Saturday, December 24, 2011
First Naval Engagement at Mobile Bay
Mobile Bay and the City of Mobile, Alabama, are seldom written or talked about in Civil War Naval History except in connection with the famous Battle of Mobile Bay in August 1864. I’ll be putting together a few posts on Mobile Bay, the city, and naval events transpiring there during the course of the war and leading up to the historic 1864 engagement.
On the first Christmas Eve of the war, 24 December 1861, the first naval battle at Mobile Bay was fought between the Confederate gunboat CSS Florida and the US Navy blockader USS Huntsville. The Confederate ship in this case was not the famed commerce raider, it was a civilian steamer seized by the state government and turned over to the CS Navy for conversion into a gunboat. The Florida ventured out from its anchorage near Fort Morgan and fired on the Huntsville that morning. The two ships dueled at long range for a bit less than an hour and inflicted little or no damage to one another, but the engagement did attract a considerable crowd of onlookers from Confederate Forts Morgan and Gaines and the adjacent USN blockading vessels.
The Mobile press reported elatedly (but incorrectly) that the Confederate gunboat scored a resounding victory against the Union blockader. Commander Cicero Price of the Huntsville noted in his after-action report to the Gulf Squadron Command that his smoothbore guns were entirely inadequate for the task and recommended his ship be refitted with better, rifled armament. The Florida was later renamed the CSS Selma (as shown on the illustration) and was a participant in the Battle of Mobile Bay.
Thanks to the Naval History and Heritage Command web site for the two illustrations of the naval ships involved, along with all the other resources they provide, and best wishes for the holidays and thanks to all the followers of this CWN 150 Blog.