In the early morning hours of August 5, 1864, Admiral David Farragut’s fleet began their run past the Confederate forts of Gaines, Powell and Morgan, into Mobile Bay. Farragut’s fleet headed directly toward the Tennessee, an ironclad ram, and three gunboats under the command of Admiral Franklin Buchanan.
The cannon at Fort Morgan began firing on Farragut’s fleet as the Federal ships moved into an underwater mine field. An hour after the entry into Mobile Bay, the Federal ironclad Tecumseh was sunk by a torpedo. Shortly after this, Farragut is said to have stood high in the rigging of his flagship and said “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” Whether or not this is true, the fleet did head straight into the harbor.
After ramming and shelling the Tennessee, the Confederate ironclad surrendered and the Federal navy took command of Mobile Bay. In all, the Federal Navy lost 145 men (93 drowned on the Tecumseh), while 270 Confederates were captured, including Admiral Buchanan. All of the Confederate ships in the bay were sunk or captured.
The loss of Mobile Bay opened the city of Mobile to Federal attack, and the eventual fall of Fort Gaines and Fort Powell. Fort Morgan finally surrendered the end of August.