Siege of Fort Gaines
— Stop D —
Once Farragut was in the Bay, capture of Fort Gaines and Powell would prevent his isolation there. So at 4:00 pm, August 3, 1864, 1,500 soldiers commanded by U.S. General Edward Canby (but under the operational direction of General Gordon Granger) landed near the west end of Dauphin Island. While the artillerymen manhandled their six 3-inch rifled guns ashore, the infantry deployed into a skirmish line across the narrow island. Covered by two gunboats, the foot sloggers pushed forward three and half miles to the edge of the woods.
At dawn on the 4th, while the Confederates rushed reinforcements to the island, the Federals resumed their advance. A Union soldier remembered the stiff resistance of numerous Rebels, some of them boys no more than sixteen years old: "... with quick crack and thrilling whiz the exchange of shots went on." By the afternoon, Granger had advanced to within 1,700 yards of the fort and begun building trenches and gun positions. By midnight the engineers had deployed six field guns and Confederates had burned their outbuildings, clearing the field of fire.
Gaines' garrison had 864 officers and men by the morning of the 5th. The fort mounted 26 guns, but only six of them could fire into Granger's line. Though strengthened with sandbags, the fort lacked adequate transverses and its casemates and magazines were too weak to protect the men. Two of the fort's 10-inch Columbiads fired on the Federal fleet in the morning, but were silenced by fire from Granger's field guns. Graner's skirmishers continued to push the Confederates back. In the evening, near Pelican Island, the Union artillerymen hauled ashore eight 30-pounder parrots (each weighing more than two tons).
On the 6th, the Federal pickets advanced to within 100 yards of the Rebel line and to within 900 yards of the fort. The Chickasaw
, from a distance of 2,000 yards, lobbed 31 11-inch shells at them, most of which exploded in the fort. Gaines returned fire but could not find the range. Granger mounted his parrots that night. The demoralized garrison presented a petition to C.S. Colonel Charles D. Anderson, the post commander, requesting that he surrender.
Anderson agreed. With inadequate defenses and surrounded by overwhelming force, Fort Gaines was untenable. He negotiated a surrender with Farragut and Granger on the 7th, turning over "the fort, it garrison, stores, etc." to United States forces on August 8, 1864.
"In moving up (to Fort Gaines), our forces captured a battalion of boys, varying from 12 to 16 years old, the sons of the leading citizens of Mobile. ...the (boys) seemed to know nothing of the art of skirmishing, and, instead of seeking cover where it could be found, invariably stood bravely to receive and deliver the fire. Several were wounded before it was found that they were boys, and, soon after, the whole battalion was captured. General Canby wisely paroled them and sent them to their anxious mothers in Mobile." Colonel John M. Wilson, Canby's Military Family
"The very first shot fired... (by the Chickasaw
) penetrated the casemate and killed two of our sick. The magazine were no better, and had a single shell struck...either of them the whole garrison would have been blown to kingdom come. ...We could render Mobile no assistance; we could render Morgan no assistance; and we could have done no harm to the enemy, for every gun we had that bore upon the fleet was dismounted, except the small smooth bore, at which they would have laughed in derision."
A veteran of the Fort Gaines garrison.