Friday, June 10, 2016
This week's Dauphin Island history post is a portion of an 1822 U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Military Affairs' investigation into the potential fortification of Mobile Bay and the map which was used to make their conclusion which was that THERE WAS NO JUSTIFICATION FOR FORTIFYING DAUPHIN ISLAND.
The map in this post is not the original one used by the Congress in 1822 but it is based upon the original drawn by Mobilian Curtis Lewis in 1820. The posted map was published in 1896 by Alabama native, William Trent Rossell.
Not only did Curtis Lewis map Mobile Bay in 1820 but he also had some other strong ties to Dauphin Island. His wife was the granddaughter of Major Robert Farmar, namesake for D.I.'s Major Farmar Street. At the time Lewis produced his map, his wife's family's estate had filed a private claim with the United States for ownership of Dauphin Island based upon a deed obtained by Major Farmar in the 1760s. Lewis' father-in-law, Louis de Vaubercey, who married Farmar's 2nd child, Mary Elizabeth http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=12835704, established a lime kiln on D.I. in the early 19th century using the Indian shell mounds as raw material to produce mortar. Vaubercey died on Dauphin Island on April 10, 1837.
"The report of the engineers states that the object of forts on Mobile Point, and on the eastern point of Dauphin Island, is to prevent the enemy from occupying them as places of refuge, to prevent the mouths of the river from being blockaded, to secure the communication between New Orleans and Mobile Bay.
The fort on Dauphin Island is intended to defend the western channel, which they state to be one mile distant, and having a depth of water of ten feet according to their chart, and seven feet according to Lewis, through which vessels constructed for the purpose, and drawing from eight to nine feet water, and mounting twelve or fifteen guns, might enter the bay. It will also, they add, deprive the enemy's vessels of the anchorage under Pelican Island, which anchorage they state to be fit for vessels drawing seventeen or eighteen feet water — that is to say, sloops of war. It will also, as they say, prevent an enemy from establishing himself on Dauphin Island, by cutting a communication between Lake Pontchartrain and Mobile Bay, while the fort will serve as a depot for naval stores, and for the stores and armament necessary for the protection of the coasting trade.
The committee have given these subjects due consideration, and have also considered Dauphin Island in all its bearings and relations, and cannot believe them of sufficient importance to justify an expenditure of a million of dollars, which the work on Dauphin Island, with its ordnance and necessary fixtures, will probably require, without taking into view the subsequent expenses incident thereto.
Would a fort on Dauphin Island effect the object contemplated by the engineers? The committee conceive that it could not. It is too far distant from the ship channel to aid in preventing a blockade; nor can the fort on Mobile Point, although near to the channel, entirely effect it. A single sloop of war lying at anchor within the bar, three miles distant from the fort, or in the bay, out of gunshot of the fort, would effectually blockade the bay with out being exposed to danger from either fort.
Will a fort on Dauphin Island protect the coasting trade from New Orleans? Certainly it cannot. The channel for coasting vessels has from four to five feet water, and is at least four miles distant from the site of the fort on Dauphin Island. The coasting trade cannot, of course, receive protection from any force placed there.
Would a fort on Dauphin Island be able to deprive an enemy of anchorage under Pelican Island? A sloop of war might anchor under that island, if the engineers' chart be correct, and might remain there. She would then be thirty-five miles distant from Mobile, and could approach no nearer; for the western channel has only ten feet water according to the engineers' chart, and but seven according to Lewis's. The chart last mentioned, and that from the Navy Office, give only eleven and twelve feet water to the entrance; to the anchorage under Pelican Island, of course, not even a sloop of war can enter, if these charts be correct. It is alleged that vessels drawing eight or nine feet water, and mounting ten or twelve guns, may pass through the western channel. If Lewis's chart be correct, they cannot; if that of the engineers be correct, they may. Such vessels may, however, pass more conveniently in the night, in the ship channel, in deep water, and make their arrangements at their leisure for an attack on the city of Mobile or Blakely in the bay, and out of gunshot of the fort.
The engineers say 'that the western channel being one mile from the site of the fort on Dauphin Island, such vessels would pass with very little annoyance from the shot of the fort, and that they can be prevented in no way but by a floating force;' from whence it follows that the immense fortification contemplated on this island could not have the effect of preventing such vessels from entering the bay. The anchorage under Pelican Island may be entered, agreeably to the engineers' chart, by vessels drawing 17 or 18 feet water; but according to the chart of the Navy Commissioners, and that of Lewis taken in 1820, there are only 11 or 12 feet of water; and if these be correct, even sloops of war cannot enter. Vessels drawing only 8 or 9 feet water, and mounting 12 or 15 guns, must, as your committee apprehend, be built for the occasion. The steam frigate and gun-boats herein recommended would, in the opinion of the committee, prove a more effectual security against an enemy entering the bay than the 108 guns proposed to be mounted on the land.
The objection to the occupation of Dauphin Island by an enemy, and to his making an establishment there, from whence to cut off the coasting trade between New Orleans and Mobile, consists in this: the water is not sufficiently deep for him to be protected by his fleet, while his object may be much better accomplished by taking possession of Cat Island, thirty miles distant from Lake Pontchartrain, and about fifty miles from the east end of Dauphin Island, where large ships of war may lie in safety, and from whence he may completely intercept their (trade. A single sloop of war stationed at Cat or Ship Island would destroy their trade, without risk, unless prevented by a superior naval force.
The fort on Dauphin Island cannot be made use of as a depot of naval stores, or armament for defense of the coasting trade, because the depth of water for nearly a mile distant from the shore will not admit our smallest vessels. Should such a place of deposit be deemed necessary, Mobile Point is in every respect preferable. The harbor near the Point is good, and the water sufficiently deep for vessels to anchor near it, and to discharge their cargoes with facility.
From the best view which the committee have been able to take of the subject, it appears to them that the fortification on Dauphin Island, calculated to contain 108 guns, ought to be discontinued; that an enclosed work on Mobile Point, calculated to mount fifty or sixty pieces of heavy ordnance, with an adequate floating force, and twenty or thirty pieces (say twelve, eighteen, and twenty-four pounders) mounted and deposited in an arsenal to be erected for that purpose at Mobile or Blakely, from whence they may be detached, as occasion might require, to the points of land by which the boats or barges of an enemy must necessarily pass in his approach to either of those places, and to cover the floating force in case of retreat, would constitute a suitable defense for the bay of Mobile.
All which is respectfully submitted.
Statement of distances— Dauphin Island.
Distance from Dauphin Island to Mobile Point,
On the large map, - - - - - - - -3 miles.
On engineers' chart, - - - - - - - 3 and one third miles
On Lewis's marine chart, - - - - - - -4 miles
Distance from the same to the ship channel,
On large map, - - - - - - - -2 and one half miles
On engineers' chart, - - - - - - - - 2 and one half miles
On Lewis's chart, - - - - - - - - 2 and one half miles
Distance from the fort on Dauphin Island to Pelican Island,
On large map, (not given.)
On engineers' chart, - - - - - - - -2 and one quarter miles
On Lewis's chart, - - - - - - - - 4 miles
Distance from fort on Dauphin Island to Passe au Heron, or coasting channel,
On large map, - - - - - - - - 3 and one quarter miles
On engineers' chart, - - - - - - - 3 and one half miles
On Lewis's chart, - - - - - - - -7 miles
Depth of water on the bar,
Large chart, - - - - - - - -18 feet.
Engineers' chart, - - - - - - - -18 feet
Lewis's chart, - - - - - - - -16 feet
Channel near Dauphin Island,
Large chart, - - - - - - - -12 feet
Engineers', - - - - - - - -10 feet
Lewis's, 12 feet, with a pass of only - - . - - - - 7 feet
Entrance to get under Pelican Island,
Large chart, - - - - - - - -12 feet
Engineers', - - - - - - - -18 feet
Lewis's, - - - - - - - - -11 feet
Passe au Heron, or coasting channel,
Large chart, - - - - - - - -5 feet
Engineers' not given.
Lewis's, - - - - - - - - -4 feet
Distance from Mobile Point to the city of Mobile, in a straight line,
Large chart, - - - - - - - -35 miles.
Lewis's, - -'- - - - - - -33 miles
Distance from 18 feet water to the city,
Large chart, - - - - - - - -28 miles
Lewis's, - - -, - - - - -26 miles
Distance from 14 feet water,
Large chart, - - - - - - - -15 miles
Lewis's, - - -' - - - - - - 13 and one half miles
Distance from 10 feet water,
Large chart, - - - .- - - - -3 and one half miles
Lewis's, - - - - - - - - -6 miles
Depth of water, - - - - - - 7 feet.
Pass or channel from the anchorage under Pelican Island to the ship channel, - - - 9 feet.
Pass or channel from the same, to proceed direct to the city of Mobile, - - - 7 feet
Distance from Ship Island to the main, Large chart, - - - - - - - -6 miles.
From Cat river, - - - - - - - 7 and one half miles
Depth of water near those islands, - - - - - - 21 to 24 feet.
Distance from 18 feet water, near Cat Island,
To Bienvenue, - - - - - - - -35 miles.
From same to the pass Rigolets, - - - - - - 20 miles
Distance from Dauphin Island to the Rigolets - - - - - - 9
Washington, April 8, 1820.
I have the honor of submitting to you, as you require, the motives which determined the board to propose occupying the eastern point of Dauphin Island by a fort of the same importance and dimensions as that which has been projected at Mobile Point.
In the report presented by the board (1818) on the defense of the frontier of the Union, on the Gulf of Mexico, the following considerations are those which determined us to defend the entrance of Mobile Bay: 1st, To prevent the enemy from occupying it as a port of refuge, from whence he might act against the other parts of the frontier; (a consideration which would become of still greater importance, if, in consequence of the acquisition of Florida, Pensacola became a naval depot and harbor of rendezvous.) 2d, To prevent the mouths of the navigable rivers which fall into this bay from being blockaded, which in time of war would cut off the State of Alabama (and all the new States to be formed hereafter on that frontier) from all communication with the ocean; and, when on this subject, we shall observe that the communication between the Tennessee and the ocean will hereafter take place through Mobile Bay by artificial canals. 3d, To secure the communication between New Orleans and Mobile bay by Lake Pontchartrain, and the little interior sea comprised between the main and the chain of islands bounded by Cat Island to the west, and Dauphin Island to the east.
Upon these principles we must conclude that it is not sufficient to close the entrance into Mobile bay, but that we must prevent it from being blockaded, as well as localities will allow.
The entrance into the bay between Dauphin Island and Mobile Point is from three to three and a half miles wide, and has two channels of entry. The eastern and principal channel is one mile wide opposite Mobile Point, and is crossed, three miles below, and to the south of it, by a bar which has only from seventeen to eighteen feet of water at full tide. The western channel passes at one thousand two hundred yards' distance from the eastern point of Dauphin Island; its breadth is about three hundred yards, and it is about ten feet deep; the eastern or farther side of this channel is thus at the same distance (one mile) from Dauphin Island as the western or further side of the main channel is from Mobile Point. This breadth (one mile) is rather too great to be very effectually or strongly defended by land batteries above; the board have, therefore, recommended, in time of war, to defend these channels by a division of gun-boats acting in concert with the forts supported by and supporting them.
The first object of the fort projected on the eastern point of Dauphin Island is thus to batter the western channel, where vessels constructed for that purpose, drawing from eight to nine feet of water, and carrying from twelve to fifteen guns, might penetrate into the bay. But it also satisfies to many other important conditions. 1st. It will deprive the enemy of the anchorage north of Pelican Island, and three hundred yards south of Dauphin Island, and secure it to the navy of the Union. This anchorage is fit for ships drawing from seventeen to eighteen feet, and if it were in the enemy's possession, it would afford him every facility for blockading the bay, or penetrating into the western channel. The fort will protect this anchorage, partly by its own fire, and partly by the fire of batteries erected in time of war under its protection. 2d. Occupying the eastern point of Dauphin Island, this fort forms a kind of tete du pont, by which troops may at all times be thrown into the island, to prevent an enemy from establishing himself in it, and cutting off the communications, mentioned above, between Lake Pontchartrain and Mobile bay. 3d. This fort, to the east point of Dauphin Island, will serve as a depot of all the means and stores of armament, ammunitions, and provisions, necessary to act with the navy; and defend, by temporary batteries, the several passes between the islands above mentioned, which cover the interior channel of navigation, uniting New Orleans, by Lake Pontchartrain, with Mobile bay.
As to the dimensions of the fort to be established on the eastern point of Dauphin Island, if we consider that it will have a passage to defend of the same breadth as the passage defended by the fort on Mobile Point; that it must, moreover, bear fires upon the anchorage south of the island; that it lies more distant from succors than Mobile Point; and that, in time of war, it must serve as a depot for the stores and armament necessary for the protection of the coasting trade and navigation to the west of the bay, we must conclude that its strength and dimensions can not be made inferior to those of the fort projected at Mobile Point.
I have the honor to remain, colonel, very respectfully, your most obedient humble servant,
BERNARD, Brig. Gen.
To Colonel W. K. Armistead, Chief Engineer. Engineer Department.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walker_Keith_Armistead
A true copy. J. L. SMITH, Lieutenant Engineers.
Washington, April 10, 1820.
I have the honor of transmitting to you the motives for which, in my opinion, the fort projected by the board to occupy Mobile Point cannot be reduced in its dimensions, without interfering with its objects.
You will find, in the report presented by the board, (1818,) that fifty-four pieces of the armament of the fort were destined to batter on the sea side, and an equal number on the land side. But fifty-four pieces are not too many to defend a channel of nearly one mile in breadth, and of depth sufficient to admit vessels drawing fifteen feet; and that number of guns, as well as the dimensions of the fort, would have been augmented, if the board had not taken into consideration that it was purposed to strengthen the defense of the channel by gun-boats acting in co-operation with the forts.
By land, the fort is exposed to a regular attack on every side. It was, therefore, necessary to give it sufficient means of defense, to allow time for succors to arrive before it could be taken. If we consider that on this frontier the population is widely scattered, we must conclude that a longer time will be necessary to assemble the militia there than on other points, and that the fort must be constructed with sufficient strength to resist an invading enemy, until it can be relieved.
I shall only add one consideration to those which I have exposed before. If, in consequence of the acquisition of the Floridas, Pensacola become a naval depot and a harbor of rendezvous, Mobile Bay would be a most favorable place of arms for an enemy to operate from thence upon the naval establishments of Pensacola.
These motives, joined to those which I have had the honor of addressing to you on the 8th instant, have brought complete conviction (at least to my mind) that the forts projected by the board at Dauphin Island and Mobile Point cannot be diminished in their dimensions without exposing that important position to be insufficiently defended.
I have the honor,
Sec. BERNARD, Brig. Gen.
To Colonel W. K. Armistead, Chief Engineer.
A true copy: J. L. SMITH, Lieutenant Corps of Engineers. This week's DAUPHIN ISLAND HISTORY BLOG entry is a little long but it's a good'un. Most of this post covers THE WEST POINT OF DAUPHIN ISLAND, a place over seven miles away from anyone living on D.I. in the present-day. Not only was the WEST POINT AREA the probable location of Iberville's pile of human bones but the WEST POINT AREA of D.I. figures prominently in the strategic geography of two of Dauphin Island's greatest armed amphibious invasions: The U.S. Navy's two-week-long bombardment of Fort Powell @ Grant's Pass in February of 1864 and the U.S. Army's amphibious landing at the west point on August 2, 1864.(this new entry also includes pilot guides for the mouth of Mobile Bay from 1823 and 1839.) Check out the latest BLAST FROM D.I.'S PAST @http://dauphinislandhistory.blogspot.com
ABSTRACT LOG OF THE U.S.S. J.P. JACKSON, Acting Volunteer Lieutenant M.B. Crowell, U.S. Navy, Commanding
February 16, 1864 — From 12 to 4 a. m. : At anchor with the fleet off Dauphin Island. Moderate breezes from N. N.W. Saw several lights on the north shore and one on the Shell Bank. At daylight got our anchor, went alongside the schooner ORVETTA, took her in tow, placed her in position, she stopping in the mud, Shell Bank bearing E., west point of Dauphin Island woods bearing S. E. \ S. Returned for another schooner. At 8 took the O. H. LEE in tow and placed her in position; Shell Bank bearing E. by N., woods S. E. Returned and took the HENRY JAMES into position at 9:30; Shell Bank bearing E. by N. 1/2 N., west point of woods on Dauphin Island bearing S. E. 1/2 S. At 9 o'clock U. S. S. Port Royal arrived from westward. At 9 : 30 the first shot was fired by U. S. S. Octorara. At 10 o'clock took our station on the left as far to northward as we could get, in 8 feet 6 inches water, between the Orvetta and O. H. Lee, and engaged rebel works with Sawyer rifle. At 12:40 ceased firing, having fired 42 shell, 23 of which taking effect inside the enemy's works. Up to this time none of the mortars have struck the fort. Saw a steamer, sloop, and schooner outside. The enemy returned our fire briskly at times, most of the shot fell short. From 12 to 4 p. m. moderate wind from N. N. W. All the mortar boats moving nearer to the fort under sail. At 2:30 p. m. the Sebayo stood to the westward. At 3:30 we commenced action again. At 3:50 the fifth shell was fired, when the Sawyer rifle split in the vent, about five inches long, which rendered it useless. During the afternoon action was continued by the steamers and mortar schooners with but little success. From 4 to 6 p. m. : Communicated with the senior officer. The rebel gunboat Gaines came down Mobile Bay and anchored near the Shell Bank. At 5:15 withdrew from action; stood to S. to communicate with outside fleet. Saw a gunboat outside standing to eastward. At 6:30 stood nearer the fleet. At 7 anchored in our former position.
PAGE 132-136 from CONFEDERATE MOBILE by Arthur W. Bergeron, Jr.
The anticipated attack on Fort Powell began on February 16, 1864. Six mortar schooners and four gunboats opened fire on the fort about nine o'clock that morning. The Confederates manning the guns in Powell replied infrequently to the enemy bombardment [ed. note: Fort Powell's guns included two SELMA, ALABAMA-made 7 inch Brooke Rifled Cannon, the most accurate naval gun of its day, as well as the Columbiad cannon now located near the Admiral Semmes statue at Government and Royal.] Most of the shells hurled at the fort fell short. A Confederate officer wrote later to his girlfriend: "The damage to the Fort was very trifling." At least five Federal shells exploded in the officers' quarters and destroyed them. Two men in the fort, one of them Lieutenant Colonel James M. Williams, commanding the post, were wounded during the attack. A shell fragment knocked Williams down and stunned him. According to a newspaper report, he barely escaped being killed: "The shell grazed the front of his arm and body, entirely tearing away the sleeve and breast of his coat." At least one Confederate concluded from the results of the bombardment that naval fire alone would not reduce the fort.
Heavy winds from the north prevented the Federal vessels from renewing their attack for a week...
... Farragut's mortar schooners and gunboats renewed their attack on Fort Powell on February 23 and continued the bombardment the two days following. On the twenty third, the Federal gunners fired slightly more than 300 shells at the fort but caused no damage and no casualties. During the attack on the following day, the Federal vessels threw nearly 375 shells toward Fort Powell. Again, few shells struck the target, and those that did had no serious effects. The Confederate artillerymen in Fort Powell initiated action on February 25 by firing on the Federal squadron. Despite the 470 shells fired in reply by the enemy, the fort sustained less damage than it had the previous day, although the garrison lost one man killed and two wounded.
A frustrated Union officer wrote to a comrade about these fruitless attacks: "We are hammering away at the fort here, which minds us about as much as if we did not fire- that is, the fort- for the men skedaddle as soon as the fire is at all brisk, although they will keep up anything like a fair fight, as they did with me for two hours yesterday in the ORVETTA, and until the the others commenced action, when they retired."
Heavy northerly winds, low tides and bad weather prevented Farragut's vessels from renewing their attack on Fort Powell until February 29, but on that day they carried ouOnagain had only negligible results: "Only 20[shells] struck the island and 3, the bombproof, killing or wounding no one and damaging the Fort so slightly that ten men in ten minutes restored it to its former condition." The Confederate gunners fired slightly more effectively than before. Although one of their cannons burst, the men kept on a steady barrage. Five shells struck one of the mortar schooners, forcing her out of action. The commander of the Confederate ram BALTIC wrote to a friend about the engagement:
"I saw some beautiful line shots made...during the bombardment, and am satisfied at least one of the mortar schooners would have sunk if sailors had been handling it [Fort Powell cannon], but unfortunately those who were working it knew not how to sight a gun." Finally, at sunset Farragut ordered his ships to break off the engagement. The fort's flag remained flying as the Federal vessels sailed westward.
The bombardment of February 29 convinced Farragut that further attacks on Fort Powell would yield no better results. He also realized that he could do nothing that would result in the capture of the forts guarding the entrances of Mobile Bay. High winds and low tides had prevented the Federal vessels from getting any closer than two miles to the fort. Several ships ran aground during the two-week demonstration and had to be towed off. The low water had made it almost impossible for small boats to land an assault force near the fort. Buchanan's [namesake for Buchanan Drive] small squadron of gunboats had assumed a position in the rear of Fort Powell where they could take the garrison off or reinforce it. The ironclad TENNESSEE could not get over the Dog River bar, but Farragut mistook the BALTIC or another vessel for the TENNESSEE. Thinking the iron clad ready for action, Farragut did not feel he could run into the bay without monitors or ironclads of his own. Lacking troops to cut off the land approaches to the Confederate forts, the Union admiral decided he could not attack Mobile Bay successfully and chose to end his demonstration.
PAGE 505 of HISTORY OF IOWA REGIMENTS IN THE WAR OF THE REBELLION(concerning the landing of the 34th IOWA INFANTRY on the west point of D.I. the night of Tuesday, August 2, 1864) :
The operations of Rear-Admiral Farragut and General Granger against Forts Powell, Gaines and Morgan were brief and brilliant; and the troops who joined in these operations may well feel proud of their achievements. On the 2nd of August, 1864, General Granger effected a landing on Dauphin Island, and within twenty-one days from that time, each one of these forts was in the possession of our forces. The 34th Iowa was the first regiment to disembark on the west point of Dauphin Island. It was soon joined by the 96th Ohio, and a colored regiment; when the entire force, under command of Colonel Clark, with skirmishers well advanced and extending from shore to shore, marched forward in the direction of Fort Gaines. The night was dark and stormy, and an east wind beat a drenching rain directly in the faces of the troops. To any but soldiers, the occasion would have been dismal; but these brave fellows,trudging on through the mud and rain, were jocose and merry. Colonel Clark advanced about six miles, and to within two miles of the fort, when he halted and rested his command in line of battle. At day-light he was joined by the 67th Indiana, the 77th Illinois and the 3rd Maryland; when, after slight demonstrations, the fort surrendered.
PILOT GUIDES FOR THE MOUTH OF MOBILE BAY FROM 1823 AND 1839:
PAGE 145-146, COLOMBIAN NAVIGATOR; OR, SAILING DIRECTORY FOR THE AMERICAN COASTS AND WEST INDIES, 1823
The Massacre Island [ed. note: present-day Petit Bois Island) is rather more than 2 miles distant from Horn Island ; and between the two is a flat, with only 6 feet of water : the island is about 8 miles in length, very narrow, but remarkable, because it has a thicket of trees on its middle part, while there is not a tree on the rest of it. From Massacre to Dauphin Island, the distance is 4 miles, and a shoal extends almost the whole way. Dauphin Island is about 6 miles in length, and two in width, where broadest. The western part of it is a narrow tongue of land, with some withered trees ; the rest of it is thickly covered with pines, which, at the east part, almost come down to the beach.
Dauphin Island forms the west part of the entrance of the Bay of Mobile ; and, on the north, another island, named Gillori (ed. note: present-day Little Dauphin Island), succeeds it : from this to the continent there is a chain of shoals, through the straits, among which boats only can pass. Within a mile to the south of Dauphin Island is Pelican Island, which is arid and small ; about 3 miles from Pelican, to the east of it, is the east point of the bay, which is named Mobile Point, upon which there is a fort, and a thicket of low bushes.
MOBILE, — Between Dauphin Island, Pelican Island, and Mobile Point, there are shoals extending out from all of them, and which leave a channel of only about one-third of a mile in width ; these shoals extend to the southward about 4 miles ; and this is the length of the channel, in which there are from 4 to 7 fathoms, except at its beginning, where there are only 15 or 16 feet. The most certain mark to cross the bar in the deepest water by, is to bring the east end of Dauphin Island to N.W. by N., [N. 26° W.] and, following this course until Mobile Point and Fort bear, N. 1/2 W. [North] at the distance of 4 miles, you will be very near to the step of the bar, in 7 fathoms : from this spot, instantly, and in another heave of the lead, you may be past the bar, and be again in deeper water. It ought always to be kept 'in mind that this bar, being so very steep, is continually altering when there is a swell on ; therefore, no vessel drawing above 10 feet ought ever to attempt crossing it in bad weather. The first direction of this bar is towards Dauphin Island, by which you ought to steer at more than the distance of a mile ; and, having passed the knee of the east shoals, direct yourself to the N. by E. 1/2 E. for Mobile Point, to the north of which you may anchor in 5 or 6 fathoms, but without shelter ; for the bay is very large, and the current in it very rapid.
From Mobile Point to the fort and town, which are on the northernmost part of the west coast, the distance is 9 leagues, and the depth diminishes gradually from 3 to 2 fathoms and less water.
The Town of Mobile, at the mouth of the River Tombigbee, is built on the side of a hill. It was, formerly, a city of considerable importance, is pretty regular, of an oblong figure, and situated on the west bank of the river. The Bay of Mobile terminates at a little to the north-eastward of the town, in a number of marshes and lagoons, which subject the inhabitants to fevers and agues in the hot season. Fort Conde, which stands near the bay, towards the lower end of the town, is a regular fortress of brick, and there is a neat square of barracks for soldiers.
Large vessels cannot go within 7 miles of the town, so great a part of the bay being shoal. On the shores are great numbers of alligators, as well as in the rivers and lagoons.
Mr. Darby says that, " Above the bay, the river of Mobile presents an appearance nearly similar to that of the Mississippi ; but the banks of the bay are generally high, and not subject to inundation. "
Between the localities on the Mississippi and Mobile rivers there exists a very strong contrast. From the shortness of its course, the latter is scarcely subject to any of the evils attending an inundated country, when compared to the former. The floods of the Mobile are sudden, and soon subside : they occur at most seasons of the year, but are most abundant in spring. Before the violent heats of summer, the waters of the Tombigbee and Alabama are abated, and their swamps are, in a great measure, drained.
PAGE 194-195, COLOMBIAN NAVIGATOR; OR, SAILING DIRECTORY FOR THE AMERICAN COASTS AND WEST INDIES, 1839
MOBILE — Between Dauphin Island, Pelican Island, and Mobile Point, there are shoals extending out from all of them, and which leave a channel of only about one-third of a mile in width ; these shoals extend to the southward about 4 miles ; and this is the length of the channel, in which there are from 4 to 7 fathoms, except at its beginning, where there are only 15 or 16 feet. The new lighthouse on Mobile Point exhibits a brilliant fixed light, at 55 feet above the level of the sea. Besides this light- house several buoys have been laid down to facilitate the navigation. On the Bar, in 17 feet of water, on the eastern side of the main ship channel, is a spar buoy, painted black above white, the lighthouse bearing, by compass, North, distance five and one half miles. Passing this buoy, the course in is N.N.W. 1/2 W. in 4, 5, 6, and 7, fathoms of water, until past Sand Isle [Little Pelican?] on the `larboard hand.
E. 1/2 N. from the Sand Isle, and on the eastern side of the channel, is another spar- buoy, painted white above black, in 10 feet of water, lying on a very steep bank ; midway between which and the island is the main channel.
W.N.W. from the lighthouse, on the west bank, in two fathoms of water, is a third buoy, painted white. There is also an iron spindle or beacon on Sand or Little Pelican Isle.
To enter, bring the east end of Dauphin Island to N.W. by N., [N 26 degrees W.] and, following this course until Mobile Point and Fort bear N. 1/2 W. [North] at the distance of 4 miles, you will be very near to the step of the bar, in 7 fathoms : from this spot, instantly, and in another heave of the lead, you may be past the bar, and be again in deeper water. It ought always to be kept in mind that this bar, being so very steep, is continually altering when there is a swell on ; therefore, no vessel drawing above 10 feet ought ever to attempt crossing it in bad weather. The first direction of this bar is towards Dauphin Island, by which you ought to steer at more than the distance of a mile ; and, having passed the knee of the east shoals, direct yourself to the N. by E.1/2 E for Mobile Point, to the north of which you may anchor in 5 or 6 fathoms, but without shelter; for the bay is very large, and the current in it very rapid.
From Mobile Point to the fort and town, which are on the northernmost part of the west coast, the distance is 9 leagues, and the depth diminishes gradually from 3 to 2 fathoms and less water.
The Town of Mobile, at the mouth of the river, is built on the side of a hill. It was, formerly, a city of considerable importance, is pretty regular, of an oblong figure, and situated on the west bank of the river ; but the greater part was burnt down in the autumn of 1827.
The Bay of Mobile terminates at a little to the north-eastward of the town, in a number of marshes and lagoons, which subject the inhabitants to fevers and agues in the hot season. Fort Conde, which stands near the bay, towards the lower end of the town, is a regular fortress of brick, and there is a neat square of barracks for soldiers. At a. mile below this, on Choctaw Point, is a harbour-light, for which a grant was made in 1828. This light, bearing N. by W. J W., leads directly up to Mobile.
Large vessels cannot go within 7 miles of the town, so great a part of the bay being shoal.
On the shores are great numbers of alligators, as well as in the rivers and lagoons.
Mr. Darby says that, " Above the bay, the river of Mobile presents an appearance nearly similar to that of the Mississippi ; but the banks of the bay are generally high, and not subject to inundation. "Between the localities on the Mississippi and Mobile rivers there exists a very strong contrast. From the shortness of its course,- the latter is scarcely subject to any of the evils attending an inundated country, when compared with the former. The floods of the Mobile are sudden, and soon subside : they occur at most seasons of the year, but are most abundant in spring. Before the violent heats of summer, the waters of the Tombigbee and Alabama are abated, and their swamps are, in a great measure, drained."
In February, 1815, H.M. ship Gorgon, Captain R. R. Bowden, lay at anchor, in 6 1/2 fathoms, sand and mud, clean good holding ground, three miles South of Dauphin Island, with the Bar of Mobile bearing E. by N. While in this situation, a strong gale of wind blew on shore from the S.W., and veered to the S.E. A long heavy sea set in, — the ship pitched deep with a heavy roll,— perhaps from an undertow : in this manner, with a whole cable, and top-gallant-masts struck, the ship rode perfectly safe, with little strain on her cable, for thirty hours, when the wind shifted to East, and from East to N.N.E., and blew very cold and heavy for thirty-six hours. The strong southerly swell, setting on shore, caused the ship to roll heavily, but perfectly safe and easy. Captain Bowden says, " I never observed either a S.E., S.W., or N.E., gale continue forty-eight hours, — seldom more than thirty. The N.E. gales are heaviest ; and perhaps southerly gales are not dangerous. Southerly gales veer round to the eastward,moderate a few hours, and are succeeded by strong N.E. and N.N.E. gales. N.E. gales veer to the N.W. and West, become moderate, and fine in a few hours. " Having rode out the gales from the S.S.E. and N.N.E. I weighed, on the 23rd of February, for the Havanna, the wind blowing strong from the N.E."
The rise and fall of tide, near the Bar of Mobile, when uninfluenced by the wind, is about 2 feet on the full and change ; commonly, 16 to 18 inches.