Confederate Mobile Jackson : University Press of Mississippi, c 1991 0878055126 Arthur W. Bergeron, Jr. Mobile (Ala.) History Civil War, 1861-1865 Hardcover. xii, 271 p. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 245-259) and index. Tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. G/G
The defense and securing of Mobile, the Alabama city that was a major port, railroad center, and Confederate stronghold, were objectives of utmost importance to the Confederate government. In this detailed, comprehensive study of Confederate Mobile, Arthur W. Bergeron, Jr., examines the many aspects of war in Mobile, from secession in 1861 until the surrender in 1865. After New Orleans, Mobile was the most important port on the Gulf coast for the Confederacy. When New Orleans fell in the spring of 1862, Mobile became the most important port on the Gulf coast although Galveston was the only port that would remain in Confederate hands throughout the war and was in fact the last Confederate stronghold to surrender – two months after Appomattox.
In an account of how southern forces attempted to defend the city, he details the roles of commanding generals, the creation of a Confederate navy, the erection of fortifications, blockade running, and military campaigns.
Among the chief strengths of his history of Mobile in time of war is Bergeron’s focus upon how the Confederate command employed the U. S. military’s four traditional tactics for coastal defense. In Mobile they constructed fortifications, created a navy, established a professional army augmented by a capable militia, and streamlined their systems for interior land and water transportation and communication. Recognizing the citv’s strategic importance as a coastal and inland port, as a railway center connecting the eastern and western borders of the Confederacy, and as the back door into the heart of the new nation, the government moved quickly to provide adequate defenses for Mobile.
There were a number of reasons for this port’s value. Mobile Bay was an embayment running in a north-south direction, with a narrow mouth at the south end, guarded by Forts Morgan and Gaines (which were both under construction at the beginning of the Civil War). The City of Mobile lay at the northern end of the bay. Any naval assault on the city would have to pass through the mouth, run the gauntlet past the forts, and then up the bay to the city. Two major river systems, the Tombigbee and Alabama Rivers, converged at Mobile and provided river access to the interior. Mobile itself had a foundery and ship building facilities, and upriver the City of Selma had additional industrial capability.
In addition, several major railroad lines linked Mobile to other parts of the Confederacy, and provided the main link between the eastern and western portions of the CSA. Mobile’s rail connections proved to be of immense military value to the Confederacy, enabling the movement of troops to critical areas where and when they were needed. Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg, when he was garrisoning Pensacola, Florida, considered the ability to easily move troops by rail between Mobile and Pensacola, “worth 3,000 men at each end.”
Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines, which guarded the main channels into Mobile Bay, were fortified, and Confederate engineers erected elaborate bulwarks around the citv. along the bay shore, and on islands in the estuaries. The Confederate navy converted steamers into gunboats and constructed ironclads for the land defense of Mobile.
Historians generally have neglected to stress the significance of Mobile to both the South and the North after the South’s loss in the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864. Bergeron’s study of the Confederate city attempts to correct this historical oversight and to show that Mobile, like Charleston and New Orleans, continued to be of strategic importance throughout the war. Mobile was among the last major southern cities to fall at the end of the war. Yet, this defeat had no influence on the ultimate outcome of the war, as by 1865 (when the city was taken), the war was already won by the North. If the city has been taken earlier in the war (say, in 1862), historians estimate that this would have ended the war much sooner than it ultimately did. Interestingly, it seems both northern and southern leadership acknowledged the importance of Mobile and Mobile Bay, but both sides did not allocate the military resources to take or defend the city.
Through much of the war, Mobile remained an important port for blockade running, bringing critically needed supplies into the Confederacy and distributing them to where they were needed.