On the morning of August 5, Farragut’s force steamed into the mouth of Mobile Bay in two columns led by four ironclads and met with devastating fire that immediately sank one ofits iron-hulled, single-turret monitors, the USS Tecumseh. The rest of the fleet fell into confusion but Farragut allegedly rallied them with the words: “Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead!” Although the authenticity of the quote has been questioned, it nevertheless became one of the most famous in U.S. military history.
The Yankee fleet quickly knocked out the smaller Confederate ships, but the Tennessee fought a valiant battle against overwhelming odds before it sustained heavy damage and surrendered. The Union laid siege to forts Morgan and Gaines, and both were captured within several weeks. Confederate forces remained in control of the city of Mobile, but the port was no longer available to blockade runners.
The Battle of Mobile Bay lifted the morale of the North. With Grant stalled at Petersburg, Virginia, and General William T. Sherman (1820-91) unable to capture Atlanta, Georgia, the capture of the bay became the first in a series of Union victories that stretched to the fall presidential election, in which the incumbent, Abraham Lincoln, defeated Democratic challenger George McClellan (1826-85), a former Union general.