|Date(s):||August 1864 to 1864|
|Tag(s):||Navy, Union, Victory|
|Course:||“Civil War and Reconstruction,” Juniata College|
In early August, 1864, a Union Naval fleet, under the control of Rear Admiral David Farragut commanding the flagship U.S.S. Hartford, neared Mobile Bay, Alabama. The goal was to take over the strategic location which consisted of three confederate forts and a plethora of underwater mines. The two main forts were Forts Morgan and Gaines aided by a few Confederate ships mainly the C.S.S. Tennessee which was an ironclad.
Admiral Farragut formed his fleet into a line that was two ships wide led by the U.S.S. Brooklyn because of its superior anti-mine technology. On August 5, the fleet converged on Fort Morgan to the right of the inlet. The Brooklyn fired the first shots on Fort Morgan and the battle ensued. Unfortunately, one of the ironclads in the fleet, the Tecumseh, hit an underwater mine and quickly sank to the bottom of the bay. At this point, Admiral Farragut climbed the mast of the Hartford and shouted the famous order “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”
Admiral Farragut’s, next order was one to save the crew of the Tecumseh which sank immediately after hitting the mine. The Metacomet was instructed to send a boat to rescue any survivors of the explosion. Acting Ensign Henry Nields boarded the boat and assisted ten members of the Tecumseh’s crew. The task though was not one of ease as Admiral Farragut expressed in his after action reports saying “[Nields] took her in under one of the most galling fires I ever saw, and succeeded in rescuing from death ten of the crew, within six hundred yards of the fort.” Although the Tecumseh lost around ninety men, Nields’ heroism was reflected on by Farragut on multiple accounts.
Nields miraculously made it back to the Metacomet, and shortly after, the ship was sent to take down the retreating C.S.S. Selma. The Metacomet tailed the Selma north of Mobile Bay and forced her surrender. The Union incurred a huge land and naval battle at Mobile Bay driving the confederates out and eventually capturing all three forts. Moreover, the battle yielded a copious number of Medals of Honor for the union officers who affected the victory.