Damn The Torpedoes! The Battle of Mobile Bay

By | Aug 5, 2010

Many of us have heard the phrase, “Damn the Torpedoes! Full speed ahead”. And many of us may also have not idea who said these words or when. Admiral David Farragut, who was commanding a Union Fleet during the American Civil Words is credited with saying this at the Battle of Mobile Bay on August 5, 1864.

As with many wartime quotes it’s possible that he never uttered these words, but there have been accounts that he did.

The Torpedoes of the Civil War were nothing like today’s self-propelled torpedo. The term torpedo was first used around 1800 and was that of a naval explosive. And the Civil War torpedoes was a floating mine made to explode upon contact. These mines could be dangerous and cause a lot of damage, but they also could be unreliable.

Farragut entered the mouth of the Mobile Bay with a fleet of 14 wooden ships and 4 ironcads. He soon encountered the Torpedoes. The Ironclad USS Tecumseh was sunk by a tethered contact mine and was lost. But he issued orders to continue ahead and navigated the torpedo field safely.

The Battle ended with Franklin Buchanan, Admiral of the Confederate Fleet surrendering to Farragut. Within three weeks the forts defending the Bay were captured.

The City of Mobile remained under the control of the Confederates, but with the Union in control of the Mobile Bay, the city was no longer a major port for the Confederates. This battle as well as Sherman’s March on Atlanta is credited with greatly aiding in the Presidential victory for Abraham Lincoln in November.


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