The Mobile Bay Campaign
The 48th OVVI at
Fort Blakely, Alabama

 


"Storming of Fort Blakely"

"Probably the last charge of this war, it was as gallant as any on record."
Harper's Weekly, May 27, 1865

Click on the engraving above to view the entire panorama

 

Introduction by Don D. Worth

"Damn the torpedos. Full speed ahead!" With these words, Admiral Farragut led his fleet into Mobile Bay in August of 1864 and defeated the rebel defenders of Forts Morgan and Gaines near its entrance to the Gulf of Mexico. However, as spectacular as his victory was, federal forces were not yet ready to take on the formidable defenses of Mobile itself. This endeavor was to be postponed until the spring of 1865, when Gen. William T. Sherman, having completed his march to the sea, wrote to Gen. E. R. S. Canby suggesting he concentrate his attentions first on Spanish Fort and Fort Blakely on the eastern shore of bay, opposite the city of Mobile. Mobile's western approaches were heavily defended, and this strategy offered a better chance for success.

Canby planned to lead a 32,000 man contingent himself from Dauphin Island by boats and overland up the eastern side of the bay to invest Spanish Fort, while Gen. Frederick Steele was to lead 13,000 federal soldiers over a long, diversionary route from Pensacola, Florida to attack Fort Blakely from the north. The successful assault on Fort Blakely on April 9th, 1865 would have the distinction of being the last major battle of the Civil War, being fought just six hours after Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Gen. U. S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse.


Library of Congress

On the 17th of January, 1865, the 48th Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry regiment had been consolidated with the 83rd Ohio OVVI, giving up its regimental identity to become companies B, D, E and F of the 83rd. Brigaded under Col. Frederick Moore of the 83rd at Fort Pickens, Florida, as part of the Third Brigade, Second Division of the Thirteenth Army Corps, Lt. Col. Wm. Baldwin assumed command of the regiment. The 83rd embarked from nearby Pensacola on March 20th as a part of Gen. Steele's force, over difficult, swampy roads, northward along the railroad to Polard, Alabama. From there they turned west and moved to Stockton, 20 miles from Blakely, arriving there on the 31st.

The excerpt from the 83rd OVVI regimental history that follows describes the siege and assault of Fort Blakely, Alabama exactly as the men of the 48th OVVI experienced it.

 


 

HISTORY

OF THE

Eighty-Third
Ohio Volunteer Infantry

The Greyhound Regiment


BY
T. B. MARSHALL, Sidney, O.
First Sergeant, Co. K.


PUBLISHED BY
THE EIGHTY-THIRD OHIO VOLUNTEER INFANTRY ASSOCIATION
WM. H. DAVIS, Secretary
No. 19 FOSDICK BUILDING, CINCINNATI, O.

SEPTEMBER 12, 1912.

 

Scanned from a copy of the original 5/2002 by Don D. Worth, worth@ucla.edu

While this book is in the public domain, this digitization is Copyright 2002, Don D. Worth,
and may not be published or reproduced without permission.

 

PASSAGES RELATED TO FORT BLAKELY, PP. 160-167



On March 31st we reached Stockton, twenty miles from Blakely, which was our objective point, with plenty of cattle and sheep but no bread, coffee, or salt. We were, however, in good spirits even if we were half famished.

The country through which we had come from Pensacola, was certainly the most desolate of any we had yet seen. We saw not a single bird, nor did we hear a note from any kind of an animal except those with us; nor did we see more than half a dozen farm houses in all this one hundred mile march.

The way was now opened for a supply of rations by passing East of Spanish fort and reaching the bay down towards Fort Morgan, so we were soon again munching the much coveted hard tack.

We were placed in line of battle and after dark moved forward, stacked arms and told to lie down without noise as it was not known just how near we were to the enemy. We were waked up long before daybreak, and moved farther to the rear, so as to be on the safe side in case we were too close.

The colored troops were stationed on the extreme right of our line. Next them was the Second Brigade of our division and on their left was ours-the Third Brigade. Our position was about in the center of the line. The enemy's works were very strong and were three miles in extent, with nine redoubts, and a gunboat stationed at each end of their line.

 


Library of Congress

Click on map for enlarged version

 

Our front was about 600 yards from the enemy's breastworks. Our artillery had not as yet had any time to be placed, and in consequence the other side used theirs pretty freely.

On the night of the 6th there was laid off a redoubt in our front, by Captain McComas, and by morning we had four Napoleons in battery and ready for use. They opened fire in due time and so did the enemy, and the rebels poured in such a fierce storm of shot and shell that in less than thirty minutes our redoubt was only a confused heap of dirt and the guns silenced. It seemed as if nobody could have been left alive, but only two men were wounded for all the fuss.

Our camp was directly in the rear but under the brow of a small declivity, which put us in some danger. As it was, some of the enemy's balls tore through a few of our tents without any regard for the rights of property or for the danger to the occupants.

There was a fear that a sortie would be made in the night, and we were ordered to man the rifle pits. As we could not lie down in the narrow pit, we bunked on the ground just in the rear and ran the risk of the shells.

After dark the battery was repaired and strengthened and about 11 P. M. opened fire, which started an artillery duel that lasted about an hour. This had a tendency to make our usual rest and sleep somewhat broken, but we kept still and thought if they wanted to work so hard they might. The curious ones watched the flight of the shells with their burning fuses, and they were certainly something beautiful to see. At last quietness reigned until two in the morning, when the uproar began again. It seemed as if nobody cared whether we got any sleep or not, there was such a lot of disturbance, and we knew that a piece of shell would just as soon as not go through a blanket without regard to who might be under it.

After such a night of unrest, the morning showed our little redoubt in very good shape and, on a trial about eight o'clock proved to the enemy that they could not silence it this time.

On the morning of April 9th, official news was given of the fall of Spanish Fort, and it was now feared that the enemy would evacuate in the night and escape us.

It was known to some of the regiment about headquarters that there would be an assault in the afternoon, but they dreaded to tell us. At 4 o'clock we filed out into the advance pits. The brigade was under the command of our colonel, and he was given the choice of the force to be used as skirmishers. It had been decided that this line was to be a whole regiment and to cover the front of the brigade.

Of course our colonel selected the Eighty-Third for this extremely hazardous and honorable position. We were spaced about three feet apart, or enough so as to cover the brigade, as said above. We had orders that when the signal was given we were to leap over the rifle pit and go ahead as far as we could, keeping in line with the colors, and wait for the main line to come up to us.

The following' description of the famous charge is taken from a book published by General C. C. Andrews, on the Mobile Campaign.

This is done, as he, from his vantage point, was much better able to see and record the action and movement of the regiment as a whole, than would be possible by any one or by several who were on the firing line.


Library of Congress

"The Eighty-Third Ohio had three ravines to pass, and the ravine nearest the garrison works was deep and long enough to include nearly the whole of the regiment. When it had advanced about two hundred yards, it had come to the principal line of Confederate rifle pits, still to some extent occupied. The Eighty-Third there paused a few moments for the right to get up out of the ravine; the Confederate sharp-shooters' guns were taken from those who surrendered, and broken. Then the colors of the Eighty-Third moved on the line still advancing as fast as the nature of the ground and the obstacles of brush and logs would admit. Then it soon began to descend the ravine two hundred yards from the main works, and for two or three long minutes was lost sight of. It was passing the ravine through which ran a rivulet, and in the bottom of which was a jungle of slashings almost defy-ing the passage of persons even at a time of leisure and unencumbered by weapons. Then it began to ascend the high ground in front of the redoubts where were some detached rifle pits. A few steps further and it was up to another line of abattis, breast-high, apparently impassable, and fifty yards from the works. Before this the foremost of the Eighty-Third stooped down to avoid the destructive fire which was being poured upon them, to take breath, and to wait 'till the wings could close up. Fifteen yards inside of the line of abattis just before them was another line, not readily seen at a distance, consisting of stakes firmly driven into the ground close together, and sharpened at the end. Then, thirty-five yards from that, was the ditch and high parapet of the redoubt."

Behind these formidable works, pitted against this weak skirmish line were the First, Third, Fourth and Fifth Missouri Infantry, and the First and Third Missouri dismounted Cavalry, one of the most famous fighting brigades of the Confederacy, and under the command of General Cockrell. These troops stood up in a bold manner and there seemed to be a constant blaze of musketry along the breast works. The artillery was served with the same desperate energy, but most of the shots went over the mark. Lieutenant Colonel Baldwin caused part of his regiment to return the fire of the garrison while the rest made an opening through the abattis. The colors, carried by Sergeant D. E. Meyers, were flying conspicuously, and both flag staffs were shot in two, and the colors riddled with bullets. As soon as a passage was opened through the abattis, Colonel Baldwin gave the order for the regiment again to advance. This was done with a dauntless spirit. The men, with their bayonets, pried an opening through the next line of abattis, then rushed forward, bearing their flying colors, and, though still encountering numerous obstructions, in the nature of wire lines, were soon on the redoubt. Captain Geary of the Eighty-Third, was among the first to mount the parapet, but a private soldier is said to have been the first over them. Lieutenant Colonel Baldwin was soon on the parapet; and, seeing that most of his regiment was ready to mount the works, he jumped down inside, and cried out, "Surrender." The commanding officer inquired, "To whom do we surrender?" Baldwin answered, "To the Eighty-Third Ohio." Then the officer said, "I believe we did that once before," referring to a somewhat similar occasion at Vicksburg. There is not a particle of doubt, that our colors were the first that were planted on the enemy's breast works.

It was just eighteen minutes from the time when we received the word to go, until we were inside the fortifications. It was certainly the most exciting and fatiguing eighteen minutes that could possibly be crowded into any one's life. We made all the noise we could, and the exertion of our lungs, added to that of the rest of the body, sapped our strength very rapidly. Some lost their voices entirely, and did not regain them for several days.

The regiment was highly complimented by all our officers, not only from the regimental commander, Lieutenant Colonel Baldwin who led the charge, but also by brigade, division, corps and department commanders. There were placed to the credit of our regiment, 800 prisoners, and some twenty pieces of artillery, great and small.

But this was not accomplished without payment having been exacted.

The regiment lost six killed and twenty-four wounded. As said before, the colors were riddled, and the staffs so badly shattered that they had to be repaired by having iron sheets riveted around them. How it was that the color bearer, Sergeant D. E. Meyers escaped without a scratch, no one can tell, but such was the case, and he always was at the right spot.

In preparation for this event, there had been an immense amount of labor performed. From Lieutenant Archie Young it was learned, and recorded in one of the diaries, that in our brigade front, in three parallels and approaches, we had excavated two thousand seven hundred and sixty seven lineal yards of rifle pits, making four thousand two hundred and fifty cubic yards. It is true, the digging being in sandy soil did not require near the labor it did at Vicksburg, but it was labor, notwithstanding, and the short time in which it was done made the two places very nearly equal.

After the battle, we returned to our camp in squads of twos and threes after many hand shakes and congratulations that we were living. The night was not passed as it usually was. Nearly the whole night long the camp fires blazed as we sat around them and recounted the doings of the day. Our excitement was too great, the victory we had achieved was to us such a stupendous one, and it so elated us that sleep was of secondary consequence.

Subsequent events proved that we had fought the last battle in the great American Civil War. It is true that there were a few small skirmishes, but nothing that could possibly be called an engagement, or dignified by the name of a battle.

We did not know it at the time, but learn that history proves that the Eighty-Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry can take much pride in the fact that its thin line of skirmishers proved themselves to have been made of the right kind of material. In fact, in our whole career as an organization we had never faltered, never failed to accomplish what could be accomplished; and by this last crowning act, we had placed imperishable glory on our banners.

The field over which the charge had been made, had been planted with many thousand torpedoes, or "subterra shells," as the Confederates termed them, but not one had been stepped on by any of our regiment.

After the battle, the enemy were compelled to locate, cap, and dig them up, under a penalty of being marched in a body, back and forth until all had been exploded. The Thirty-Seventh Illinois had dug their pits between two rows of these shells, and so escaped them.

We had now earned a rest, and our movements for the next few days were unimportant. We moved down on the river bank just below the little town of Blakely, and there without drill, or any but the most meager of camp duties we quietly remained and awaited further orders.

It was at this camp on April 20th, while three companies, K, G and B were waiting for a boat that the news reached us of the assassination of President Lincoln.

All felt that it was fortunate that we had not known of it the day of the charge or probably there would not have been a live rebel left behind their breast works.

 

Flag Believed to have been captured by the 83rd OVVI at Ft. Blakely
Massillon Museum, Massillon, Ohio

According to the accession record, the flag was donated by an Edward Baldwin in 1963. Of all the  Wm. H. Baldwin artifacts, it is the only one donated by this person. Also, the Great-grandson has never heard of an Edward Baldwin. The record states that it was captured by the 83rd. OVI at Ft Blakely. That is all. It is a "stars and bars" flag , made of cotton. That is; it has two wide red stripes, one above and one below a similar width white stripe in the middle. The canton is blue with 11 stars sewn in a circle. It appears to be hand made and is only 46 inches long by 26 inches from top to bottom. There is an inscription done in either ink or black paint on the white stripe. If the flag were hanging down, with the stripes hanging vertical, the inscription reads, ( in hand written, cursive) "Ladies aide society work done for soldiers". The ends of the stripes show a lot of repaired damage; holes and tears with matching colored patches. so much so that the word "soldiers" is obscured and hard to make out (missing completely are the "old" of soldiers)

Christopher Craft

 

 

Now that you have read about the battle, visit the battlefield...

 


 

H I S T O R Y

OF THE

FORTY-EIGHTH OHIO VET. VOL. INF.

By

JOHN A. BERING,

Late Major 48th Ohio, and

THOMAS MONTGOMERY,

Late Captain 48th Ohio.


HILLSBORO, OHIO:

PRINTED AT THE HIGHLAND NEWS OFFICE.

1880.

 

Scanned from a copy of the original 10/97 - 12/99 by Don D. Worth, worth@ucla.edu

While this book is in the public domain, this digitization is Copyright 1999, Don D. Worth,
and may not be published or reproduced without permission.

 

CHAPTER RELATED TO BLAKELY
 

CHAPTER XVIII - The Mobile Campaign

 

 


 

[From Harper's Weekly, May 6, 1865]

THE CAPTURE OF MOBILE

The campaign which was laid out a few weeks ago for the complete suppression of the rebellion in the Western States east of the Mississippi has been successfully accomplished. After Hood's defeat before Nashville General Thomas indicated to the War Department that he would not, on account of the state of the roads and for other reasons, be able to enter immediately upon another campaign. But he offered to co-operate with General Canby by sending to the later on half of his infantry force and almost all his cavalry - the former under the command of General A. J. Smith, the latter under General Wilson. Smith's corps left Eastport, Mississippi, and arrived at New Orleans on the 22d of February. In camp seven miles north of New Orleans until March 13, the command was reorganized and Wilson's movements awaited. General Granger's army was then at Mobile Point, near Fort Morgan, and General Steele's at Pensacola. All these bodies were in readiness to move by March 20.

General Canby had some important information concerning Spanish Fort from Mr. Madder, who built the fort, and who came into our lines about the 1st of March. Smith and Granger joined on the 21st at Darley's Mill, on Fish River - the former moving by water, the latter by land. Steele was coming up from Pensacola, and Wilson, with his cavalry, was moving from Eastport. On the 26th Granger appeared before Spanish Fort, and Smith moved up to within four mails of Fort Blakely. The next day a good portion of the latter's command was withdrawn to operate against Spanish Fort with Granger. One division was left to threaten Blakely until Steele should arrive.

Spanish Fort was then completely invested by land. The bombardment commenced forthwith and was kept up until the 9th. Every day new guns were mounted until sixteen mortars, twenty siege guns, and six field batteries were brought to bear on the fort and the adjacent work - Fort Alexis. The enemy's gun-boats and two forts in the bay participated in the defense of Spanish Fort.

The fleet of monitors in the bay with great difficulty got within shelling distance of the fort. On the 28th the Milwaukee was sunk by a torpedo; and the next day the Osage shared a similar fate. The fleet, however, was not able to effect much in the attack.

On the 26th of March Canby issued to his army the last of the rations provided. In this exigency General Bailey - the same who built the dam for the escape of Porter's fleet on Red River - succeeded in forming wharves and landing supplies from the bay. The Times Correspondent says that if General Bailey had kept a diary a glance at its pages would show "that during one week's time he had four fights, a hundred wrangles, slapped the faces of three steamboat Captains, and nearly killed with hard work some three hundred members of the Ninety-seventh colored."

Steele's command arrived on the 2d of April, having cut the Mobile and Montgomery Railroad, near Pollard, capturing a train of cars bound to Mobile, and fighting and killing the rebel General Clanton, inflecting a loss of 200 men besides capturing 800. Steele united with Garrard's division against Fort Blakely, which was now fully invested by land with the exception of a gap through which runs the Bayou Minuette. Up to this time our loss had been about 750.

On the 8th eight heavy Parrot guns were brought to bear on the rebel gun-boats, and under cover of cannonade from one hundred pieces of artillery an assault was made on Spanish Fort at sunset. Geddis's brigade, consisting of the Eighth Iowa, the Eighty-first, One Hundred and Eighth, and One Hundred and Twenty-fourth Illinois, bore the brunt of the assault, and succeeded just after dark in getting inside a portion of the enemy's works on the left. Here a fight ensued, and 300 of the enemy captured. The assault was not made all along the line as it should have been, and thus it happened that Geddis was driven out of the portion of the works which he had gained. That night the enemy evacuated Spanish Fort, and escaped in boats across the bay to Mobile.

But Fort Blakely still remained. Blakely is a small town above the mouth of Blakely River, about four and one half miles north of Spanish Fort, and twelve miles from Mobile. The works at this point ran north and south, and were under the command of the rebel General Lyddell. On the 9th these works were carried by assault. It was a most gallant affair. Garrard's division, with its commander at its head, passed abatis and ditches after terrible entanglements - entanglements fatal to how many! - gained the inside of the fort, and captured over 1000 men with their commander, the rebel General Thomas. Then Andrew's and Veatch's divisions charged over torpedoes and through a storm of bullets, and by seven o'clock the fort was ours with 3300 prisoners - including Generals Lyddell, Thomas, Cockerill - 32 pieces of artillery, 4000 stand of small-arms, 16 battle-flags, and vast amount of ammunition. Our loss here was about 1000.

The next day the enemy's gun-boats with transports escaped up the Alabama River. On the night of the 10th the rebels began to evacuate Mobile, which was occupied by our forces on the 13th. The guns captured amounted to 150; 1200 prisoners were taken in the city. This made our whole number of prisoners about 6000. Dabner H. Maury escaped up the river with 9000 men.

Our entire loss in the campaign is about 2000; that of the enemy 1500, besides prisoners. Seventeen forts were taken, over 200 guns, and a vast amount of cotton.


 

[From Harper's Weekly, May 27, 1865]


THE FIGHT BEFORE MOBILE

We have already, in a previous number, described the assault on Fort Blakely, which we illustrate this week on this page. Probably the last charge of this war, it was as gallant as any on record. Fort Blakely formed the left of the rebel line of works defending Mobile. The approach to the work was impeded by obstructions of every sort, which the national troops were fully one hour in making their way through. The loss here was great; but no obstacle hindered, no degree of carnage daunted the men. They carried the work, and this brave and successful assault finished the fight before Mobile.

Several batteries of artillery and large quantities of ammunition were taken from the fort, besides 2400 prisoners. Our loss in the whole affair was about 2000 killed and wounded.

 


 

Online Information About Fort Blakely

 

Siege of Fort Blakely, Alabama
Scene of Last Major Battle of the Civil War
Blakeley State Park Web Site
Fort Blakely
CWSAC Battle Summaries from the NPS
Fort Blakely, Alabama
American Civil War.com
United States Colored Troops in the Mobile, Alabama Campaign, By Bennie J. McRae, Jr.
Fort Blakely
Battle summary from eHistory.com
Letter written by Elias D. Moore, 114th OVVI describing the action at Ft. Blakely
Report of Action at Fort Blakely April 3-9, 1865. By Col Charles H Harris 11th Wisconsin Infantry
Blakely, a poem by Thomas Washington Danner
Poetry & Music of the War Between the States

  

 

Blakely or Blakeley?

Blakeley is the original spelling of the town, chartered in 1814. However, during the Civil War the name changed to drop the additional "e" and the name of the fort was Fort Blakely.

 

 

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