The Battle of Mobile Bay was a naval battle fought on August 5, 1864, that resulted in the surrender of the Confederate States Navy ironclad ram CSS Alabama to the United States Navy.

The who won the battle of mobile bay is a question that has been asked for a long time. It was not until recently that historians have been able to answer this question with certainty.

The three-year Union naval campaign to blockade Southern ports and cut off the Confederacy had reached its pinnacle by the summer of 1864. Mobile, Ala., was one of just two major ports left to the Rebels, along with Wilmington, N.C. David Glasgow Farragut (1801–70), a Tennessee native, was America’s first and most famous admiral. His unwavering commitment to the Union, daring leadership choices, and bravery exemplified the American spirit. On Aug. 5, 1864, when he led his battle fleet into the strongly fortified port of Mobile, his determination was never more evident.

Mobile Bay is more than 400 square miles in size, yet it is connected to the Gulf of Mexico by just two narrow waterways. The 3-mile gap between Fort Morgan Peninsula to the east and Dauphin Island to the west is the larger of the two. The other is Grant’s Pass, which runs between the north point of Dauphin and Cedar Point on the mainland. Three forts were part of the Confederate defenses. Fort Morgan with its 46 cannons guarded the broader waterway from the western point of its eponymous peninsula.

The smaller, 26-gun Fort Gaines stood opposite it on the east end of Dauphin. Fort Powell, which was built on a half-acre artificial island, defended Grant’s Pass with 16 cannons. Torpedoes (floating barrels of explosives similar to contemporary naval contact mines) had blocked most of the larger waterway, leaving just a narrow, designated route under Fort Morgan’s fortifications. The ironclad CSS Tennessee and three gunboats made up the tiny Confederate fleet.

Farragut deployed a joint Army/Navy force at Mobile after earning promotion to rear admiral (the first in the US Navy) after his conquest of New Orleans in 1862. Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived with 1,500 troops on the west end of Dauphin Island on August 3 to besiege Fort Gaines.

The Union fleet of four ironclad monitors and 14 wooden ships arrived in the port before daybreak on the 5th, with Farragut tied aloft in the mainmast of the USS Hartford. He’d divided the fleet into two columns, with the ironclads going closest to Fort Morgan to protect the wooden ships heading to port.

The ships sped under the fort via an unmined breach. The ironclad USS Tecumseh hit a torpedo and sunk off course, forcing Union commanders to pause within range of Fort Morgan. “Damn the torpedoes!” Farragut allegedly said at the time. “Onward and upward!”

The remainder of the fleet followed Hartford through the minefield. Farragut quickly seized or drove away the Confederate gunboats as he arrived in the harbor. Tennessee surrendered after three hours of combat, concluding what Farragut termed “the most desperate war I ever fought.”

Fort Gaines surrendered three days later, and Fort Morgan surrendered on August 23. Despite the fact that Mobile would not surrender until 1865, Farragut had cut off one of the Confederates’ remaining deepwater ports.

His triumph, together with victories by Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman in Atlanta in September and Brig. Gen. Philip Sheridan at Cedar Creek, Virginia, in October, helped President Abraham Lincoln win re-election in November. In December 1864, a grateful president and Congress promoted Farragut to vice admiral, and two years later, he became the nation’s first full admiral.


Finish the task after you’ve committed. Farragut’s resolve to break through the torpedo barrier was crucial to the Union’s eventual triumph.

Combined actions have the potential to be unfathomable force multipliers. The invading Union army was able to defeat the stubborn Confederate defenses because to the smart, coordinated use of naval and ground troops.

Politics is inextricably connected to military action. Farragut’s triumph boosted the Union cause and helped Lincoln win re-election at a critical juncture in American history. 


This essay was published in Military History magazine in September 2023. Subscribe here for more articles, and follow us on Facebook:

Lessons Learned from the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864

The battle of mobile bay map is a battle that took place in 1864. It has been said to be the first ever naval battle of the American Civil War.

Frequently Asked Questions

What was important about the Battle of Mobile Bay?

The Battle of Mobile Bay was a naval battle fought in 1864 between the Union Navy and the Confederate States Navy during the American Civil War. It took place on August 5, 1864, near Fort Morgan, Alabama.

What was the result of the Battle of Mobile Bay?

The Battle of Mobile Bay was a naval battle between the US Navy and the Confederate States Navy in 1864, during the American Civil War. It took place near the mouth of Mobile Bay, off the coast of Alabama.

Why was Mobile Bay so strategically important to the South?

Mobile Bay is located in the southeastern corner of Alabama. It is a large estuary that connects to the Gulf of Mexico, and it served as a major port for ships during the Civil War.

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