Paul Prentiss on “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead! – Admiral David Farragut and Battle of Mobile Bay August 5, 1864”
In the spring of 1864 the Southern heartland was still intact from the Shenandoah Valley to the red clay hills of Georgia. Richmond, Atlanta, along with the seaport cities of Mobile, Charleston, and Wilmington were thriving despite the Union Navy blockade. The effects of the Anaconda Strategy were felt but the impact was more an inconvenience than true suffering. West of the Mississippi the situation was very much the same except for New Orleans and a few Union garrisons on the coast. In the North the high hopes that followed victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg were turning into despair. The Northern electorate blamed President Lincoln for the mismanagement of the war and the November elections were looming. If the Confederates could deny the North a major military victory and hold out until the elections, it was a real possibility the South could win the war through a negotiated peace. Also, any Confederate victory could strengthen the northern Peace Democrat candidate George McClellan’s bid for the presidency.
Just how much did the Battle of Mobile Bay affect the national stage at this critical time? Some argue the victory helped Lincoln’s campaign win the presidency while others claim the closure of the port of Mobile hastened the economic defeat of the South and had little actual impact on the election. This presentation will set the scene, discuss major players, critique the strategy and tactics and debate the battle’s impact.
Paul Prentiss is a retired Navy Captain and Chief Scientist for a national science and technology company. The Massachusetts native graduated from the University of Michigan Physics program and Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. While serving in the Navy he was able to visit many worldwide historic sites and tread the ground where extraordinary events unfolded. Paul and his wife Susan live in nearby Marlton, NJ. He is a volunteer STEM mentor, trustee for the Old Baldy Civil War Roundtable of Philadelphia and active member of the Coastal Defense Study Group. His distant cousin, LT Roderick Prentiss, participated in the Battle of Mobile Bay as Executive Officer aboard the USS Monongahela where he was struck by flying splinters caused by cannon fire from Fort Morgan and subsequently died of his wounds.