Shortly after the New Year, Denbigh made her first
run from Havana, Cuba into Mobile, Alabama. On her first attempt to run out through the
blockade, however, she ran aground in a heavy fog near Fort Morgan, at the entrance to
Mobile Bay. The Federal blockading ships spotted her and opened fire but only hit her
once, with a single shot passing through Denbighs wheelhouse without causing
significant damage. The battery at Fort Morgan returned fire, reportedly hitting one of
the Federal vessels three times and driving the others off. Denbigh remained stranded on
the shore for several days, enduring a continuous long-range (and ineffective) bombardment
from Federal warships while efforts were made to get her off the shore. Denbighs
crew managed to offload enough of her cargo to refloat the vessel, and she returned safely
Denbigh made her reputation running
between Havana and Mobile, Alabama (above).
Denbigh made four more runs into Mobile over the
next four months. Her arrivals at the Mobile wharf became so routine that she earned the
nickname "the Packet," and the grudging respect of the Federal naval forces
tasked with her capture. Although when new she was known as a fast vessel, when running
the blockade she appears to have relied more on stealth than speed. On at least some
occasions Denbigh used the Swash, a narrow channel running eastward along the Gulf
shore of from the mouth of Mobile Bay as opposed to the main and deepest entrance channel.
With her low profile and light draft, Denbigh could easily run between the beach
and the ships of the blockading fleet, and count on being nearly invisible against the
loom of the land behind her.
||Running through the Swash was a
dangerous tactic, and on Denbighs next run into Mobile, in the early morning
hours of June 7, she was fired upon by several of the blockading fleet. At daylight she
was anchored in shallow water under the protection of Fort Morgan, out of the effective
range of the U.S. Navys guns. Admiral Farragut (left), who had been watching Denbighs
regular coming and going with increasing dismay, wrote to a colleague,
we came very near catching the Denbigh . . .
but he was too smart for us and doubled us all and got in and now lies under the fort.
I do not know why, unless some of our boats struck her, which they certainly would
have done but for fear of firing into each other . . . . She has not moved from the fort
yet, so she must have been hit by some of the shot fired at her; but he is a bold rascal,
and well he may be, for if I get him he will see the rest of his days of the war in the
[Federal military prison in the] Tortugas.
Denbighs seventh and last visit to
Mobile came in July 1864, just as the Union fleet was marshalling its forces to seize
control of Mobile Bay and close off that citys access to the Gulf of Mexico. Denbigh
managed to slip out again through the blockading fleet on July 26, the last
blockade-runner to escape from that port. The Federal attack began at dawn on August 5
when Admiral Farragut conned his flagship Hartford past Fort Morgan at the
entrance to the bay; by dusk, Mobiles role as a blockade-running port was over, and
Galveston alone remained open to such efforts in the Gulf.
begins running to Galveston.