the
were therefore made mainly on the starboard side, and port guns were shifted
over till all the ports were full. The boats were lowered and towed on the port
side. The admiral himself and the captain of the Brooklyn preferred to go in with their topsail yards across; but the
Richmond and Lackawanna sent down their topmasts, and the other vessels seem to
have done the same.
In the order of battle the wooden ships, as at Port Hudson,
were to be lashed in couples, the lighter vessels on the off hand; the four
monitors in a column inshore and abreast of the leading ships, the Tecumseh,
which led, slightly in advance of the van of the other column. The admiral had
intended to lead the latter himself in the Hartford,
but the representations of many officers led him to yield his own judgment so
far as to let the Brooklyn, whose
captain earnestly wished it, go ahead of him. The order of attack, as it stood
at last, was as follows
Commander T. A. M. Craven.
J. W. A. Nicholson.
Thomas H. Stevens.
Lieut.-Com'r George H. Perkins.
Captain James Alden.
Lieut.-Com'r Chas. H. Greene.
Rear-Admiral David G. Farragut.
Captain Percival Drayton.
Lieut.-Com'r Jas. E. Jouett.
Captain Thornton A. Jenkins.
Lieut.-Com'r Bancroft Gherardi.
Captain John B. Marchand.
Commander Edward Donaldson.
Commander James H. Strong.
Lieut.-Com'r Wm. P. McCann.
Commander William E. Le Roy.
Lieut.-Com'r George Brown.
Commander J. R. M. Mullany.
Lieut.-Com'r Clark H. Wells.
The Octorara, Metacomet,
and Port Royal were side-wheel double-enders the others were screw
ships. All had been built for the naval service.
The evening before the action it was raining hard, but toward
midnight stopped and became clear, hot, and calm. The preparations were all made
and the vessels lay quietly at their anchors; the wooden ships outside, the
monitors behind Sand Island. Later a light air sprung up from the southwest,
thus fulfilling the admiral's wish. He was not well, sleeping restlessly, and
about three in the morning sent his steward to find out how the wind was. When
he learned it was southwest, he said: "Then we will go in this morning."
Soon after, the hands were turned up and hammocks stowed. Between 4 and 5
o'clock the lighter vessels came alongside and were lashed to their consorts. At
5.30 the signal was made to get under way and the Brooklyn
weighed at once, the other vessels following in order, the monitors at the same
time standing out from their anchorage. The fleet steamed slowly in to the bar,
to allow its members to take and keep their stations, the crews in the meantime
going to quarters and clearing for action. At 6.10 the bar was crossed by the
flag-ship, and by 6.30 the order for battle was fairly formed and the monitors
taking their stations; in doing which a slight delay occurred. At this time all
the ships hoisted the United States flag at the peak and the three mastheads,
and the Tecumseh fired the first two
shots at the fort. At five minutes before seven the fleet went ahead again, and
at five minutes past the fort opened upon the Brooklyn,
the leading ship, which answered at once with her bow rifle, and immediately
afterward the action became general along the line between the fort, the
monitors (except the Tecumseh), and
the bow guns of the fleet; at the same time the enemy's gunboats moved out from
behind Morgan and formed in line ahead, east and west, across the channel just
inside the lines of torpedoes. From this position they had a raking fire upon
the fleet, which was confined to a nearly north course (north by east), until
it had passed the fort and the buoy. At half-past seven the leading ships had
their broadsides bearing, fairly on the works, and while they maintained that
position their heavy fire so kept down the enemy's that the latter did little
The Tecumseh, after
firing the two first guns, as stated above, had turned her turret from the enemy
and loaded again with steel shot and the heaviest charge
of powder. Intent only upon the Tennessee,
she steamed quietly on, regardless of the fort, a little ahead of the Brooklyn,
the other monitors following her closely. As they drew near the buoy, Craven
from the pilot-house of his ship saw it so nearly in line with the beach that he
turned to his pilot and said, "It is impossible that the admiral means us
to go inside that buoy; I cannot turn my ship." At the same moment the Tennessee, which till that time had lain to the eastward of the
buoy, went ahead to the westward of it, and Craven, either fearing she would get
away from him or moved by the seeming narrowness of the open way, gave the
order “Starboard" and pushed the Tecumseh
straight at the enemy. She had gone but a few yards and the lockstring was
already taut in the hands of an officer of the enemy's ship, Lieutenant Wharton,
waiting to fire as they touched, when one or more torpedoes exploded under
her. She lurched from side to side, careened violently over, and went down
head foremost, her screw plainly visible in the air for a moment to the enemy,
that waited for her, not two hundred yards off, on the other side of the fatal
line. It was then that Craven did one of those deeds that should be always
linked with the doer's name, as Sidney's is with the cup of cold water. . The
pilot and he instinctively made for the narrow opening leading to the turret
below. Craven drew back: "After you, pilot," he said. There was no
afterward for him; the pilot was saved, but he went down with his ship.
When the Tecumseh
sank, the Brooklyn was about three
hundred yards astern of her and a little outside; the Hartford between one and two hundred yards from the Brooklyn,
on her port quarter; the Richmond
about the same distance from the Hartford
and in the Brooklyn's wake. The Winnebago,
the second astern of the Tecumseh, was
five hundred yards from her, and the Manhattan
in her station, two hundred yards ahead of the Winnebago;
both, however, skirting the beach and steering to pass inside of the buoy, as
they had been ordered. The sunken vessel was therefore well on their port bow.
Unmoved by the fate of their leader, the three remaining ironclads steamed on in
line ahead, steadily but very slowly, being specially directed to occupy the
attention of the guns ashore, that were raking the approaching ships. As they
passed, the admiration of the officers of the flag-ship and Metacomet
was aroused by the sight of Commander Stevens, of the Winnebago,
walking quietly, giving his orders, from turret to turret of his unwieldy
vessel, directly under the enemy's guns. Five minutes later was seen from the Brooklyn
certain objects in the water ahead, which were taken at the moment for buoys to
torpedoes. The ship and her consort were stopped and then began to back, coming
down upon the next astern; at the same time their bows fell off toward the fort
and they soon lay nearly athwart the channel. The Hartford's
engines were at once stopped, but, as she held her way and drifted on with the
flood-tide, her bow approached dangerously near the Brooklyn's stern and the Richmond
was close behind; fortunately the rest of the fleet had opened out somewhat.
While the vessels were thus close the admiral hailed to know what was the
matter. "Torpedoes ahead," was the reply. Farragut, who did not go
heedlessly into action, had reckoned on torpedoes and counted the cost. Without
any seeming hesitation, though in the story of his life it appears that for a
moment he felt overcome till. he could throw himself on a Power greater than his
own, he ordered his own ship and his consort ahead, at the same time making the
signal "Close order." From the position of the Brooklyn
it was no longer possible to pass inside, and accordingly, backing the Metacomet
and going ahead with the flagship, their heads were turned to the westward and
they passed outside of the fatal buoy, about five hundred yards from the fort.
As they went over the line the torpedo cases were heard knocking against the
bottom of the ship and the primers snapping,
but none of the torpedoes themselves exploded and the Hartford went safely through.
Yet, in the midst of Farragut's grave anxieties about the
great issues touching his fleet, the drowning men on board the Tecumseh
had not been forgotten, and, while still fettered by the Brooklyn's
action, he hailed Captain Jouett, of the Metacomet,
to know if he had not a boat that he could send to save them. Jouett, having
seen the disaster, and not having the other cares on his mind, had by a few
instants forestalled the admiral, and the boat was about leaving the port
quarter of the Metacomet, in charge of
Ensign H. C. Nields, an officer of the Volunteer Navy. She pulled round under
the Hartford's stern and broadside,
across the bows of the Brooklyn,
toward the wreck, where she saved the pilot, John Collins, and nine of the
ship's company. While on his way Nields, who was but a lad, did one of those
acts, simple in intention, which appeal strongly to the feelings and imagination
and indicate the calm self-possession of the doer. He was steering the boat
himself, and his captain, who was watching, saw him, after pulling some fifty
yards, look up and back to see if the flag was flying; missing it, he stooped
down, took it out of the cover in which it is habitually kept and shipped it,
unfurled, in its place in the boat before the eyes of friends and foes. His
heroic and merciful errand was not accomplished without the greatest risk,
greater than he himself knew; for not only did he pass under. the continued and
furious fire of the fort and the fleet, but the ensign of the forecastle
division of the Hartford, seeing the
boat without a flag and knowing nothing of its object, but having torpedoes
uppermost in his mind, connected its presence with them, trained one of his
hundred-pounders upon it,
and was about to pull the lockstring when one of the ship's company caught his
arm, saying: "For God's sake, don't fire! it is one of our own
boats!" The Hartford had passed
on when Nields had picked up the survivors, and, after putting them aboard the Winnebago,
he pulled down to the Oneida, where he
served during the rest of the action. Two officers and five men had also escaped
in one of the Tecumseh's boats, which
was towing alongside, and four swam to the fort, where they were made
prisoners; so that twenty-one were saved out of a complement of over one
Meanwhile the Brooklyn
was lying bows on to the fort, undergoing a raking fire and backing clown upon
the starboard bow of the Richmond,
whose engines were stopped, but the vessel drifting up with the young
flood-tide. Her captain, seeing a collision in such critical circumstances
imminent, gave the order to back hard both his own ship and her consort; fearing
that, if the four became entangled, not only would they suffer damage
themselves, but, if sunk by the fire of the fort, would block the channel to the
rest of the squadron. As she backed, the Richmond's bow fell off to port, bringing her starboard broadside
fairly toward the fort and batteries, on which she kept up a steady and rapid
fire, at a distance of from three hundred to one hundred and fifty yards,
driving the enemy out of the water-battery and silencing it; being at the same
time wrapped in a cloud of smoke which hid her hull and rose above her lower
As her topmasts were down, the ship was thus so completely
hidden that Buchanan, the Confederate admiral, who had had her captain under him
as a midshipman in days long gone by, and again as first lieutenant of a
corvette during the war with Mexico, asked after the surrender: "What
became of Jenkins? I saw his vessel go handsomely into action and then lost
sight of her entirely." While thus backing and fighting the ship was in
great danger of getting aground, having at times less than a foot of water under
her keel; but her commander thought the situation so critical as to necessitate
the risk. During the same time the Brooklyn,
from her unfortunate position, was unable to use any but her bow guns, and, even
when her hull was obscured by the smoke of the battle, her position was shown to
the gunners of the fort by her tall spars towering above. These moments of
anxiety were ended when she brought her head once more in the right direction
and steamed on; the Richmond followed
with the other ships of the port column, which had closed up and joined in the
action during the delay. Their fire, with the monitors', kept down that of the
fort until the bulk of the fleet had gone by, but when the heavier ships were
out of. range the enemy returned to their guns and severely punished the rear of
the line; the last ship, the Oneida,
receiving a VII-inch rifle shell, which passed through her chain armor and into
the starboard boiler, where it burst, the larger part of the watch of firemen
being scalded by the escaping steam. About the same moment a similar projectile
burst in the cabin, cutting both wheel-ropes, while her forward XI-inch gun and
one of the VIII-inch were disabled. In this condition the Oneida was pulled past the forts by her consort, the Galena.
As the Hartford
advanced over the line of torpedoes the three smaller gunboats of the enemy took
their position on her starboard bow and ahead, whence they kept up a raking and
most galling fire, to which the Hartford,
confined to the direction of the channel, could only reply with her bow guns,
one of which was speedily disabled by a shell bursting under it. As the
flag-ship advanced they retreated, keeping their distance and range about the
same, from one thousand to seven hundred yards, and fighting mainly the stern
guns. At no period of the action did she suffer as now, and the quarters of her
forward division became a slaughter-pen; a single shot killing ten and wounding
five men, while the splinters and shreds of bodies were hurled aft and on to the
decks of her consort. The greater part of the ship's company had never been in
action, but so admirable was their spirit and discipline that no wavering was
seen, nor was there any confusion even in reorganizing the more than decimated
crews of the guns. The Tennessee
meantime waited for her, Buchanan having set his heart on sinking the enemy's
admiral, but as the ram stood down the Hartford put her helm to starboard and, having the greater speed,
avoided the thrust without difficulty. Two shots were fired by the ram at the
same moment at such short range that it seemed wonderful they missed. The Tennessee
then followed up the bay till her opponent was about a mile from his own fleet,
when for some reason she gave up the pursuit and turned to meet the other wooden
ships, which were advancing in close order, the Brooklyn
still leading. The Tennessee stood for
the latter vessel, as though intending to ram, but sheered off and went by on
her starboard side, at less than one hundred yards, firing two shots, which
struck and went through and through, and receiving the contents of the Brooklyn's
guns in return. She passed on down the line to the Richmond,
which was ready with her broadside and a party of musketeers, who kept up a
brisk fire into the ram's ports. Whether the aim was thus disordered or there
was not time to lay the guns properly after reloading, the two shots flew high
and no harm was done. The Tennessee
passed the next ship, the Lackawanna,
also on the starboard side, but then made a determined sheer toward the line as
though certainly intending to ram. Captain Strong of the Monongahela seeing this, headed for her, putting his helm to port
and then shifting it so as to strike at right angles, but the Monongahela
could not get her full speed, from having the gunboat Kennebec
in tow alongside; she therefore struck the ram somewhat glancing and on her
port quarter. The blow threw the Tennessee's
stern around and she passed close along the port side of the Kennebec,
injuring the planking on the latter's bow and leaving one of her boats and its
iron davit with the gunboat as a memento of the collision. As she went by she
fired a shell which entered the berth-deck and exploded, seriously wounding an
officer and four men. The Ossipee,
which was on the port quarter of the Monongahela
when the collision took place, seeing how the ram was heading, also put her
helm to port following the Monongahela's
motion; but when the ram swung round under the blow she righted it and the Tennessee passed between the two, giving the Ossipee two shots, which entered nearly together below the spar-deck
abreast the forward pivot gun. The ram then passed on the starboard side of the
crippled Oneida, about a hundred yards
off, and tried to fire her broadside; but the primers snapped several times, and
she only succeeded in getting off one gun, the shot from which hit the after
XI-inch pivot, which had just been fired at and struck her. She then passed
under the Oneida's stern, delivering a
raking fire, and severely wounding Commander Mullany, who lost an arm. At this
moment the Union iron-clads which, in obedience to their orders, had delayed
before the fort, occupying its guns until the fleet had passed, drew near the
rear wooden ships and opened their fire on the Tennessee.
As the enemy passed under the stern of the Oneida
the Winnebago came up and took
position between the two, upon which the crew of the crippled ship, who were
expecting to be rammed, leaped upon the rail and cheered Commander Stevens,
lately their own captain,
he having left them but a few days before.
About the time that the Tennessee
gave up her pursuit of the Hartford,
the flag ship reached the point where she was able to keep away a little to the
westward. As she did so her starboard broadside came to bear and the Confederate
gunboats edged off, though still keeping up a hot fire from their stern guns. A
shot soon struck the Gaines under the
port counter below water, and a shell striking soon after near the same place on
the starboard side exploded, also below water, and started a heavy leak in the
magazine. At this time the admiral directed the Metacomet
to cast off and chase the gunboats, specially cautioning her commander to let
none of them escape to Mobile; and a signal to the same effect was made to the
lighter vessels in the rear. Jouett, who had been impatiently waiting, cut his
fasts, backed clear, and pressed hard after the three, who retreated up the bay.
The Gaines had to haul off toward
Morgan at 8.30, the leak increasing rapidly, but the other two kept on still.
The Metacomet, not being able to fire
straight ahead, yawed once or twice to discharge her bow gun; but finding she
lost too much ground by this discontinued it, though the enemy were still
keeping up a harassing fire. The chase led her into shoal water, the leadsman in
the chains reporting a foot less than the ship drew. The executive officer,
having verified the sounding, reported it to the captain, who, intent simply
upon carrying out his orders, and seeing that the bottom was a soft ooze,
replied: "Call the man in; he is only intimidating me with his
soundings." Soon after this a heavy squall accompanied by rain and dense
mist came up, and during, it the Morgan,
which was on the starboard bow of the Metacomet,
first got aground, and then getting off ran down to the southeastward toward
Fort Morgan. The Selma kept straight
on, as did the Metacomet; and when the
squall lifted the latter found herself ahead and on the starboard bow of her
chase. One shot was fired, killing the executive officer and some of the crew of
the Selma, and then the latter hauled
down her flag, having lost five killed and ten wounded. The other Union gunboats
being far in the rear and embarrassed by the mist did not succeed in cutting
off the othersboth of which escaped under Fort Morgan. The Gaines
being wholly disabled was burnt; the Morgan
made good her escape to Mobile the same night.
After passing down the Union line, Buchanan said to his
flag-captain, it being then about half-past eight: "Follow them up,
Johnston, we can't let them off that way." Five minutes later the Hartford
anchored four miles from Morgan, and the crew were sent to breakfast. Captain
Drayton went up on the poop and said to the admiral: "What we have done
has been well done, sir; but it all counts for nothing so long as the Tennessee is there under the guns of Morgan." "I know
it," said the admiral, " and as soon as the people have had their
breakfasts I am going for her."
Buchanan by his move thus played directly into Farragut's hands. From some
difficulty in the ground it was found necessary to bring the head of the Tennessee round toward Morgan, and this, with the length of time
occupied in the manoeuvre and the improbability of her attacking the whole fleet
by daylight, caused the admiral to think that she had retired under the guns of
the fort. He was soon undeceived. At ten minutes before nine, when the crew had
hardly got seated at their breakfast, the Tennessee was reported approaching. The mess-gear was hustled
aside, and the flagship at once got under way, as did the other vessels that
had anchored, and signal was made to the monitors to destroy the ram and to the Monongahela,
Lackawanna, and Ossipee to
ram the enemy's principal vessel. These ships took ground to carry out their
orders, and when the Tennessee was
about four hundred yards from the fleet the Monongahela
struck her fairly amidships on the starboard side. Just before the blow the ram
fired two shells, which passed through her enemy's berth-deck, one exploding and
wounding an officer and two men. She then passed on the starboard side of
the Monongahela and received a
broadside at the distance of ten yards, but without harm. The Lackawanna
followed, striking a square blow on the port side at the after end of the
casemate. The Tennessee listed over
heavily and swung round, so that the two vessels lay alongside head and stern,
the port sides touching; but as the Lackawanna's
battery had been mostly shifted to the starboard side to engage the fort she
had only one IX-inch gun available, the shot from which struck one of the
enemy's port shutters driving fragments into the casemates. The Lackawanna
then kept away, making a circuit to ram again. She had her stem cut and crushed
from three feet above the water-line to five below, causing some leakage, and
the Monongahela had her iron prow
carried away and the butt ends of the planking started on both bows; but the
only damage caused to the Tennessee,
protected by her sponsons, was a leak at the rate of about six inches an hour.
The flag-ship now approached to ram, also on the port side; but the Tennessee
turned toward her so that the bluff of the port bow in each ship took the blow.
The Hartford's anchor was hanging from the hawse-pipe, there not having
been time to cat it, and acted as a fender, being doubled up under the blow, and
the two vessels rasped by, the port sides touching. Most of the Hartford's
battery was also on the starboard side, but there were still seven IX-inch guns
which sent out their solid shot with their heaviest charge of powder; yet at a
distance of ten feet they did the Tennessee
no harm. The primers of the latter again failed her, being heard by the
flagship's people to snap unsuccessfully several times; one gun finally went
off, and the shell exploding on the berth-deck killed and wounded an officer and
several men. This was the last shot fired by the Tennessee.
The Hartford put her helm to starboard
and made a circle to ram again, but in mid career the Lackawanna
ran into her, striking near the person of the admiral, who had a narrow escape
from being killed, and cutting the flag-ship down to within two feet of the
Meanwhile the monitors had come up. The Manhattan had lost the use of one of her XV-inch guns early in the
day by a fragment of iron which dropped into the vent and could not be got out;
she was therefore able to fire only six of her heavy shot, one of which broke
through the port side of the casemate leaving on the inside an undetached mass
of oak and pine splinters. The Winnebago's
turrets could not be turned, so the guns could only be trained by moving the
helm and her fire was necessarily slow. The Chickasaw was more fortunate; her smoke-stack had been pierced
several times by the fort, so that her speed had run down and she had not yet
reached the anchorage when the Tennessee
came up, but by heaping tallow and coal-tar on the furnaces steam was raised
rapidly and she closed with the enemy immediately after the Hartford
rammed and fired. Passing by her port side and firing as she did so, she took
position under her stern, dogging her steadily during the remainder of the
fight, never over fifty yards distant, and at times almost touching, keeping up
an unremitting fire with her four XIinch guns.
The bow and stern port shutters of the Tennessee were now jammed, so that those guns could not be used.
Soon her smoke-stack came down and the smoke rising from its stump poured
through the gratings on to the gun-deck, where the thermometer now stood at 120°.
At about the same time the tiller-chains were shot away from their exposed
position over the after-deck. Losing thus the power of directing her
movements, the Tennessee headed
aimlessly down the bay, followed always by the unrelenting Chickasaw, under the pounding of whose heavy guns the after-end of
the shield was now seen, by those within, to be perceptibly vibrating. The Manhattan
and Winnebago were also at work, and the Hartford, Ossipee, and
other vessels were seeking their chance to ram again. During this time Buchanan,
who was superintending in person the working of the battery, sent for a
machinist to back out the pin of a jammed port shutter; while the man was, at
work a shot struck just outside where he was sitting, the concussion crushing
him so that the remains had to be shovelled into buckets. At the same moment the
admiral received a wound from an iron splinter, breaking his leg. The command
then fell upon Captain Johnston, who endured the hammering, powerless to reply,
for twenty minutes longer; then, after consultation with the admiral, he
hauled down the flag which was hoisted on a boat-hook thrust through the
grating. As it had before been shot away the fire of the fleet did not stop, and
Johnston accordingly went on the roof and showed a white flag. As he stood there
the Ossipee was approaching at full
speed to ram on the starboard side, passing the sluggish Winnebago,
whose captain, still outside his turret, exchanged greetings with his more
fortunate competitor. Her helm was put over and engines backed at once, but it
was too late to avoid the collision. As they came together her captain appeared
on the forecastle and, along with the blow, Johnston received a genial greeting
from the most genial of men: "Hallo, Johnston, old fellow! how are you?
This is the United States Steamer Ossipee.
I'll send a boat alongside for you. Le Roy, don't you know me?" The boat
was sent and the United States flag hoisted on board the Tennessee
at ten o'clock.
The fight had lasted a little over an hour. The loss of the Tennessee
was 2 killed and 10 wounded, that of the Union fleet, from the forts and the
enemy's squadron, 52 killed and 170 wounded.' Besides the loss of the
smoke-stack and steering-gear, the injuries to the casemate of the ram were very
severe. On the after-side nearly all the plating was found to be started, the
after gun-carriage was disabled and there were distinct marks of nine XI-inch
solid shot having struck within a few square feet of that port. The only shot
that penetrated the casing was the one XV-inch from the Manhattan.
Three port shutters were so damaged as to stop the firing of the guns.
The Chickasaw, which
had so persistently stuck to the ram, now took her in tow and anchored her near
the flagship. At half-past two of the same afternoon the Chickasaw
again got under way and stood down to Fort Powell, engaging it for an hour at
a distance of three hundred and fifty yards. The fort had been built to resist
an attack from the sound and was not yet ready to meet one coming like this from
the rear. That same night it was evacuated and blown up.
On the 6th the Chickasaw
went down and shelled Fort Gaines, and the following day it was surrendered.
Fort Morgan still held out. The army under General Granger was transferred from
Dauphin Island to Mobile Point and a siege train, sent from New Orleans, was
landed three miles in rear of the fort on the 17th. In the meantime batteries
had been constructed; and thirty-four guns had been put in position, with
everything ready for opening, on the evening of Saturday the 20th. On Monday the
22d, at daylight, the bombardment began from the batteries, the three monitors,
and the ships outside as well as inside the bar. On the 23d the fort
Mobile as a port for blockade-running was thus sealed by the
fleet holding the bay; but the gigantic struggle going on in Virginia,
Tennessee, and Georgia hindered for the time any attempt to reduce the city.
That would have withdrawn from more important fields a large force for a secondary
object, which was put off till the following spring. In the meantime Admiral
Farragut went north in December, leaving Commodore Palmer in command of the
squadron till the following February, when he was relieved by Acting
Rear-Admiral H. K. Thatcher. Palmer, however, stayed by his own wish until the
Several streams having a common origin and communicating
with one another enter the head of the bay. Of these the chief and most western
is the Mobile River, formed by the junction of the Alabama and Tombigbee. It
empties by two principal branches, of which the western keeps the name Mobile,
the eastern one being called Spanish River; the city of Mobile is on the west
bank of the former. On the east side of the bay the Tensaw
enters, also by two mouths, of which the western keeps the name and the eastern
is called the Blakely River. The Tensaw and Spanish Rivers have a common mouth
about a mile from the city. It is therefore practicable to go from the Mobile to
Spanish River, and thence to the Tensaw and Blakely without entering the bay.
The works around the city inland were very strong, but it was
not approached from that side. General Canby, commanding the Army of the West
Mississippi, began to move against it in March 1865. One corps marched from Fort
Morgan up the east side of the bay to a small stream called Fish River, where a
landing was secured; the remainder of the army were then brought to this point
in transports. At the same time a column under General Steele left Pensacola,
directing its march upon Blakely, a point near the mouth of the Blakely River on
the east bank. A short distance below Blakely was Spanish Fort, upon the defence
of which the fate of the city turned.
The gunboats had not hitherto crossed Dog River Bar, partly on
account of the low water and partly because of the torpedoes, which were known
to be thickly sowed thereabouts. It now became necessary for the navy to cut off
the communication of the fort with Mobile by water, while the army invested it
by land. On the 27th of March the fleet moved up and the bar was safely crossed
by the doubleender Octorara,
Lieutenant-Commander W. W. Low; and the ironclads, Kickapoo, Lieutenant-Commander M. P. Jones; Osage, Lieutenant-Commander William M. Gamble; Milwaukee, Lieutenant-Commander James H. Gillis; Winnebago,
Lieutenant-Commander W. A. Kirkland; and Chickasaw,
Lieutenant-Commander George H. Perkins. They opened that day on the enemy's
works, which were invested by the army the same night.
Before and after crossing, the bay had been thoroughly swept
for torpedoes, and it was hoped that all had been found; but, unfortunately,
they had not. On the 28th the Winnebago
and Milwaukee moved up toward Spanish
Fort, shelling a transport lying there from a distance of two miles. As the
enemy's works were throwing far over, they were ordered to return to the rest of
the fleet when the transport moved off. The Milwaukee dropped down with the current, keeping her head up stream,
and had come within two hundred yards of the fleet when she struck a torpedo, on
her port side forty feet from the stern. She sank abaft in three minutes, but
her bow did not fill for nearly an hour. No one was hurt or drowned by this
accident. The next day, the Winnebago
having dragged in a fresh breeze too near the Osage, the latter weighed and moved a short distance ahead. Just as
she was about to drop her anchor, a torpedo exploded under the bow and she began
to sink, filling almost immediately. Of her crew 5 were killed and 11 wounded by
the explosion, but none were drowned. The place where this happened had been
thoroughly swept and the torpedo was thought to be one that had gone, or been
sent, adrift from above. The two vessels were in twelve feet water, so that the
tops of the turrets remained in sight. Lieutenant-Commander Gillis, after the
loss of his vessel, took command of a naval battery in the siege and did good
On the 1st of April the light-draught steamer Rodolph,
having on board apparatus for raising the Milwaukee,
was coming near the fleet when she too struck a torpedo, which exploded thirty
feet abaft her stem and caused her to sink rapidly, killing 4 and wounding 11 of
The siege lasted until the evening of the 8th of April, when
Spanish Fort surrendered. Up to the last the enemy sent down torpedoes, and that
night eighteen were taken from Blakely River. Commander Pierce Crosby, of the Metacomet,
at once began sweeping above, and so successfully that on the 10th the Octorara and ironclads were able to move abreast Spanish Fort and
shell two earthworks, called Huger and Tracy, some distance above. These were
abandoned on the evening of the 11th, when the fleet took possession. Commander
Crosby again went on with the work of lifting torpedoes, removing in all over
one hundred and fifty. The way being thus cleared, on the 12th Commander
Palmer with the Octorara and ironclads
moved up the Blakely to the point where it branches off from the Tensaw, and
down the latter stream, coming out about a mile from Mobile, within easy
shelling distance. At the same time Admiral Thatcher, with the gunboats and
8,000 troops under General Granger, crossed the head of the bay to attack the
city, which was immediately given up; the Confederate troops having already
withdrawn. The vessels of the enemy, which had taken little part in the defence,
had gone up the Tombigbee.
The navy at once began to remove the obstructions in the main
ship channel and lift the torpedoes, which were numerous. While doing the
latter duty, two tugs, the Ida and Althea, and a launch of the ironclad Cincinnati
were blown up. By these accidents 8 were killed and 5 wounded. The gunboat Sciota was also sunk in the same manner on the 14th of April, the
explosion breaking the spar deck beams and doing much other damage. Her loss was
6 killed and 5 wounded.
The rebellion was now breaking up. Lee had laid down his arms on the 9th, and Johnston on the 24th of April. On the 4th of May General Richard Taylor surrendered the army in the Department of Alabama and Mississippi to General Canby; and the same day Commodore Farrand delivered the vessels under his command in the waters of Alabama to Admiral Thatcher, the officers and crews being paroled. Sabine Pass and Galveston, which had never been retaken after their loss early in 1863, were given up on the 25th of May and the 2d of June.
In July, 1865, the East and West Gulf Squadrons were merged
into one under Admiral Thatcher. Reasons of public policy caused this
arrangement to continue until May, 1867, when the attempt of the French emperor
to establish an imperial government in Mexico having been given up, the Gulf
Squadron as a distinct organization ceased to be. Thus ended the last of the
separate fleets which the Civil War had called into existence. The old cruising
ground of the Home Squadron again became a single command under the name, which
it still retains, of the North Atlantic Squadron.
 Report of the United States Ordnance Officer of Department, dated October, 1864.
 See Appendix.
 Of these guns twelve 32-pounders were at the southwest angle of the covered way. This is believed by the writer to be the battery known to the fleet as the lighthouse battery.
 24-pounder smooth-bore guns rifled.
 In a paper read in 1868, before the Essayons Club, at Willett's Point, N. Y., by Captain A. H, Burnham, V. S. Engineers. it is stated that there were three VII- and VIII-inch rifles in this battery. If this is correct, they had probably been moved from the barbette of the main work.
 The Richmond, while at Pensacola, built a regular barricade of sand-bags, extending from the port bow round the starboard side to the port quarter, and from the berth to the spar-deck. Three thousand bags of sand were used for this de. fence, which was in places several feet thick.
 For particulars of batteries, see Appendix.
 Sixty pounds; one hundred pounds have since been used in these guns.
The evidence for this singular and striking
incident is, both in quality and quantity, such as puts the fact beyond
doubt. The same sounds were heard on board the Richmond.
The tin torpedoes were poorly lacquered and corroded rapidly under the
sea-water. There is good reason to believe that those which sunk the Tecumseh
had been planted but two or three days before. A story recently current in
the South, that she was sunk by a torpedo carried at her own bow, is wholly
 Farragut was in the port main rigging of the Hartford, Jonett on the star. board wheel-house of his ship, so that there were but a few feet between them.
 This was told the writer by the officer himself.
Commander Stevens had given up the command of
the Oneida at the request and in
favor of Commander Mullany, whose own ship was not fitted for such an
engagement, and who had heretofore been less fortunate than his friend in
having opportunities for distinction thrown in his way by the war. Stevens,
being an old iron-clad captain, took the command of the Winnebago, which was vacant.
 This was said in the hearing of Lieutenant-Commander (now Captain) Kimberley, the executive officer of the Hartford. Commodore Foxhall A. Parker (Battle of Mobile Bay) mentions that Farragut had written in a note-book after the engagement: "Had Buchanan remained under the fort, I should have attacked him as soon as it became dark with the three monitors." The statements are easily reconciled, the latter representing thee second thought.
 Lieutenant-Commander Perkins and the executive officer of the Chickasaw, Volunteer Lieutenant William Hamilton, were going North from other ships on leave of absence, the latter on sick leave, but had offered their services for the battle. The fire of the Chickasaw was the most damaging to the Tennessee. In her engagement with the ram she fired fifty-two XI-inch solid shot, almost all into the stern, where the greatest injuryy was done. The Metacomet went to Pensacola that night under a flag of truce with the wounded from the fleet and the Tennessee, and was taken out by the pilot of the latter. He asked Captain Jouett who commanded the monitor that got under the ram's stern, adding: "D-n him! He stuck to us like a leech; we could not get away from him. It was he who cut away the steering gear, jammed the stern port shutters, and wounded Admiral Buchanan."
 It is not easy to fix the exact times of particular occurrences from the notes taken in the heat of action by different observers, with watches not necessarily running together; yet a certain measure of duration of the exciting events between 7 and 10 A.M. in this battle seems desirable. From a careful comparison of the logs and reports the following table of times has been compiled:
Fort Morgan opened 7.07 A.M.
opened with bow guns
generally with bow guns
generally with broadside guns
took the lead
casts off Metacomet
this time the rest of the fleet were about a mile astern of the flag-ship,
crossing the lines of torpedoes, and the Tennessee turned to attack them.
passed rear ship (Oneida)
sighted coming up
The Tensaw branches off from the Alabama
thirty miles up, and the whole really forms a bayou, or delta, system.
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