Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


The people of Mobile, Alabama, supported the secession of their state from the Union in January 1861, and thousands of her able-bodied men served in the Confederate army from 1861 to 1865. Recognizing the city's strategic importance as a port and major railroad center connecting the eastern and western sections of the new nation, the Confederate government moved quickly to provide adequate defenses for Mobile. Confederate soldiers occupied and began to strengthen Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines, which guarded the main channels leading into Mobile Bay. The Confederate Navy Department converted several steamers into gunboats and began construction of four ironclads, all designed to support the land defenses of Mobile. As the war progressed, Union land and naval forces moved into the Gulf of Mexico, and the Confederate authorities realized that Mobile required more defensive works than the two forts at the mouth of the bay. Engineers, using slave labor, designed and constructed earthen forts along the bay shore near the city and on various islands at the mouths of the rivers which emptied into the bay. They intended all of these batteries to protect the water approaches to Mobile in the event of an enemy naval force running past Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines. To protect the city from a land attack, the engineers erected a series of earthen redoubts connected by infantry entrenchments around Mobile. By war's end, three separate lines of forts and trenches surrounded the city. Mobile undoubtedly possessed fortifications as extensive and strong as almost any city in the Confederacy. Confederate President Jefferson Davis personally chose for assignment as commanding general at Mobile men whom he knew had the qualifications needed to push the construction of all of these defensive works and whom he could rely on to conduct a successful defense against an enemy attack. Confederate brigades, regiments, and artillery batteries moved in and out of the city throughout the war. Although the garrison at times shrank in size to levels which alarmed its commanders, the Confederate military authorities in Richmond made a commitment to see that enough men manned the fortifications to put up a stiff resistance to an actual enemy attack. The War Department also always made sure that the territorial command to which Mobile belonged, whether a department or a district, had the defense of the city as its objective. The Union high command did not seriously contemplate an attack against the Mobile defenses until relatively late in the war. While strategic objectives in other areas caused the Union military authorities to delay a move against Mobile, the strength of the defenses around the city played a part in the decision. A naval demonstration against an earthen fort at Grant's Pass in February 1864 resulted in little damage to that work. Admiral David G. Farragut successfully led a squadron of monitors and wooden gunboats past Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines in August 1864 and captured the lower bay defenses. The commitment of land forces elsewhere prevented the Union navy from proceeding at that time in a campaign against Mobile itself. Such a campaign finally got under way in March 1865, but it had defensive works on the eastern shore as its primary objective. After brief sieges, these Confederate fortifications fell. Faced by overwhelming numbers, Mobile's commander evacuated the city on April 12, 1865, and the city's governmental authorities surrendered Mobile to the enemy that same day.