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The "Mobile Packet"

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 Denbigh’s 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. Denbigh’s crew managed to offload enough of her cargo to refloat the vessel, and she returned safely to Mobile.

mobile01.jpg (39983 bytes) 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.

farragut.jpg (21136 bytes) Running through the Swash was a dangerous tactic, and on Denbigh’s 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. Navy’s guns. Admiral Farragut (left), who had been watching Denbigh’s 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.

Denbigh’s 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 city’s 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, Mobile’s role as a blockade-running port was over, and Galveston alone remained open to such efforts in the Gulf.

Next: Denbigh begins running to Galveston.


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What's New?

new.gif (977 bytes) John Newland Maffitt and the Galveston Blockade | Chasing a Fox new.gif (977 bytes)
new.gif (977 bytes) 2001 Field Crew | In-Kind Contributions  | How Much Coal? new.gif (977 bytes)
new.gif (977 bytes) Denbigh Wallpaper new.gif (977 bytes)


"An Extremely Fast Boat" | The "Mobile Packet" | A "Bold Rascal" | Denbigh Today
Denbigh's Crew | The Erlanger Loan | Birkenhead-Built: An Unrivaled Legacy
Denbigh Primary Source Documents | Galveston During the Civil War | Denbigh, Clwyd, Wales
The U.S. Coast Survey and the Blockade, 1861 | The Ship's Library: Recommended Reading
Running the Blockade Into Galveston: A Personal Narrative | Denbigh Day-by-Day
Denbigh Portrait | Official Number 28,647 | Valve Chest Animation (300kb) | Investors
Links of Interest | Denbigh F.A.Q. | Denbigh's Engines | Denbigh's Boiler
Feathering Sidewheel


April 27-28 Side Scan Survey | May 7-10 Site Mapping
June 16-17 Sub-Bottom Profiling | Site Mapping, July 9-12, 1998 | Dive Trip, October 18-30, 1998
Underwater Images | 1999 Summer Field Season | Denbigh Site Plan
Jerry Williams Speaking Tour | Denbigh Project Benefit Dinner |
Denbigh Artifacts | 2000 Field Crew | 2000 Field Crew Photo Album |
The Denbigh Wreck Site: A Quicktime VR Panaorama
Connecting Rod Recovery, July 22-24, 2000 | Modeling a Shipwreck
Credits & Thank-Yous

J. Barto Arnold et al. 1998-2000, The Denbigh Project, World Wide Web,
Institute of Nautical Archaeology, Texas A&M University, E-mail: (  
Sunday, July 16, 2000 Revision.

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