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The little one had his holiday dress,
But it never to me was half so dear
As the one I have cherished for many a year,
I have diamonds rare and many a gem,
When forth in the world I am forced to go,
To mix with its mockery and show;
We are told that earth’s treasures we must not hoard,
Yet this is but a memento I love
Of the priceless treasure I have above.
DEFENCE OF MOBILE IN 1865.
To the Editor of THE SOUTHERN MAGAZINE:
MY DEAR SIR :- So soon as Mr. Davis was released from prison, I reflected that he had reposed in me a great trust, and it was due to myself, to the gallant men who had fought under my command, and to him who had ordered us to defend Mobile, to place in his hands the whole history of that defence.
The Federal General Andrews has published a history of “the last great battle of the war” (as he terms the battle of Mobile), which he has conceived in an able and fair spirit. lle naturally acimires the gallantry of the Federal army and equipage which captured the place, and thereby, unintentionally perhaps, implies the highest compliment to the little force which withstood that army and navy so long, and then eluded their grasp. I now send you a transcript of my narrative to Mr. Davis. It is too brief to do justice to all the brave men who took part in those operations, but is long nough to show how Confederate troops did their duty to the very last.
IIoping you will find it worthy of publication in your Magazine, which seems now to be the only means by which we can publish and preserve Confederate records,
I am truly yours,
DARNEY H. MAURY. NASHVILLE, TENN., January 2, 1873.
New ORLEANS, LA., December 25, 1871. To Hon. JEFFERSON DAVIS,
Late President Southern Confederacy.
M. you the history of the last great military operation between the
troops of the Confederate States and the troops of the United States.
Immediately after the battle of Nashville, preparations were commenced for the reduction of Mobile. Two corps which had been sent to reinforce Thomas at Nashville were promptly returned to Canby in New Orleans, and the collection of material and transportation for a regular siege of Mobile commenced. General Taylor agreed with me in the opinion that ten thousand men in Mobile would compel a siege by regular approaches, would occupy the Federal troops in the Southwest for a long time, and would be as much as the Confederacy could spare for such objects: he thought he could send me such a force; and believed that the cavalry under Forrest would be able to defeat Wilson and succor me, and prevent the successful siege of the place if I could hold out for seven days. The general orders given me by Gen. Beauregard and Gen. Taylor were to save my garrison, after having defended my position as long as was consistent with the ultimate safety of my troops, and to burn all the cotton in the city, except that which had been guaranteed protection against such burning by the Confederate authorities.
Canby organised his forces in Mobile Bay and at Pensacola. Two army corps rendezvoused on Fish river under the immediate command of Canby ; another army corps assembled at Pensacola under Gen. Steele. The whole expeditionary force against Mobile consisted of fifty thousand infantry, seven thousand cavalry, a very large train of field and siege artillery, a fleet of more than twenty men-of-war, and about fifty transports, mostly steamers. The preparations having commenced in December, the attack began on the 25th of March.
My total effective force was seven thousand seven hundred excellent infantry and artillery, fifteen hundred cavalry, and about' three hundred field and siege guns. A naval force of four small gunboats co-operated with my troops.
The column under Canby marched from Fish river against the position of Spanish Fort. On March 25th information received through the advanced cavalry induced me to believe that the column from Fish river was not more than twelve thousand strong; and expecting it would march by the river road with its left covered by the fleet, I organised a force of four thousand five hundred infantry and ten guns, and resolved to give battle to Canby at the crossing of D'Olive creek, about two miles distant from the works of Spanish Fort.
The troops ordered for this service were the Missouri brigade of Cockrell, Gibson's Louisiana brigade, Ector's Texas and North Carolina brigade, and Thomas's brigade of Alabama boy-reserves, the third Missouri battery and Culpepper's battery. I felt confident then, and the light of experience justifies the confidence, that had Canby marched upon us with only twelve thousand troops, we should have beaten him in the field ; but he moved by a road which turned our position far to the left, and his force was near forty thousand men; I
therefore moved the troops into Spanish Fort and Blakely, and awaited his attack in them. I assigned Gen. St. John Liddell to the immediate command of Blakely, and Gen. Randall Gibson to the immediate command of Spanish Fort. They were both gentlemen of birth and breeding, soldiers of good education and experience, and entirely devoted to their duty. Spanish Fort was garrisoned by Gibson's Louisiana brigade, the brigade of Alabama boy-reserves, part of the twenty-second Louisiana regiment (heavy artillerists), Slocomb's battery of light artillery, Massenberg's (Georgia) light artillery company, and a few others not now remembered.
The works of Spanish Fort consisted of a heavy battery of six guns on a bluff of the left bank of the Apalachie river, three thousand yards below Battery Huger. This was strongly enclosed in the rear. On commanding eminences five hundred to six hundred yards to its rear were erected three other redoubts, which were connected by light rifle-pits with each other. The whole crest of the line of defence was about two thousand five hundred yards, and swept around old Spanish Fort as a centre, with the right flank resting on Apalachie river, the left flank resting on Bayou Minette. At first the garrison consisted of about two thousand five hundred effectives, but I reduced its numbers by transferring the brigade of boy-reserves to Blakely, and replacing it by veterans of Ector's brigade and Holtzelaw's Alabama brigade. After this change was made (about the fourth day of the siege) the position was held by fifteen hundred muskets and less than three hundred artillerists.
On the twenty-sixth of March Canby invested the position with a force of one corps and two divisions of infantry, and a large siege train; another division of infantry invested Blakely on the same day. The siege of Spanish Fort was at once commenced by regular approaches, and was prosecuted with great industry and caution. The defence was active, bold and defiant. The garrison fought all day and worked all night, until the night of April 8th, when the enemy effected a lodgment on the left flank which threatened to close the route of evacuation for the garrison. I had caused a plank road or bridge about one mile long to be made on trestles from the left flank of the lines of Spanish Fort, over the Bayou Mineite and the marshes, to a point opposite Battery Huger; and Gen. Gibson's orders were to save his garrison when the siege had been protracted as long as possible without losing his troops, by marching out over this bridge. On the eighth of April I ordered Gibson to commence the evacuation that night, by sending over to Mobile all surplus stores, etc., for which purpose I sent him some of the blockade steamers. They arrived in good time to save his garrison, for at 10 P. M. Gibson finding the enemy too firmly established on his left to be dislodged, in obedience to his orders marched his garrison out on the plank road, and abandoned the position of Spanish Fort and its material to the enemy. He lost some pickets and about thirty-five cannon and mortars. I moved the troops to Mobile, anticipating an early attack on the city. I consider the defence of Spanish Fort by Gen. Gibson and the gentle.men of his command one of the most spirited defences of the war.
Blakely was attacked by regular siege on the ist of April. Steele's corps came down from the direction of Pollard, and with the divisions that had been lying before Blakely since the 26th, broke ground very cautiously against the place. The position of Blakely was better for defence than that of Spanish Fort. The works consisted of nine lunettes connected by good rifle-pits, and covered in front by a double line of abattis, and of an advanced line of rifle-pits; the crest was about three thousand yards long ; both flanks rested on Apalachie river, on the marsh. No part of the line was exposed to enfilade fire. The garrison was the noble brigade of Missourians, Elisha Gates commanding, the survivors of more than twenty batiles, and the finest troops I have ever seen ; the Alabama boy-reserve brigade under Gen. Thomas, part of Holtzelaw's brigade, Barry's Mississippi brigade, the ist Mississippi light artillery armed as infantry, several light batteries with about thirty-five pieces of field and siege artillery, besides Cohorn and siege mortars. The whole effective force was about 2700 men under Gen. St. John Liddell. The gallant Gen. Cockrell of Missouri was next in command.
During Sunday, the day after the evacuation of Spanish Fort, the enemy was continually moving troops from below towards Blakely, and Sunday evening about 5 o'clock he assaulted the centre of the line with a heavy column of eleven brigades (about 22.000 men in three lines of battle) and carried the position, capturing all of the material and of the troops, except about 150 men, who escaped over the marshes and river by swimming. On the loss of Blakely I resolved to evacuate Mobile. My effective force was now reduced to less than 5000 men, and the supply of ammunition had been nearly exhausted in the siege of the two positions which the enemy had taken from me. Mobile contained nearly forty thousand non-combatants. The city and its population were entirely exposed to the fire which would be directed against its defences. While the consequences of its being stormed by a combined force of Federal and negro troops would have been shocking, with the means now left me an obstinate or protracted defence would have been impossible
- my orders were to save my troops, after having made as much time as possible; therefore I decided to evacuate Mobile at once. Blakely was carried on Sunday evening at 5 o'clock ; I completed the evacuation of Mobile on Wednesday morning, having dismantled the works, removed the stores best suited for troops in the field, transferred the commissary stores to the Mayor for the use of the people, and marched out with 4500 infantry and artillery, 27 light cannon, and brought off all the land and water transportation.
During the night of Tuesday I remained in the city with the rearguard of 300 Louisiana infantry, commanded by Colonel Robert Lindsay, and marched out on Wednesday morning with them at sunrise. I left General Gibson to see to the withdrawal of the cavalry pickets and the burning of the cotton. At ii o'clock, the whole business of evacuation being completed, General Gibson sent a white flag to the fleet to inform the enemy that he might take quiet possession of Mobile, since there was no Confederate force to oppose him. Soon after midday Canby marched in. Six thousand cavairy had been sent up the country from Pensacola to prevent my
escape ; but they could not get across the Alabama and Tombigbee rivers, which with their bottoms were filled with water, and I reached Meridian with my army unopposed. No active pursuit was made. By General Taylor's orders I moved the troops to Cuba Station, refitted the transportation and field batteries, and made ready to march across and join General Joseph E. Johnston in Carolina. The tidings of Lee's surrender soon came, then of the capture of the President of the Confederacy. But under all these sad and depressing trials, the little army of Mobile remained steadfastly together, and in perfect order and discipline awaited the final issue of events.
On the 8th of May we marched back to Meridian to surrender, and on the 13th of May we had completed the turning in of arms (to our own ordnance officers), and the last of us departed for his home a paroled prisoner of war.
Nothing in the history of those anxious days appears to me more touching and devoted than the conduct of the garrison of Mobile. Representatives of every State in the Southern Confederacy, veterans of every army and of scores of battles, they resisted an army of tenfold their numbers, until near half their force was destroyed, and then made good their retreat in good order. After reaching their encampment near Cuba, they preserved the dignity of brave and devoted men who had staked all and lost all save honor. Every night they assembled around the camp-fires of their Generals and called for tidings from the army of the Confederacy and from their President. After receiving all of the information we could impart, they would give us “three cheers" and return to their bivouacs. I think there was no day on which they would not have attacked and beaten a superior force of the enemy.
During the fourteen days of siege of Spanish Fort, the daily loss of the garrison in killed and wounded ranged from fifteen to twenty. During the eight days of the siege of Blakely, the losses were from twenty to twenty-five daily. The only officer of rank killed was my chief of artillery, Col. W. E. Burnett, son of the venerable ex-President of Texas. He was a man of rare attainments, of extraordinary military capacity, of unshrinking courage, and pure character. On the morning of April 4th I took him with me to Spanish Fort to establish a new battery: a sharpshooter shot him in the forehead, and he died in a few hours.
There were many instances of fine conduct during these operations. You may remember there were two little batteries constructed on the right bank of the Apalachie river, several nailes below Blakely, called “Huger” and “ Tracey”; they were to defend that river. They had but little over two hundred rounds of ammunition to each gun, therefore I made them hold their fire during the whole siege. The garrisons of these batteries were 300 men of the 22d La., under the command of Col. Patton of Virginia. Early in the action the enemy opened some Parrott batteries on these forts, and for more than ten days they silently received the fire which they might not reply to. Aiter Blakely fell, these two little outposts remained close to the centre of the army of the enemy (50,000 men), who were continually opening new guns upon them and increasing their fire; still they replied