equally confused as she, and that really he was running

time:2023-12-02 23:49:54 source:Thick-looking and affectionate network author:news

When a boy, Farragut had sailed as a midshipman on the Essex in her famous cruise to the South Pacific, and lived through the murderous fight in which, after losing three fifths of her crew, she was captured by two British vessels. Step by step he rose in his profession, but never had an opportunity of distinguishing himself until, when he was sixty years old, the Civil War broke out. He was then made flag officer of the Gulf squadron; and the first success which the Union forces met with in the southwest was scored by him, when one night he burst the iron chains which the Confederates had stretched across the Mississippi, and, stemming the swollen flood with his splendidly-handled steam-frigates, swept past the forts, sank the rams and gunboats that sought to bar his path, and captured the city of New Orleans. After further exciting service on the Mississippi, service in which he turned a new chapter in the history of naval warfare by showing the possibilities of heavy seagoing vessels when used on great rivers, he again went back to the Gulf, and, in the last year of the war, was allotted the task of attempting the capture of Mobile, the only important port still left open to the Confederates.

equally confused as she, and that really he was running

In August, 1864, Farragut was lying with his fleet off Mobile Bay. For months he had been eating out his heart while undergoing the wearing strain of the blockade; sympathizing, too, with every detail of the doubtful struggle on land. "I get right sick, every now and then, at the bad news," he once wrote home; and then again, "The victory of the Kearsarge over the Alabama raised me up; I would sooner have fought that fight than any ever fought on the ocean." As for himself, all he wished was a chance to fight, for he had the fighting temperament, and he knew that, in the long run, an enemy can only be beaten by being out-fought, as well as out-manoeuvered. He possessed a splendid self-confidence, and scornfully threw aside any idea that he would be defeated, while he utterly refused to be daunted by the rumors of the formidable nature of the defenses against which he was to act. "I mean to be whipped or to whip my enemy, and not to be scared to death," he remarked in speaking of these rumors.

equally confused as she, and that really he was running

The Confederates who held Mobile used all their skill in preparing for defense, and all their courage in making that defense good. The mouth of the bay was protected by two fine forts, heavily armed, Morgan and Gaines. The winding channels were filled with torpedoes, and, in addition, there was a flotilla consisting of three gunboats, and, above all, a big ironclad ram, the Tennessee, one of the most formidable vessels then afloat. She was not fast, but she carried six high-power rifled guns, and her armor was very powerful, while, being of light draft, she could take a position where Farragut's deep-sea ships could not get at her. Farragut made his attack with four monitors,--two of them, the Tecumseh and Manhattan, of large size, carrying 15inch guns, and the other two, the Winnebago and Chickasaw, smaller and lighter, with 11-inch guns,--and the wooden vessels, fourteen in number. Seven of these were big sloops-of-war, of the general type of Farragut's own flagship, the Hartford. She was a screw steamer, but was a full-rigged ship likewise, with twenty-two 9-inch shell guns, arranged in broadside, and carrying a crew of three hundred men. The other seven were light gunboats. When Farragut prepared for the assault, he arranged to make the attack with his wooden ships in double column. The seven most powerful were formed on the right, in line ahead, to engage Fort Morgan, the heaviest of the two forts, which had to be passed close inshore to the right. The light vessels were lashed each to the left of one of the heavier ones. By this arrangement each pair of ships was given a double chance to escape, if rendered helpless by a shot in the boiler or other vital part of the machinery. The heaviest ships led in the fighting column, the first place being taken by the Brooklyn and her gunboat consort, while the second position was held by Farragut himself in the Hartford, with the little Metacomet lashed alongside. He waited to deliver the attack until the tide and the wind should be favorable, and made all his preparations with the utmost care and thoughtfulness. Preeminently a man who could inspire affection in others, both the officers and men of the fleet regarded him with fervent loyalty and absolute trust.

equally confused as she, and that really he was running

The attack was made early on the morning of August 5. Soon after midnight the weather became hot and calm, and at three the Admiral learned that a light breeze had sprung up from the quarter he wished, and he at once announced, "Then we will go in this morning." At daybreak he was at breakfast when the word was brought that the ships were all lashed in couples. Turning quietly to his captain, he said, "Well, Drayton, we might as well get under way;" and at half-past six the monitors stood down to their stations, while the column of wooden ships was formed, all with the United States flag hoisted, not only at the peak, but also at every masthead. The four monitors, trusting in their iron sides, steamed in between the wooden ships and the fort. Every man in every craft was thrilling with the fierce excitement of battle; but in the minds of most there lurked a vague feeling of unrest over one danger. For their foes who fought in sight, for the forts, the gunboats, and, the great ironclad ram, they cared nothing; but all, save the very boldest, were at times awed, and rendered uneasy by the fear of the hidden and the unknown. Danger which is great and real, but which is shrouded in mystery, is always very awful; and the ocean veterans dreaded the torpedoes--the mines of death--which lay, they knew not where, thickly scattered through the channels along which they were to thread their way.

The tall ships were in fighting trim, with spars housed, and canvas furled. The decks were strewn with sawdust; every man was in his place; the guns were ready, and except for the song of the sounding-lead there was silence in the ships as they moved forward through the glorious morning. It was seven o'clock when the battle began, as the Tecumseh, the leading monitor, fired two shots at the fort. In a few minutes Fort Morgan was ablaze with the flash of her guns, and the leading wooden vessels were sending back broadside after broadside. Farragut stood in the port main-rigging, and as the smoke increased he gradually climbed higher, until he was close by the maintop, where the pilot was stationed for the sake of clearer vision. The captain, fearing lest by one of the accidents of battle the great admiral should lose his footing, sent aloft a man with a lasher, and had a turn or two taken around his body in the shrouds, so that he. might not fall if wounded; for the shots were flying thick.

At first the ships used only their bow guns, and the Confederate ram, with her great steel rifles, and her three consorts, taking station where they could rake the advancing fleet, caused much loss. In twenty minutes after the opening of the fight the ships of the van were fairly abreast of the fort, their guns leaping and thundering; and under the weight of their terrific fire that of the fort visibly slackened. All was now uproar and slaughter, the smoke drifting off in clouds. The decks were reddened and ghastly with blood, and the wreck of flying splinters drove across them at each discharge. The monitor Tecumseh alone was silent. After firing the first two shots, her commander, Captain Craven, had loaded his two big guns with steel shot, and, thus prepared, reserved himself for the Confederate ironclad, which he had set his heart upon taking or destroying single-handed. The two columns of monitors and the wooden ships lashed in pairs were now approaching the narrowest part of the channel, where the torpedoes lay thickest; and the guns of the vessels fairly overbore and quelled the fire from the fort. All was well, provided only the two columns could push straight on without hesitation; but just at this moment a terrible calamity befell the leader of the monitors. The Tecumseh, standing straight for the Tennessee, was within two hundred yards of her foe, when a torpedo suddenly exploded beneath her. The monitor was about five hundred yards from the Hartford, and from the maintop Farragut, looking at her, saw her reel violently from side to side, lurch heavily over, and go down headforemost, her screw revolving wildly in the air as she disappeared. Captain Craven, one of the gentlest and bravest of men, was in the pilot-house with the pilot at the time. As she sank, both rushed to the narrow door, but there was time for only one to get out. Craven was ahead, but drew to one side, saying, "After you, pilot." As the pilot leaped through, the water rushed in, and Craven and all his crew, save two men, settled to the bottom in their iron coffin.

None of the monitors were awed or daunted by the fate of their consort, but drew steadily onward. In the bigger monitors the captains, like the crews, had remained within the iron walls; but on the two light crafts the commanders had found themselves so harassed by their cramped quarters, that they both stayed outside on the deck. As these two steamed steadily ahead, the men on the flagship saw Captain Stevens, of the Winnebago, pacing calmly, from turret to turret, on his unwieldy iron craft, under the full fire of the fort. The captain of the Chickasaw, Perkins, was the youngest commander in the fleet, and as he passed the Hartford, he stood on top of the turret, waving his hat and dancing about in wildest excitement and delight.

But, for a moment, the nerve of the commander of the Brooklyn failed him. The awful fate of the Tecumseh and the sight of a number of objects in the channel ahead, which seemed to be torpedoes, caused him to hesitate. He stopped his ship, and then backed water, making sternway to the Hartford, so as to stop her also. It was the crisis of the fight and the crisis of Farragut's career. The column was halted in a narrow channel, right under the fire of the forts. A few moments' delay and confusion, and the golden chance would have been past, and the only question remaining would have been as to the magnitude of the disaster. Ahead lay terrible danger, but ahead lay also triumph. It might be that the first ship to go through would be sacrificed to the torpedoes; it might be that others would be sacrificed; but go through the fleet must. Farragut signaled to the Brooklyn to go ahead, but she still hesitated. Immediately, the admiral himself resolved to take the lead. Backing hard he got clear of the Brooklyn, twisted his ship's prow short round, and then, going ahead fast, he dashed close under the Brooklyn's stern, straight at the line of buoys in the channel. As he thus went by the Brooklyn, a warning cry came from her that there were torpedoes ahead. "Damn the torpedoes!" shouted the admiral; "go ahead, full speed; and the Hartford and her consort steamed forward. As they passed between the buoys, the cases of the torpedoes were heard knocking against the bottom of the ship; but for some reason they failed to explode, and the Hartford went safely through the gates of Mobile Bay, passing the forts. Farragut's last and hardest battle was virtually won. After a delay which allowed the flagship to lead nearly a mile, the Brooklyn got her head round, and came in, closely followed by all the other ships. The Tennessee strove to interfere with the wooden craft as they went in, but they passed, exchanging shots, and one of them striving to ram her, but inflicting only a glancing blow. The ship on the fighting side of the rear couple had been completely disabled by a shot through her boiler.


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