The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Mobile (city)
MOBILE, a port of entry and the capital of Mobile co., Alabama, the largest city and only seaport of the state, on the W. side of Mobile river, immediately above its entrance into the bay of the same name, 30 m. from the gulf of Mexico, in lat. 30° 42′ N., lon. 88° W., 180 m. S. W. of Montgomery, and 140 m. by rail E. by N. of New Orleans; pop. in 1820, 2,672; in 1830, 3,194; in 1840, 12,672; in 1850, 20,515; in 1860, 29,258; in 1870, 32,034; of whom 13,919 were colored and 4,239 foreigners. The number of families was 6,301; of dwellings, 5,738. The corporate limits extend 6 m. N. and S., and 2 or 3 m. W. from the river. The thickly inhabited part of the city extends for about a mile along the river, and nearly the same distance back to the westward. Its site is a sandy plain, rising as it recedes from the water. The streets are generally regular, well paved, and shaded. There are several fine public buildings, among which is a handsome market house with rooms for the municipal offices in the upper story. The custom house has also accommodations for the post office and United States courts. Among the other noticeable buildings are the theatre, Odd Fellows' and temperance halls, guard house and tower, medical college, and the Barton academy. Mobile is lighted with gas, and supplied with water of unusual purity and excellence, which is brought a little more than 5 m., from the foot of Spring hill. Six lines of street railroad traverse the city. The climate is generally healthful, except for occasional visitations of epidemic yellow fever. High and healthful hills within a few miles N. W. and S. W. afford permanent or summer residences. Four lines of railroad furnish communication with various points in the south, viz.: the Mobile and Ohio; Mobile and Montgomery; New Orleans, Mobile, and Texas; and Alabama Grand Trunk. The trade of Mobile is much hindered by the shallowness of its harbor. Vessels drawing more than 8 or 10 ft. are obliged to anchor in the bay, 25 m. or more from the city. In 1873 congress appropriated $100,000 for the completion of improvements in the harbor, which it is hoped will enable vessels of 13 ft. draught to reach the wharves. The chief business is the receipt and shipment of cotton. The following table exhibits the number of bales received and shipped for six years:
| To foreign
| To domestic
The trade in naval stores and lumber produced in the vicinity is increasing. In 1873 the shipments consisted of 15,000 to 20,000 barrels of spirits of turpentine, 75,000 to 100,000 of rosin, and 1,000 of tar, together valued at $750,000, and 2,627,549 ft. of lumber. The importation of coffee is also increasing, and in 1872-'3 amounted to 58,956 bags. The trade with foreign ports since 1867 (years ending June 30) is shown in the following table:
Of the exports in 1874, $9,384,820 consisted of cotton. The entrances from foreign ports during the year ending June 30, 1874, numbered 53, with an aggregate tonnage of 33,667; clearances to foreign ports 41, tonnage 32,509. The coastwise entrances were 135, tonnage 48,373; coastwise clearances, 123, tonnage 45,115. In 1873 80 sailing vessels of 7,586 tons, 30 steamers of 7,316 tons, and 22 barges of 1,475 tons, belonged to the port. Steamers run regularly to Montgomery and other points on the Alabama, Tombigbee, and Black Warrior rivers. The principal manufactories are two of sash, doors, and blinds, one of paper, several of carriages and cabinet ware, two cooperages, a brewery, three saw mills, and four founderies and machine shops. There are two national banks, with a joint capital of $800,000; two state banks, with $1,000,000 capital; two savings banks, and nine insurance companies.—Mobile is divided into eight wards, and is governed by a mayor, with a board of councilmen of one member and a board of aldermen of three members from each ward. It has a municipal court and an efficient fire department and police force. The United States courts for the southern district of Alabama are held here. The principal charitable institutions are four orphan asylums, the city hospital, the United States marine hospital, and the Providence infirmary. The medical college of Alabama was established here in 1859, and in 1873-'4 had 9 professors and 85 students. The number of public schools in the entire county in 1873-'4 was 71 (42 white and 29 colored), with an attendance of about 4,500. The boys' and girls' high schools and a number of the lower grades are held in the Barton academy in the city. There are seven Roman Catholic schools and academies, a Hebrew school, and a number of private schools and academies. Two daily newspapers are published. There are 30 churches, viz.: 5 Baptist (2 colored), 4 Episcopal, 1 German Lutheran, 1 Jewish, 10 Methodist (6 colored), 3 Presbyterian, and 6 Roman Catholic. In the immediate vicinity of Mobile are the college of St. Joseph at Spring Hill, under direction of the Jesuits, and the academy of the Visitation, Summerville, conducted by the sisters of the Visitation.—Mobile was the original seat of French colonization in the southwest, and for many years the capital of the colony of Louisiana. In 1702 Le Moyne de Bienville transferred the principal seat of the colony from Biloxi to a point on the river Mobile supposed to be about 20 m. above the present city, where he established a fort which he called St. Louis de la Mobile. At the same time he built a fort and warehouse on Isle Dauphine, at the entrance of Mobile bay. Many of the first settlers were Canadians. In 1705 an epidemic, supposed to be the first recorded visitation of yellow fever, carried off 35 persons. The year 1706 was noted for the “petticoat insurrection,” a threatened rebellion of the women, in consequence of dissatisfaction with the diet of Indian corn. The colony frequently suffered from famine, as well as from the attacks of Indians, although relieved by occasional supplies from the mother country. In 1711 the settlement was nearly destroyed by a hurricane and flood, in consequence of which it was removed to its present situation. In 1723 the seat of the colonial government was transferred to New Orleans. In 1763, by the treaty of Paris, Mobile, with all that portion of Louisiana lying E. of the Mississippi and N. of Bayou Iberville, Lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain, passed into the possession of Great Britain. In 1780 the fort, the name of which had been changed to Fort Condé, and subsequently by the British to Fort Charlotte, was captured by the Spanish general Don Galvez, and in 1783 its occupancy was confirmed to Spain by the cession to that power of all the British possessions on the gulf of Mexico. On April 13, 1813, the Spanish-commandant, Cayetano Perez, surrendered the fort and town to Gen. Wilkinson. At that period the population, which in 1785 had amounted to 746, was estimated at only 500 (exclusive of the garrison), half of whom were blacks. In December, 1819, Mobile was incorporated as a city. On Jan. 4, 1861, the state authorities of Alabama took possession of the United States arsenal at Mount Vernon, 35 m. from Mobile, and soon afterward garrisoned Forts Morgan and Gaines at the entrance of the bay, though the state did not secede until the 11th. Mobile was not seriously attacked until the summer of 1864, when the city had been encompassed with three lines of defensive works, while ten batteries commanded the channel below the city, which was also obstructed with rows of piles, and a small confederate fleet, carrying 22 guns and 470 men, was anchored under the guns of Fort Morgan. On Aug. 5 Admiral Farragut, with 18 vessels, carrying 199 guns and 2,700 men, entered the bay under the fire of the two forts, which he returned while passing, but without stopping. He was assisted by 1,500 soldiers, under Gen. Gordon Granger, who were intrenched on Dauphine island, within half a mile of Fort Gaines. Farragut's leading vessel, the Tecumseh, struck a torpedo and instantly sank, carrying down her captain and 112 men. The flag ship Hartford, with the admiral in the rigging, then took the lead, and after an engagement lasting an hour passed the forts and steamed into the bay, followed by the remainder of the fleet. They at once encountered the confederate fleet, which after a sharp conflict was destroyed or captured; the most formidable vessel, the ram Tennessee, did not surrender until a 15-inch shot had penetrated her armor, her steering apparatus had been disabled, and the commander of the fleet, Admiral Buchanan, seriously wounded. The Union loss in this engagement was 52 killed, 170 wounded, and 113 drowned. The confederate loss in the fleet was 10 killed and 19 wounded; in the two forts, 8 killed and 21 wounded. Fort Gaines, with 800 men, surrendered on the 8th. Fort Morgan was at once besieged; it was bombarded and almost entirely destroyed on the 22d, and surrendered on the morning of the 23d. Late in March, 1865, Spanish Fort and Blakely, fortified places on the eastern shore of the bay and Tensas river, were invested by a force of 45,000 men, under Gens. Granger, Steele, and A. J. Smith. These forts were carried by assault on the 8th and 9th of April, 4,000 prisoners being captured, while heavy losses were sustained by the besiegers. Mobile being thus exposed to attack from the river, it was evacuated by the confederates on the 11th, and occupied by the Union troops next day.