Tuesday, August 5, 2014

August 5, 1864: The Battle of Mobile Bay

C.S.S. Tennessee after her capture.

On this day 150 years ago, Rear Admiral David Glasgow Farragut led his fleet into Mobile Bay and captured the Confederate ram C.S.S. Tennessee, closing one of the Confederacy's main blockade running ports.
Mobile Bay, August 5, 1864.

SIR: I have the honor to report to the Department that this morning I entered Mobile Bay, passing between Forts Morgan and Gaines, and encountering the rebel ram Tennessee and the gunboats of the enemy, viz, Selma, Morgan, and Gaines.

The attacking fleet was underway by 5:45 a.m., in the following order:

Brooklyn with the Octorara on her port side, Hartford with the Metacomet, Richmond with the Port Royal, Lackawanna with the Seminole, Monongahela with the Kennebec, Ossipee with the Itasca, and Oneida with the Galena.

On the starboard of the fleet was proper position of the monitors or ironclads.

The wind was light from the southward and westward; the sky cloudy with very little sun.

Fort Morgan opened up on us at six minutes past 7, and soon after this the action became lively. As we steamed up the Main Ship Channel there was some difficulty ahead and the Hartford passed on ahead of the Brooklyn. At forty minutes past 7 the monitor Tecumseh was struck by a torpedo and sank, going down very rapidly and carrying with her all of her officers and crew with the exception of the pilot and 8 or 10 men, who were saved by a boat that I sent from the Metacomet alongside of me.

The Hartford had passed the forts before 8 oclock, and finding myself raked by the rebel gunboats I ordered the Metacomet to cast off and go in pursuit of them, one of which, the Selma, she succeeded in capturing.

All the vessels had passed the forts by 8:30 oclock, but the rebel ram Tennessee was still apparently uninjured in our rear.

Signal was at once made to all the fleet to turn again and attack the ram, not only with the guns, but with orders to run her down at full speed. The Monongahela was the first that struck her, and, though she may have injured her badly, yet did not succeed in disabling her. The Lackawanna also struck her, but ineffectually, and the flagship gave her a severe shock with her bow, and as she passed poured her whole port broadside into her, solid IX-inch shot and 13 pounds of powder, at a distance of not more than 12 feet. The ironclads were closing upon her and the Hartford and the rest of the fleet were bearing down upon her when, at 10 a.m., she surrendered. The rest of the rebel fleet, viz, Morgan and Gaines, succeeded in getting back under the protection of the guns of Fort Morgan.

This terminated the action of the day.

Admiral Buchanan sent me his sword, being himself badly wounded with a compound fracture of the leg, which it is supposed will have to be amputated.

Having had many of my own men wounded and the surgeon of the ram Tennessee being very desirous to have Admiral Buchanan removed to a hospital, I sent a flag of truce to the commanding officer of Fort Morgan, Brigadier-General Richard L. Page, to say that if he would allow the wounded of the fleet as well as their own to be taken to Pensacola, where they could be better cared for than here, I would send out one of our vessels, provided she would be permitted to return bringing back nothing that she did not take out. General Page assented, and the Metacomet was dispatched about oclock.

The list of casualties on our part as far as yet ascertained are as follows: Vessel.

Flagship Hartford Killed 19 Wounded 23
Brooklyn Killed 9 Wounded 22
Lackawanna Killed 4 Wounded 2
Oneida Killed 7 Wounded 23
Monongahela Wounded 6
Metacomet 1 Killed Wounded 2
Ossipee Killed 1 Wounded 7
Richmond Wounded 2
Galena Wounded 1

In all, 41 killed and 88 wounded.

On the rebel ram Tennessee were captured 20 officers and about 170 men. The list of the former is as follows: Admiral F. Buchanan, Commander James D. Johnston, Lieutenant Win. L. Bradford, Lieu- tenant A. D. Wharton, Lieutenant E. J. McDermett, Master J. R. Demahy, Master H. W. Perrin, Fleet Surgeon D. B. Conrad, Assistant, Surgeon R. C. Bowles, First Assistant Engineer G. D. Lining, Second Assistant Engineer J. [C.] OConnell, Second Assistant Engineer John Hayes, Third Assistant Engineer 0. Benson, Third Assistant Engineer W. B. Patterson, Paymasters Clerk J. H. Cohen, Masters Mate W. S. Forrest, Masters Mate [M. J.] Beebee, Masters Mate R. M. Carter, Boatswain John McCredie, Gunner H. S. Smith.

On the Selma were taken about 90 officers and men. Of the officers I have only heard the names of two, viz, Commander Peter U. Murphey, Lieutenant and Executive Officer J. H. Comstock, who was killed.

I will send a detailed dispatch by the first opportunity. Enclosed is a list of killed and wounded on board the Hartford.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Rear-Admiral, Commanding West Gulf Blockading Squadron.

Secretary of the Navy, Washington, D.C.

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