Published 1883, 1885







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[1] 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.[2] 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,[3] and two VIII-inch, two 6.5-inch and four 5.82-inch rifles.[4] In the water battery there were four X-inch and one VIII­inch columbiads and two 6.5-inch rifles.[5] 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 that time.

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 complete.

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 preparations[6] 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



Names                              Tons                           Guns[7]      Commanding Officer

Tecumseh                       1,034                              2           Commander T. A. M. Craven.

Manhattan                     1,034                              2           J. W. A. Nicholson.

Winnebago                        970                              4           Thomas H. Stevens.

Chickasaw                        970                              4           Lieut.-Com'r George H. Perkins.



Brooklyn                         2,070                            24           Captain James Alden.

Octorara                           829                              6           Lieut.-Com'r Chas. H. Greene.

Hartford                         1,900                            21           Rear-Admiral David G. Farragut.

                                                                                          Captain Percival Drayton.

Metacomet                        974                              6           Lieut.-Com'r Jas. E. Jouett.

Richmond                       1,929                            20           Captain Thornton A. Jenkins.

Port Royal                         805                              6           Lieut.-Com'r Bancroft Gherardi.

Lackawanna                  1,533                              8           Captain John B. Marchand.

Seminole                            801                              8           Commander Edward Donaldson.

Monongahela                 1,378                              8           Commander James H. Strong.

Kennebec                          507                              5           Lieut.-Com'r Wm. P. McCann.

Ossipee                           1,240                            11           Commander William E. Le Roy.

Itasca                                507                              5           Lieut.-Com'r George Brown.

Oneida                            1,032                              9           Commander J. R. M. Mullany.

Galena                              738                            10           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 harm.

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[8] 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,[9] 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,[10] 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,[11] 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 hundred souls.

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 mast-heads.

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,[12] 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."[13] 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 water.

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.[14]

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.[15]

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 surrendered.

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 city fell.

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[16] 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 service.

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 crew.

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.

[1] Report of the United States Ordnance Officer of Department, dated October, 1864.

[2] See Appendix.

[3] 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.

[4] 24-pounder smooth-bore guns rifled.

[5] 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.

[6] 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.

[7] For particulars of batteries, see Appendix.

[8] Sixty pounds; one hundred pounds have since been used in these guns.

[9] 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 without foundation.

[10] 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.

[11] This was told the writer by the officer himself.

[12] 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.

[13] 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.

[14] 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."

[15] 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.

Brooklyn opened with bow guns                                         7.10 A.M.

Fleet generally with bow guns                                              7.15 A.M.

Fleet generally with broadside guns                             7.30-7.50 A.M.

Tecumseh sunk                                                                  7.45 A.M.

Hartford took the lead                                                       7.52 A.M.

Hartford casts off Metacomet                                           8.05 A.M.


At 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.


Tennessee passed rear ship (Oneida)                                  8.20 A.M.

Hartford anchored                                                              8.35 A.M.

Tennessee sighted coming up                                               8.50 A.M.

Monongahela rammed                                                        9.25 A.M.

Lackawanna rammed                                                         9.30 A.M.

Hartford                                                                             9.35 A.M.

Tennessee surrendered:                                                     10.00 A.M.


                                                                      Killed.                 Wounded.

Hartford                                                            25                            28

Brooklyn                                                           11                             43

Lackawanna                                                       4                             35

Oneida                                                                8                             31

Monongahela                                                      0                              6

Metacomet                                                          1                              2

Ossipee                                                                1                              7

Richmond                                                            0                              2

Galena                                                                0                              1

Octorara                                                             1                            10


[16] The Tensaw branches off from the Alabama thirty miles up, and the whole really forms a bayou, or delta, system.

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