Fort Blakeley, named for the town which it surrounded, was one of two major Confederate defensive positions protecting eastern approaches to Mobile during the Civil War. The fort consisted of a nearly three mile long series of entrenchments anchored by nine earthen redoubts, or reinforced independent positions. Within this line of defenses were a series of trenches, artillery emplacements, and assorted other earthen defensive structures. A series of rifle pits, in which teams of skirmishers could be deployed, lay a short distance in front of the main line.
Confederate troops and impressed African-American laborers had been engaged in the construction of Fort Blakeley for many months prior to the battle here in April of 1865. These men had cleared fields of fire in front of the main line up to a distance of about 800 yards. They had also built two lines of obstructions using tangles of fallen trees, and even had strung telegraph wire between stumps as barriers to approach. To further slow potential attackers, in places defenders had buried dozens of land mines, commonly referred to at the time as "torpedoes.
*Blakeley was frequently misspelled in wartime records and on period maps as "Blakely," and the fort and battle are still often referred to as Blakely in historical literature as well as in many official records
of the war.
Brigadier General St. John R. Liddell commanded the approximately 3,500 men that comprised the garrison at Blakeley at the time of the battle. Included in his command were veteran brigades under Brigadier General Francis M. Cockrell and raw regiments of conscripts under Brigadier General Bryan Thomas.
Top left: Map of Fort Blakeley showing Union siege lines
Center portraits: Brig. Gen. St. John R. Liddell (top), Brig. Gen. Francis M. Cockrell (middle), Brig. Gen. Bryan Thomas (bottom)
Map on right: A few miles to the south of Fort Blakeley lay Spanish Fort, which consisted of three linked earthen forts overlooking a series of bluffs along the riverfront. Nearby on islands were two large batteries, named Huger and Tracy.