Saturday, May 9, 2009
The Battle of Spanish Fort - Spanish Fort, Alabama
Located directly opposite Mobile Bay from the City of Mobile, Spanish Fort is today a busy city with rapidly growing commercial and residential sectors. In 1865, however, it was the location of a powerful Confederate fortress that Union forces would have to reduce if they hoped to take Mobile itself.
General E.R.S. Canby marched up the east side of Mobile Bay with 32,000 men and an impressive array of artillery after forcing a landing near the mouth of Fish River. Confederate forces fell back ahead of of Canby as he pushed up the east shore, skirmishing some, but not provoking a major confrontation. They withdrew into their fortifications at Spanish Fort as Canby closed in and the Battle of Spanish Fort began on March 27, 1865.
The Southern defenses at Spanish Fort were actually quite extensive. Covering hundreds of acres of land, they consisted of both powerful batteries overlooking the channel as well as additional fortifications that ringed the land side of the post. Defended by 47 pieces of artillery, the fortifications would prove a tough nut for Canby to crack, despite the fact that his army outnumbered the Confederate garrison by more than 15 to 1.
The battle raged for more than one week, with Canby's men digging siege works and placing artillery. By April 8, 1865, more than 90 cannon were arranged to bombard the Confederate works and both sides knew it was now just a matter of time.
On that day Canby opened a massive bombardment of the Confederate earthworks and late that afternoon the 8th Iowa Infantry stormed a section of the Spanish Fort defenses. The Southern commander, General Randall L. Gibson, waited until after nightfall and then withdrew his men across a footbridge to nearby Fort Huger. The Federals had no idea they had slipped away until the next morning.
To learn more about the Battle of Spanish Fort and see something of the battlefield as it appears today, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/spanishfort.