This Day In History: The Battle Of Mobile Bay was Fought (1864)

This day in history the Union won a great naval victory, at the Battle of Mobile Bay, during the American Civil War in 1864. A Union flotilla under the command of Admiral David Farragut attacks the Confederates in Mobile Bay off the coast of, Alabama. The objective of the attack was, to close one of the last Confederate ports to trade.  The Union had blockaded the confederacy by  sea since the start of the war. This meant that the south had problems securing weapons and other key supplies. The Confederacy had been forced to smuggle many supplies into the south by ships that had to break the Union blockade. These ships are known to history as ‘blockade runners’.

Once the Union had control of Mobile Bay they had practically cut all the Confederates communications with the outside world and cut off a key supply line.

The sinking of the USS Tecumseh

This meant that the  fall of Mobile Bay was a huge blow to the Confederacy. It was only one in a series of disasters that fell upon the confederacy in 1864.  A series of Union victories and secured the re-election of Abraham Lincoln later that year, for a second term.

Mobile was a key Confederate port on the Gulf of Mexico, it became even more important after the fall of New Orleans, Louisiana, earlier in the war in 1862. Many blockade runners brought key supplies from Cuba and elsewhere through  Mobile. It was critical to the Confederacy’s  war effort and their ability to conduct an all-out war. Union General Ulysses S. Grant made the capture of the port a top priority after assuming command all Union military forces in early 1864.

The Union had a force of 17 warships and it was against  a Confederate squadron of only four ships. However, the south had the C.S.S.Tennessee, said to be the most powerful warship of the times, it was an ironclad. A forerunner of a modern battleship. The Union had also to deal with two powerful Confederate batteries firing on them from two forts on the shore. Early on August 5, Farragut’s flotilla  led by four ironclads and met with devastating fire as the entered Mobile Bay. One of the Union’s ironclads was sunk, the U.S.S. Tecumseh. It seemed that the flotilla would be forced to retreat. The Union commander refused to back down and gave the following orders

“Damn the torpedoes- full speed ahead”

This is one of the most famous quotes  in U.S. naval history.

The Union fleet destroyed or immobilized the smaller Confederate ships. The formidable C.S.S Tennessee fought a valiant battle despite being heavily outnumbered. The Union laid siege to the forts  that guarded Mobile, and both were captured within two weeks. Confederate still retained control of Mobile, but the port was closed to Confederate shipping and the blockade runners, lost their key base and port.

Mobile Bay was to prove one of the great Union victories of 1864 that drove the Confederacy to defeat in that year.