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Mobile as a Confederate City,

Mobile, the state's only seaport and the Confederacy's second largest Gulf port, virtually lost its cotton trade during the war due to the Federal blockade and Confederate embargo. Escaping direct attack until the end of the war, the city of 30,000 in 1860 grew to about 45,000 in 1865 as it served the Confederacy as a site for training camps, recreation, and medical care.

After the passage of Alabama's ordinance of secession on January 11, 1861, southern loyalty for secessionists eventually overrode unionist sentiment. Mobilians supported the Confederacy hoping that it would, among other things, end their colonial relationship to the North and spur growth in their city.

At the outset of the Civil War the location of Mobile made it one of ten key southern ports for Union blockaders. Initially the blockade proved ineffective. Federals only blockaded the main entrances to Mobile; the side entrances, coast and inlets remained unguarded. In early 1862 trade continued without much interruption between New Orleans and Mobile and Havana by bayou and inland channels. Immediately after the capture of New Orleans in April 1862, blockade running decreased sharply. Admiral David Farragut's capture of Mobile Bay in August 1864 essentially halted blockade running.

Despite the blockade Mobile's social activities continued. Residents and visitors observed local social customs such as gentlemen calling on the ladies of their acquaintance on New Year's Day. Naval officers visited fashionable homes, whose hosts and hostesses they entertained with ship-board balls, dinners, and moonlight cruises. A local newspaper dubbed Mobile the "Paris of the Confederacy." Some of the most fashionable homes where Mobilians entertained visiting generals, politicians, and literary figures were those of Octavia Walton Le Vert, Mary Walker Fearn, Augusta Evans, and General Dabney H. Maury, commander of the Department of the Gulf from the summer of 1863 to the end of the war. Numerous balls and concerts benefitted needy groups of soldiers and civilians. As touring companies curtailed their travels during the war, the Mobile Theatre relied heavily on local actors to offer plays. Visitors, particularly soldiers, comprised the bulk of audiences.

A variety of local hospitals provided good medical care to soldiers and civilians. Five hospitals that operated when the war began continued to provide services. From 1861 through 1864 Confederate authorities opened seven additional hospitals for soldiers and sailors. Local women formed charitable associations to serve patients in the hospitals. Augusta Evans even personally established and equipped a convalescent hospital on the grounds of her home.

With the blockade cutting imports, and Federal occupation and Confederate impressment interfering with transport of goods from the hinterland of Mobile, food shortages and inflation troubled residents. Municipal authorities sponsored a Free Market that served hundreds of poor residents. Private organizations labored to meet various needs: the Volunteer Relief Committee solicited private funds to aid the destitute, the Mobile Military Aid Society employed soldiers' dependents to sew uniforms for Alabama companies in the Confederate army, and the Mobile Supply Association hired agents to procure foodstuffs from areas north of Mobile, ship them to the city, and sell them at cost. All of these efforts failed to avert a bread riot staged in 1863 by women protesting shortages and high prices of food. Their protest sparked new charitable groups to relieve the distress of many needy families.

Its isolation from the war allowed Mobile to provide notable educational and publishing activities for the Confederacy. While local public and private schools reduced operations during the war and the Medical College of Alabama in the city closed its doors, Spring Hill College, the Jesuit institution, continued to hold its regular sessions, even with fluctuations in numbers of students and faculty. By 1865 enrollment reached an all-time high as parents, including high-ranking Confederate officers, placed their sons in the college to protect them against the draft. Two presses in Mobile expanded business because of the war. W. G. Clark and Company, publisher of the Mobile Advertiser and Register, published repeated printings of children's readers by Adelaide de Vendel Chaudron. S. H. Goetzel and Company published Hardee's Tactics, Augusta Evans's Macaria, and a variety of other books.

The Confederate embargo and the Union blockade substantially reduced the trade in cotton through Mobile for the duration of the war. Disruption of foreign trade persisted after the war, as Union occupying forces, which took the city of Mobile in April 1865, closed the port to foreign trade until late in August 1865.