Aug. 5, 2014; 150th anniversary of the Battle of Mobile Bay. Mobile Bay was the last open major port to be held by the South.
Farrigut, the first US Navy officer ever promoted to Admiral, was on the flagship as the fleet ran the gauntlet of forts, cannons and Confederate ships protecting the bay that day. The Union ships were in single line formation, the Harford second in line. The lead ship, the USS Tecumseh, hit a torpedo (today called a mine), immediately capsized taking 113 of its crew down as it sank.
As the sloops and gunships started to stack up behind the Hartford, against his staff recommendation he order the Hartford to take the lead by giving the immortal naval command, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" The cannon smoke on the bay became so thick he ordered his staff to tie him to the mainmast so he could see above the smoke to command the fleet. Farrigut later said this three hour battle was the most ferocious battle yet in the history of the US Navy. The news of the great victory was said to have been a major boost to Lincoln in gaining his second term nomination and election.
This battle is the last time the cannon was fired in combat. Prior to Mobile Bay the Hartford took part in two other key naval battles that helped separate the Western confederacy from the East; the capture of New Orleans, the South's richest and most populous city (1862) and Vicksburg (1863) that denied the rebels access to the Mississippi. Farragut was promoted to rear admiral after the battle of New Orleans.
The Dalgren IX Inch Cannon was a formidable weapon during the war. This one cast in iron in 1859, was designed to fire solid shot as well as explosive shells at high velocity and great range and at a flat trajectory, greatly increasing accuracy. It was capable of firing shot, shell, shrapnel, canister and grapeshot. No Dahlgren shell gun burst during service, a notable distinction for the time. At 15 degrees of elevation with a 90 lb. shell its range was two miles. The cannon weighs over 2 1/2 tons.
Since 1905 the IX Inch Dalhgren Cannon has resided on a pedestal in Pennsylvania Park in downtown Petoskey, Michigan. It was dedicated on July 4th. Many members of the Grand Army of the Republic (Civil War Union veterans) were in attendance.
As you can see from the pictures this national treasure, a key piece of US Naval history, is showing the effects of weather exposure for the last 109 years. It is time to have it restored and preserved for this and future generations. Currently there is inadequate signage for the cannon and the vast majority of locals and visitors to this popular resort town, itself on the National Register of Historic Places, have no idea of the significance of the cannon or even to which war it belongs. Sadly many have never heard of Adm. Farragut or "Damn the Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead!" Funds are being raised to purchase a state historical marker, to enlist a metallurgist for an assessment and strategy for reconditioning, and then the work itself.
Depending on the source the USS Hartford carried either 20 or 26 of the Dahlgrens; it may have differed over the ship's 40 plus years as a commissioned Naval ship. It's final decommission was in 1926 and the storied ship unfortunately became a derelict and sank in its berth in 1956 then subsequently dismantled.
Please contribute and save this impressive part of US history for this and future generations.
More annotated photos at: www.facebook.com/PetoskeyFarragutCannon
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