Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Battle of Blakeley - Spanish Fort, Alabama

When Spanish Fort fell on the night of April 8, 1865, Union General E.R.S. Canby immediately pushed troops up the east shore to join the growing attack on the Confederate fortifications at Blakeley, Alabama.

Sometimes called Fort Blakeley (and often mispelled "Blakely"), this position was actually a large establishment defended by batteries, breastworks and multiple forts. When Canby began his march up the East Shore of Mobile Bay, a second column of more than 10,000 Union soldiers left Pensacola under General Frederick Steele.

Fighting with and overrunning Confederates in a series of fights as he approached Pine Barren Creek in northern Escambia County, Florida, Steele broke up the Confederate post at Pollard and turned east per his orders and closed in on Blakeley. As Canby's men worked and fought to reduce Spanish Fort, Steele's men began erecting batteries, preparing parallel lines and digging zigzag trenches that allowed them to close in on the powerful Blakeley fortifications.

Steele and his men were joined on April 9, 1865, by reinforcements from Spanish Fort and immediately launched a series of hammering assaults. The attacks from moved from left to right along the battlefield, but the Confederates continued to hold out until the Third Brigade of the Second Division launched a rapid attack from a parallel just 500 yards from Redoubt #4, one of the main Confederate forts.

Led by the 83rd Ohio Infantry, the brigade stormed through a ravine and overran Confederate pickets so fast that Southern troops became intermingled with the advancing Federals. This caused Southern gunners in Redoubt #4 to hold their fire to avoid hitting their own men. The Union attackers took advantage of the opportunity given them and overran Redoubt #4, breaking into the Blakeley defenses.

The battle degenerated from that point as Confederate defenders fell back toward the river and were forced to surrender.

The Battle of Blakeley was the last major battle of the Mobile Campaign and opened the door for the capture of the city itself. The site is now preserved at Historic Blakeley State Park, located on Highway 225 just north of Spanish Fort, Alabama.

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