Battle of Mobile Bay


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, August 27, 1864

This site features an online version of the Harper's Weekly newspapers published during the Civil War. Harper's was the most popular newspaper of the Civil War era, and these papers serve as a valuable source of original documentation of the war. We hope you enjoy browsing these old newspapers.

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City Point

City Point

Army Songs

Mobile Bay

Battle Mobile Bay


Before Petersburg

Ezra's Church

Ezra's Church Battle




Cemetery Ridge

Charge on Cemetery Ridge


Ruins of Charleston

Central Park

Central Park

Ezra's Church

Battle of Ezra's Church



AUGUST 27, 1864.]



(Previous Page) "a sovereign State should be unaccountable to all else but Deity." CALHOUN and the secession philosophers, Bishop HOPKINS and the slavery apologists, are of course duly eulogized, and Europe is called upon to recognize the Confederacy that has so nobly maintained itself: this, it appears, being the kind of political information which the members of the society are so anxious to diffuse.

In the course of the work Mr. WRIGHT censures Mr. MOTLEY'S letter to the London Times at the opening of our war; but adds, by way of comfort to the enemies of the American Union, that "Mr. HENRY B. DAWSON has a rod in pickle that will be sufficient to whip him [Mr. MOTLEY] into the traces." The context shows Mr. WRIGHT'S perfect familiarity with Mr. DAWSON'S views. " The chief point of difference between us is that he [Mr. HENRY B. DAWSON] considers the word ' nation' should never be used in connection with the United States, each State being the only ' nation,' whereas it appears to the writer [Mr. WRIGHT] that, with clear conceptions that each State is the real nation, the United States may properly be called a ' nation' of nations. Mr. DAWSON'S edition of the Federalist has been alluded to, and his valuable notes will be found coincident with the views herein taken, and will be followed with the publication of other debates connected with the adoption of our Constitution, most opportune, and furnishing important information of which few have knowledge   His extensive
historical explorations convinced him years ago that we were all wrong about the theory of our Government."

This is the useful political knowledge which is diffused, in the " Society's" own style and grammar, of the new edition of the Federalist; namely, that it is edited by (as Mr. JAY informs us) an Englishman, Mr. HENRY B. DAWSON, who has already, in print, charged, without proving, General PUTNAM with complicity in ARNOLD'S treason ; and who now undertakes, as Mr. Jar contends, to shake the national reverence for the men who exposed the essential folly of the doctrine of State sovereignty ; to show that the evils of the old Confederacy did not spring from the nature of the bond; and that the Constitution was foisted upon the nation by false pretenses and political trickery.

Every one who reads Mr. DAWSON'S introduction can judge from its tone whether his editorial intention was to strengthen or to weaken public respect for the authors of the Federalist, and to confirm or destroy the conviction, essential to the maintenance of the Union, that we are a nation and not a Confederacy. But while this may be a matter of inference from the intro: eduction, the quotations from the work of Mr. WRIGHT'S, which Mr, JAY publishes in his " Second Letter," leave little doubt that the intention of Mr. DAWSON'S edition of the Federalist is to show us that " we are all wrong about the theory of our Government ;" that sovereignty belongs to the States, not to the nation ; that, consequently, secession is a reserved right ; the war against secession wicked, and the Union at an end.


THE rebel papers, considering that they are printed in what they call another country, are curiously interested in the political movements of this country. They print long columns of anxious speculation, and then assure us that they have no shadow of interest in the matter, and that their contempt for us and our affairs exceeds expression. A recent performance of this kind in the Richmond Examiner is peculiarly amusing. It thinks it sees signs that the Administration is to be defeated, and it can not conceal its joy. Its ribaldry is as remarkable as in the days that followed Sumter, when it was full of fervid longings that the Yankees would only come down and be soundly flogged by the slaves, since Southern gentlemen disdained the dirty business of whipping them with their own hands. Since then, however, at Vicksburg, at New Orleans, at Gettysburg, and in Virginia and Georgia the Southern gentlemen were not disinclined to try their hands ; and it is a curious and interesting fact that they have whipped the Yankees all the way from Gettysburg to Petersburg, and from the Ohio to Atlanta, and will probably not be satisfied until they have whipped the scoundrels into the Gulf.

The Richmond Examiner says with solemn exultation, in words that are the just indication of the dignity of the rebel cause and the honorable spirit in which it is conducted : " The obscene ape of Illinois is about to be deposed from the Washington purple   He was in the eyes of all mankind an unanswerable argument for our secession ; he stood there a living justification, seven feet high, of the steadfast resolution of these States to hold no more political union with a race capable not only of producing such a being, but of making it a ruler and king."

There is a great deal more in this strain, which is peculiar to a baby-selling chivalry—a strain in which JEFFERSON Davis showed himself an accomplished adept when he called him fellow citizens against whom he has drawn the sword "hyenas."

But such articles show, what is not sufficiently

apprehended by ourselves, the moral value of the maintenance of the Administration. Contemporary with this Administration, the war for the Union is necessarily identified with it. The rebels and their friends the Copperheads have constantly denounced it as "LINCOLN'S war;" while our own foreign friends and enemies have always regarded the President as the accepted exponent of the war. The rebels undoubtedly mean, therefore, to show a brave front until after the election. They know if, by holding on, they can only fatigue or dishearten loyal men to the point of declaring that they must have a change merely for the sake of change, that the defeat of Mr. LINCOLN will be accepted by their own population as a sign of desire to compromise and yield, while it will be understood by foreign powers in the same way, and assure them that the hour has come for successful mediation, recognition, or interference.

The one thing which, under the circumstances, would be the most valuable to the rebels is the defeat of Mr. LINCOLN ; while, on the other hand, his re-election would be the most shattering blow to them. For it would say plainly to the whole world that the loyal people of the United States, while they differed upon many points of policy, were heartily agreed upon the one great essential aim of the maintenance of the Union by arms against all who by arms seek its overthrow : that failures of many kinds were inseparable from all human enterprises ; that, as they had begun, they meant to finish ; and that while there were many faithful and devoted patriots in their ranks, there was no one more faithful or more devoted than the President, who had borne so patiently the heat and burden of the day. Any change whatever shows some kind of dissatisfaction with the war and its policy. But the re-election of the President reveals a grim and impregnable resolution, the earnest of absolute victory.


A CRY for an armistice is sometimes heard. Let us stop fighting for six months, shouts some newspaper or orator, and call a Convention of the North and South, and see if they haven't had enough of it, and on what conditions they will come back.

It might be replied to this suggestion that the rebels began this war by firing upon Fort Sumter, have maintained it ever since, and do not ask for an armistice. The Government is merely maintaining its existence, and is ready to stop fighting the moment its enemies retire from the contest. Can it honorably expose itself to the insults as well as to the blows of rebels ? To this it is answered that the question is too grave to be settled upon points of etiquette, and that the Government can postpone its dignity until it ascertains whether the rebels refuse offers of conciliation.

But no Government can postpone its dignity without fatal harm. If a Convention should be offered and spurned the result would not be the union of the North, as prophesied—it would be loyal indignation with the weakness of the Government, and Copperhead assertion that it was the fault of the Government that the project failed. Whatever the issue of the proposition the Government must lose. If it were refused, the entire responsibility would be thrown upon it by its enemies. If it were accepted, who would guarantee that the rebels would abide by the result of the Convention? They believe absolutely in State rights ; are they likely to relinquish that faith upon our summons, who have been fighting them upon that very point for three years? If they say they will relinquish it, does any body propose to believe them?

Or again, are any better terms of union possible than the Constitution of the United States, which the rebels repudiate ? The rebellion is not a new thing in intention. They plead total incompatibility of political conviction and social principle with us. The whole generation of fighting men among them has been carefully educated in that belief. They think that the tendency of the country under the Constitution is to the destruction of those convictions and principles. In the midst of a war in which they yet have great armies in the field, are they likely to change their belief at the invitation of those whom they regard as enemies?

They would use the armistice to strengthen their lines ; their allies, the Copperheads among ourselves, would use it to distract and divide the North ; and if the negotiations failed it would be found, as it always is, that the proposer of the armistice had lost all its advantages. The rebels discuss these questions as well as we. The Richmond Examiner warns the Chicago Convention that the only chance of its party lies in proposing an armistice, and upon what conditions ? These : " a formal renunciation of all right and pretense to coerce these States; and, of course, an entire withdrawal of all land and sea forces." Then, says the paper, the Northern States will be in a condition to propose reconstruction and a Convention to negotiate the terms.

What is this but asking us to concede that States have the right to secede—that the Union is dissolved—and that a new convention may decide upon a new Constitution ? The Examiner does not promise a favorable result of such

a policy ; but it will be observed that it does not insist upon separation. Why should it, since by the very terms precedent separation is conceded ? When we allow that the old Union is gone, they profess their possible willingness to consider the formation of a new one. But if they think it unadvisable to form a new one, we shall have renounced the right " to coerce States."

This is the feast to which " an armistice" invites us ; and does any body seriously suppose the rebels will meet us in conventions while our armies and navies are upon the Southern coasts and in the Southern centres? This war will end in one of two ways ; either the rebellion will overthrow the Government, or the Government will subdue the rebellion.


THE part of the navy in the summer's campaign, if it begins late, begins gloriously. FARRAGUT has already joined his name to those most cherished in our naval history, and no such history is more splendid than the American. Our children will speak of FARRAGUT as we speak of PERRY and DECATUR, of LAWRENCE and PREBLE. The action at the mouth of Mobile Bay reminds us of the remark made by the traitor Commodore BARRON, who was captured at Hatteras Inlet. He was in Fort Warren, and heard the recital from a newspaper of FARRAGUT'S victorious entry at New Orleans. Profoundly interested, and forgetting his treason, and remembering only the glory of the service with which his own name had been honorably associated, BARRON exclaimed, vehemently, "Yes, yes ; I tell you nothing can stand against our navy."

There is not a loyal man or boy, not a true woman or girl, in the land who does not rejoice in the victory of FARRAGUT and his gallant men, or grieve in sympathy with the hearts that bleed for CRAVEN and his honored crew. The duty of the navy in this war has been enormous and difficult, but how bravely it has been done ! Its victories have been, in a sense, more impressive than any others. The baffling of the Merrimac, the passing Fort Jackson, the destruction of the huge rebel ram the Mississippi and the reduction of New Orleans, PORTER'S exploits upon the Western waters, the sinking of the Alabama, and now the occupation of Mobile Bay, are all single events that shine with signal lustre in the story of the war.

We do not enter into the Monitor quarrel. That they are totally useless no one who remembers the day in Hampton Roads is likely to believe, while that very day may have caused too great confidence in them as the only valuable vessels. FARRAGUT'S feeling about " fighting in an iron kettle" is very intelligible, nor less so his love of hearts of iron in ribs of oak. Certainly the oaken ribs of a certain flag-ship Hartford will not soon be despised or forgotten. The operations at Mobile may proceed, or the end in view may be already accomplished by the possession of the bay. But whatever follows, the sailors of the Union stand side by side with its soldiers. Over the heads of each floats the same old flag. In the hearts of each burns the same invincible purpose—Union and Liberty !

"The army and navy forever,

And three cheers for the red, white, and blue."


GENERAL GRANT has resumed operations on the James River. On Saturday, August 3, General Hancock was thrown across to Deep Bottom, near Dutch Gap. A few days previously his corps had been embarked, as the enemy supposed, to move down the river. Instead of going down, however, the fleet went up, and landed as above stated, when the Second Corps was reinforced by a great portion of the Tenth, and the entire command was formed on Foster's right, threatening a strong position of the enemy in that neighborhood. An attack was made, and 500 prisoners were taken, with six pieces of cannon and two mortars. General Burnside has returned home on furlough, his command being transferred to General Wilcox. Butler at last reports was digging a canal at Dutch Gap, which was to shorten the travel along the James. The rebels have been trying to disturb the work by their shells.

Sheridan has advanced against the rebel force in the Shenandoah. The latter is reported to have been reinforced by twenty thousand men. From a dispatch of Sheridan's, dated August 14, we learn that Early has not been able to take away from Maryland or Pennsylvania sufficient plunder to materially benefit the rebel army.

General Sherman's lines on August 8 reached from the Chattanooga Railroad to within a mile and a half of the Macon road, Schofield holding the extreme right. These lines are very strongly fortified, in that respect rivaling the works of defense about Atlanta. On the 6th there was a battle, of which the details have not yet reached us. Hood has been strongly reinforced since he assumed command. All the militia of Georgia has joined his ranks, and it is given out in rebel journals that he has been strengthened by large accessions from Lee's army.

The following dispatch to Secretary Welles from Admiral Farragut, dated August 5, tells its own story in regard to the Admiral's late success in Mobile Bay:

" 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 gun-boats of the enemy, viz., Selma, Morgan, and Gaines. The attacking fleet was under way by 5.45 A.M., in the following order: The Brooklyn, with the Octoroon on her port side; Hartford, with the Metacomet; Richmond, with the Port Royal; Lackawanna, with the Seminole; Monongahela, with the Tecumseh; Ossipee, with the Itasco; and the Oneida, with the Galena. On the starboard of the fleet was the proper position of the Monitors or iron-clads. The wind was light from the southwest, and the sky cloudy, with very little sun. Fort Morgan opened upon no at ten minutes past 7 o'clock, 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 7:40 the Tecumseh was struck by a torpedo

and sunk, going down very rapidly, and carrying down with her all the officers and crew, with the exception of the pilot and eight or ten men, who were saved by a boat that I sent from the Metacomet, which was alongside of me. The Hartford had passed the forts before 8 o'clock, and finding myself raked by the rebel gun-boats, 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 half past 8, but the rebel ram Tennessee was still apparently uninjured, in our rear. A signal was at once made to all the fleet to turn again and attack the ram, not only with 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 she did not succeed in disabling her. The Lackawanna also struck her, but ineffectually. The flag ship gave her a severe shock with her bow, and as she passed poured into her a whole port broadside of solid 9-inch shot and thirteen pounds of powder, at a distance of not more than twelve feet. The iron-clads 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, namely, the Morgan and Gaines, succeeded in getting back under the protection 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 Tennessee being very desirous to have Admiral Buchanan removed to the 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 she did not take out. General Page consented, and the Metacomet was dispatched."

The casualties on board the Federal fleet amounted to 129 killed and wounded. Twenty officers and one hundred and seventy men were captured on the rebel ram Tennessee. On the Selma were taken ninety officers and men.

On the morning of the 8th Fort Gaines surrendered unconditionally, with 56 commissioned officers, 818 enlisted men, its entire armament of 26 guns, and a year's provisions. Fort Powell was deserted by its garrison, leaving 18 guns behind them. General Granger, in connection with the fleet, then proceeded to the reduction of Fort Morgan.

This success gives us command of Mobile Bay. It is expected that the capture of Fort Morgan must speedily follow. The rebels have by this defeat lost another vain. able port of entry, and have also lost their most valuable fleet.

There are two entrances to the bay; one by the eastern projection of Dauphin Island, called the Swash Channel, which is employed by all ships of heavy tonnage; the other by the north of Dauphin Island, between it and Cedar Point, the southern most extension of the main land. The Swath Channel has about eighteen feet of water, and is between two and three miles broad. The island which divides these channels is narrow, and about ten miles long. The passage between the island and the main lend is not practicable for vessels of heavy draught. The approach of an attacking fleet must therefore he made by the Swash Channel. Mobile Point, a low and sandy continuation of the eastern main land, makes out for nearly twenty miles to the west of the main land, and has its termination fortified by Fort Morgan. Fort Mogan mounts one hundred and thirty-six guns. Fort Gaines, upon the other side of the channel, was commenced but not finished before the rebellion. It was designed to co-operate with Fort Morgan, and by a crows-fire render entrance impossible. It is said to mount fifty guns, which is the number for which it was intended. Between these two forts, a line of spile obstructions stretched under the guns of the forts, with a single narrow opening near Fort Morgan for the ingress and egress of blockade-runners. This opening was commanded by a number of heavy guns, trained upon it from the fort, and was constantly patrolled by picket boats.

The other opening, known as Grant's Pass, which was employed by the line of steamers plying between Mobile and New Orleans, is dominated by Fort Powell on the southern most point of the western coast of the main land, which mounts twelve gnus; by a water battery of nine long range guns, and a series of earth-works, whose armament is not known. Sand Island, which lies a little beyond Fort Gaines, has been prepared with earth-works and armed with heavy guns. After the hay has been entered there is a long line of intrenchments on the seaward side of the city, and another line on its land front.

The whole southeastern front of the city, from the Alabama River to a little stream called Dog River, is strongly intrenched, with twelve independent earth-works of considerable size in their rear. These intrenchments, and one of the channels to the city, are, in their turn, strengthened by a battery of nine guns on Point Pintos, which rakes them. A battery of live guns at Garrow's Bend lends aid to that on Point Pintos, and sweeps the channel and its obstructions for three miles. Other earth works near the city are built to repulse an attack from Spring Hill, supposing our forces to march from Portersville, on the Mississippi Sound. These are said to be eighteen miles in length, and are mounted with ordnance of an inferior quality. A casemated battery has also been constructed in the marsh, which was built up with dirt and spiles for that purpose, and is armed with three 100-pound rifles, four 9-inch Dahlgren guns, and three ordinary 32"s. Near the Alabama River there is a redoubt to aid the marsh battery, which conmands a portion of the bay. Another redoubt mounting four guns is north of this or the railway. The railroad bridge at Three-mile Run is guarded by a redoubt. The great earth work, several miles in extent, which stretches from the shell road entirely around the city to the Alabama River, is several miles long, defended by breast-works and rifle-pits. A battery of six guns is erected between the shell road and Alabama River. The army which holds these various fortifications is under the command of Ma jor-General Dabney S. Maury. The total number of guns mounted in the various defenses is 217. Just below the city a bar outside of shelling distance permits the passage only of vessels which draw but 8 or 10 feet of water.

On Thursday, August 11, a new rebel privateer, the Tallahassee, Captain John Taylor Wood, appeared off New York harbor, and in the course of six hours captured and, burned six vessels. Since that time she has been daily adding to her list of prizes. The Tallahassee is an iron steamer, with two smoke stacks, two screws, about two hundred and thirty feet in length, twenty feet beam, and draws about nine feet of water. She is fore and aft schooner rigged; mounts three guns, one small one on the topgallant forecastle, a long 32-pounder amidships, and a 24-pounder aft. She carries four waist boats. Her crew consists of about one hundred and twenty persons, including the officers. Men of all nationalities are represented on board, most of whom are said to be soldiers from Lee's army. She is said to have run out of Wilmington about six days ago, without having been seen by any of Admiral Lee's blockaders. She has quite a quantity of cotton on board to protect her boilers, and there are four barrels of turpentine on deck to be used in firing vessels. Thirteen vessels have been dispatched by Secretary Welles in pursuit of the Tallahassee.



DENMARK has resigned her claims upon Schleswig, Holstein, and Lauenburg, and peace has been concluded between her and the German Allies. There is to be no further burden laid on Jutland, only the German army is to retain its position in that province until all the details of the treaty are settled.

The news of the peace negotiations lately undertaken at Niagara had reached England and were variously commented on by the British press. The Manchester Examiner regards the operations in the light of a political diversion ; the London Star strongly approves Mr. Lincoln's letter; while the London Times infers from the whole proceeding that the North is tired of the war.




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