Page:Confederate Military History - 1899 - Volume 7.djvu/64

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the enemy known the real weakness of the garrison of Mobile, the reduction of the city would have been a matter of days rather than of months. Early in January, 1865, the Federal army went into camp at Barrancas, near the mouth of Pensacola bay. Fort Gaines was strongly garrisoned by them, and reinforcements continued to pour in to the ranks of the invaders on Dauphin island and at Barrancas.

By March, Canby's army amounted to 45,000 men. General Maury had about 9,000 men. His headquarters were at Blakely, about three miles from Spanish Fort, and General Gibson was in command of the fort. To divert attention from their movements against Mobile, concerted attacks were to be made on the interior cities by Steele's column from the south and Wilson's from north Alabama.

Maury's cavalry was kept busy skirmishing in the direction taken by Steele's column, thus weakening the forces at Mobile. The advance was commenced March 17th, and was contested inch by inch, and the defenders were assisted by the natural obstructions found in the swampy roads, rendered almost impassable by incessant rains. March 27th, the siege of Spanish Fort commenced. The garrison comprised troops from Louisiana, Arkansas, Georgia, Texas and North Carolina, and the Alabama reserves under General Thomas. The latter were afterward relieved by Holtzclaw's brigade. The siege was most stubbornly contested. Day by day the enemy drew nearer, and gradually succeeded in getting siege-guns within range of the forts, while the garrison were continually fighting and repairing the breaches made in the walls. General Gibson described their life as "fighting all day and digging all night." They found it impossible to procure the labor and implements needed, and their force was daily growing less. In spite of this they made several brilliant sorties and inflicted terrible damage on the enemy.