On August 5, 1864, at the Battle of Mobile Bay during the American Civil War (1861-65), Union Admiral David Farragut (1801-70) led his flotilla through the Confederate defenses at Mobile, Alabama, to seal one of the last major Southern ports. The fall of Mobile Bay was a major blow to the Confederacy, and the victory was the first in a series of Yankee successes that helped secure the re-election of President Abraham Lincoln (1809-65) later that year.
More to Explore
This Day in History
Southern Congressman Preston Brooks savagely beats Northern Senator Charles Sumner in the halls of Congress as tensions rise over the expansion of…
The American Civil War, fueled by the debate over slavery and states' rights, pitted North against South in the costliest conflict fought on U.S. soil.
Both the Union and the Confederacy benefited from spying operations during the Civil War.
The Civil War years (1861-65) saw a number of important--and surprising--cultural changes from the antebellum era.
The Battle of Hampton Roads between the Monitor and Merrimack during the American Civil War changed naval warfare forever.
Did You Know?
The Battle of Mobile Bay was the capstone in the military career of David Farragut, who joined the U.S. Navy at age 9.
Battle of Mobile Bay: Background
Mobile became the major Confederate port on the Gulf of Mexico after the fall of New Orleans, Louisiana, in April 1862. With blockade runners carrying critical supplies from Havana, Cuba, into Mobile, Union General Ulysses G. Grant (1822-85) made the capture of the port a top priority after assuming command of all U.S. forces in early 1864.
Opposing Admiral David Farragut's force of 18 warships was a Confederate squadron of only four ships; however, it included the CSS Tennessee, said to be the most powerful ironclad afloat. Farragut also had to contend with two powerful Confederate batteries inside of forts Morgan and Gaines.
Battle of Mobile Bay: August 5, 1864
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 of its 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.
Fact Check We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!
Keep up with the latest History shows, online features, special offers and more.Sign up
Classroom Study Guides
Teacher's Guide to the program dramatically exploring the events, meaning, and significance of the watershed battle at Antietam.
Teacher's Guide to the program covering the last few weeks of the Civil War, from President Abraham Lincoln's second inauguration, to the surrender at Appomatox, the assassination of Lincoln, and the final laying down of arms by the Confederacy.
The Hatfields and the McCoys. Their names evoke images of a bitter feud between two American families. But many people may be unfamiliar with the story behind this legendary conflict.