Paul Brueske's talk on the Siege of Mobile

For those of you who were unable to get to the June meeting at the Civil Service Club or online here is an opportunity for a treat! or you may just like to watch this superb presentation again. Worth a second view on our youtube channel.

Paul Brueske also has his own youtube offering an it can be found at:

Here is the July 2022 Vedette review written by Peter Barratt:

One of the joys of real meetings is that the subject is usually something which cannot be found in books. This is only partly true in this case because the speaker had written a book on this subject but apart from this there is precious little to be found in the usual sources. And yet, as Paul explained, although little studied, Mobile had a lot of relevance. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Mobile was the fourth largest city in the South (the second when it fell) and a key hub in the cotton trade being at the end of two river systems and having two railroad lines. It soon became a vital port for blockade runners with Cuba as first stop. Despite the grand Union strategy of blockade Mobile was defiant and continued trade with Cuba and beyond. However, following Farragut’s victory at the Battle of Mobile Bay at the beginning of August 1864 the city was virtually sealed off to blockade running but still operated as a logistical centre.

The plan to seize Mobile itself was postponed until March of the following year when Major Generals Edward Canby, Gordon Granger and Frederick Steele led 45,000 Union troops of the XIII and XVI Army Corps in what was to become the final major campaign of the Civil War. They would be opposed by less than 6,000 Rebel troops under Major General Dabney Maury, Commander of the District of the Gulf who would be ably supported by Brigadier Generals John R St Liddell, commanding Fort Blakeley and Randall L Gibson, senior officer of Spanish Fort. Canby’s force departed from Mobile Point and Dauphin Island, Alabama on 17 March 1865, whilst Steele’s column set out from Pensacola, Florida three days later. This was to be a joint navy-army operation however, deterred by the loss of three Union vessels to Confederate torpedoes placed strategically in the approaches to Mobile, it would become almost a purely army undertaking. The navy became very cautious and the army became dispirited by lack of support. The three lines of defences designed by Samuel H Lockett made it the ‘best fortified place in the Confederacy.’ They were astonished by the resistance and this was partly due to the Gumtree Mortars which were sort of light barrels (beer kegs) of explosives hurled at the attackers.

Paul Brueske, our guest speaker from Mobile, utilising an innovative PowerPoint arrangement of original maps and images, proceeded to give an entertaining and informative presentation on the campaign which concluded with the investment and capture of Spanish Fort (27 March-18 April) and Fort Blakeley, (2-9 April). This led to the abandonment of the city by Confederate forces and its surrender three days later. The great events occurring in Virginia at the time have tended to overshadow the Mobile campaign; however, the bravery and determination displayed by both sides during the fierce skirmishes and battles around Mobile is deserving of a wider appreciation.

Paul left us with a few thoughts. Mobile was very much part of Grant’s strategy. It was the second largest city left in the South. It was still a valuable logistical centre. It was the last siege of the war and Ft Blakeley the last major battle. It was the last surrender of organised Confederate forces and guaranteed the end of the war. It also illustrated the advancement of warfare.

As usual with a good talk, it was followed with many questions to which the speaker was able to embellish the answers with vast detail of the participants on both sides. We could do with a book review from our members but it sounds one to get concerning an important but forgotten event of the war.

Paul, who founded the Mobile Round Table, is Head Track and Field Coach at the University of South Alabama and The Last Siege is his first book. His second dealing with Spanish Fort is underway. You can catch Paul’s presentation which will be available shortly on our YouTube link. It is highly recommended viewing.