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8 The Mobile Campaign It appeared to me that all hell had turned loose. —Pvt. William Kavanaugh, CSA Protected by her earthworks, artillery, channel pilings, torpedoes, water bat­ teries, and skeleton navy, Confederate Mobile awaited the hammer blow. Grumpy doomsayers, or “croakers” as they were called, ominously predicted defeat and desolation. Lieutenant Mumford, buffeted by high winter winds, soaked by rain, and sprayed by breaking waves at Battery Gladden, conceded in his diary, “The prospects of the Confederacy look gloomy.” Official voices were more sanguine. In early March, General Maury reassured the Advertiser and Register’s readers, “Our fortifications are strong—our stores are abundant and good—our troops are veterans—and with the cordial support of the people in all measures required for pub­ lic safety, and, with the blessing of Almighty God, are confident of victory.” In an effort to prepare Mobile for siege, authorities ordered civilians evacuated, barrooms shuttered, and all cotton turned over to the military. Williams, now stationed at one of the batteries ringing the city, informed Lizzie that the intent of the dictate to turn over all the cotton was to burn it if Mobile fell, saving it from “the Yankee maw.”1 The press endorsed these moves and encouraged the people to acquiesce. “Women, children and slaves, if there be means of sending them away, had better go without delay,” the Mobile Telegraph exhorted. “It is no pleasant thing to have bomb shells falling around our houses.” Despite the urgency, compliance was limited to nonexistent. While some fled with all the valuables they could carry, most simply waited—unable to leave, too war-­ weary to care, or Mobile Campaign 169 hopeful that the defenses would hold. Tavern keepers and merchants similarly ignored the barroom order and continued plying the thirsty troops with all the whiskey they could drink, at three to five dollars a glass. Predictably, arrests for carousing and drunkenness were commonplace. Lastly, no one wanted to surrender their cotton if they had any. Citizens viewed the commodity as a valuable liquid asset and very practically and reasonably concluded that its possession would be a signal advantage once the war ended. Authorities were determined, however, and Williams informed his wife that every house in town “is being rigidly searched and cotton is discovered where no one suspected its existence.” In some cases, he wrote, “it has been found under floors or buried in cisterns—I heard of one who had a single bale disguised as a bed-­ covered with sheets and blankets with an innocent pillow at the head.”2 Despite the increasing austerity, Mobile struck many observers as profligate and carefree even as Union forces marshaled for the coup de grâce. A member of New Orleans’ famed Wash­ ing­ ton Artillery, Philip D. Stephenson, later recalled that “a semblance of the ways of peace still existed there. Coffee houses were in full blast where ‘coffee’ could be bought for a dollar a cup, with an ‘ironclad’ pie thrown in.” James Maxwell, an artilleryman assigned to the city defenses, delightedly discovered that fish and oysters “were plentiful, as well as eggs and vegetables.” Kate Cumming, depressed by her months of hospital work, remarked disapprovingly that the city “never was as gay as it is at the present; not a night passes but some large ball or party is given. Same old excuse : that they are for the benefit of the soldiers; and indeed the soldiers seem to enjoy them.” Maxwell and some of his comrades even got to pay a visit to local literary celebrity Augusta Jane Evans, noted for her ardent Confederate patriotism and intimidating vocabulary. “We were in our new gray jeans jackets and pants and linsey shirts,” he wrote. Nonetheless, Maxwell and his companions felt underdressed amid so many senior officers “rigged out in their best uniforms.” It mattered not. “We were welcomed, introduced all around, entertained on equality.” While the officers clustered around the writer and her father, the enlisted men chatted amiably and played “back gammon checkers and cards” with Evans’s younger sisters. When the soldiers left, Miss ‘Gusta, as she was affectionately called, referenced the stormy weather, saying, “I hope you gentlemen will not form an opinion about the meteorology of Mobile, 170 Chapter 8 by what you have seen since your arrival.” “Yes Madam,” they politely replied as they left the porch. But as they walked away one of the men asked, “what in the mischief she said? Meteor—meteor, what?”3 When...


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