“Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” Titled after a famous Civil War naval battle, the guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) continues to uphold the war-fighting legacy of the Battle of Mobile Bay.
Union forces, under the command of Adm. David Farragut, and Confederate forces, under Adm. Franklin Buchanan, squared off in the last consequential Gulf Coast port of Mobile, Ala., on Aug. 5, 1864.
The Confederacy littered the only approach to the port of Mobile Bay with mines and other obstructions, known during the American Civil War as torpedoes, with the hope that the bay would remain in their hands. Embarked on USS Hartford, the flagship of an 18-ship force, Farragut was determined to take Mobile, the last working, Confederate port, into Union possession.
Against the Confederate ironclad flagship, CSS Tennessee, and three other Confederate ships, CSS Morgan, CSS Gaines, and CSS Selma, Farragut's fleet moved into the channel and was immediately hit with fire from Fort Morgan, a Confederate emplacement overlooking the bay. The battle formation broke apart and the ships began to lose their bearings with each other. With fire from the fort raining down on his fleet, it was at that moment that Farragut gave the order to “damn the torpedoes” and moved into Mobile Bay at full speed.
Buchanan's fleet of four Confederate ships were quickly overwhelmed as Farragut's fleet converged on the bay. The Tennessee was rammed and hit with broadside cannon fire for two hours before losing steering and going dead in the water. Only then, did Tennessee strike their colors and the wounded Buchanan gave the order to surrender, concluding one of the most important naval battles of the Civil War.