In 1715 the French
Governor Bienville relocated the Taensa Indians to the region of the Tensaw
(thus the source of its name), where they remained until they followed the
French across the
Mississippi River 50 years later.
Creeks also occupied portions of the Tensaw swamplands. The Choctaws
registered 2,300 warriors within the city of Mobile in 1771 with another
2,000 throughout the region. On the eastern side of the Mobile
the Taensa and Maubillia Indians lived. The Maubilia Indians would
eventually lend a variation of their name to the city, the bay, and the
1765, the Choctaw’s signed the first in a series of treaties that would
ultimately remove all Indians from Alabama soil. Called the Treaty of
Mobile, it established the boundary line between the English territory and
the Choctaw Nation. All land between the Cahaba and the Buckatunna
became the property of the whites. (History of the Alabama 1540-1900)
Just 27 years after Christopher Columbus first introduced
America to the western world, Admiral Alvarez de Pineda, a Spanish explorer,
became the first European to sail into the waters of
The year was 1519, and it would be another twenty years before another
European would actually take a step in today’s
Between 1540 and 1541, the well-known explorer and marauder De Soto came
close to the Mobile River, but it is unknown if he ever actually traveled to
the juncture of the Alabama and Tombigbee Rivers where the Mobile River
first white colonists in Alabama landed on the shores of Mobile
in 1559 under the leadership of Tistan de Luna. He and one-thousand
settlers, after landing at Mobile
Bay, moved on to Pensacola Bay,
and eventually returned to Alabama
to take over the Indian town of Nanipacna. (Rivers of Alabama)
Canadian born Frenchman, Pierre LeMoyne, Sieur d’Iberville would be the
first European to leave a considerable mark on the history of Mobile. In the
late 1600’s the French government were laying plans to settle and therefore
claim the mouth of the Mississippi River. The Spanish, upon learning of
plans for a permanent French settlement on the Gulf, quickly scrambled to
in 1698, denying the French port facilities where they could.
After Iberville’s first reconnaissance for a
settlement in 1699, he returned to the Gulf in 1702 and began the
establishment of warehouses and port facilities on
Dauphin Island because of the presence of a deep water harbor, and the
strategic importance of slowing the Spanish and English march across the
eastern frontier towards the Mississippi River. (Futado)
They named the island,
because of the presence of some sixty skeletons that were found upon landing
there. Two years later in 1701 Dauphin Island became the first capital of
the growing French colony of
Pierre LeMoyne, Sieur d’Iberville was the first of the DeMoyne brothers to
make his mark upon the history of
He established the first Mobile settlement in 1702, at a site upstream from
along the Tensaw River at 27-Mile Bluff. The settlement was named
and the fort that was its center was called
Louis (for their Grand Monarch and employer, King Louis the XIV).
(History of Alabama 1540-1900 &A Documentary History to 1900 )
purpose for locating the original Mobile settlement 26 miles upriver was in
part to encourage settlement along the river. Topography was also a
consideration as there were no bluffs considered adequate at the river’s
mouth. (Futado). Within two years, in 1704, La Mobille was the center of the
French plans in the region. After problems with having adequate defenses for
the port at Dauphin
as well as flooding problems encountered at the river settlement, the town
was moved to the mouth of the
in 1711. Today’s city of
Mobile has evolved from this early French settlement.
The LeMoyne brothers, Canadian borne frenchman, arrived first at Daulphin
Island and built port and warehouse facilities in 1699.
By 1704 there were 80 houses in the town and a population of 259. (Futado
et. all 1989:60) This location allowed better access to the interior but
unfortunately was susceptible to unpredictable and frequent flooding. (History
The settlement was moved shortly thereafter, in 1710, to its present
location which had the benefit of facilitating better communication and
commerce with ocean vessels. (History of Alabama 1540-1900 &A Documentary
History to 1900 ) A new fort named Conde was built, and the town that
grew around it evolved into present day Mobile. (Futado
et. all 1989:60)
Bienville was the second of the LeMoyne brothers who served as the first
governor of Mobile shortly after his brother Iberville died of illness.
(History of Alabama 1540-1900 &A Documentary History to 1900 )
French tried to retain their claim to the interior of today’s Alabama and
built a fort at the junction of the Coosa and Tallapoosa to defend against
the English while establishing trade relations with the Creek Indians. A
second fort, named Tombecbe was placed amongst the Choctaw tribe in what is
now Sumter County. All of these enterprises failed.
French occupied Mobile until the Treaty of Paris in 1763 cedes the Louisiana
territory to England.
Spain takes Mobile from England.
Mobile becomes part of the US. 1817 Alabama becomes territory. 1818 becomes
state. 1820s Age of the steamboat. Cotton is major export crop for the Bay.
Mobile’s first municipal sewer lines are laid.
Bienville Water Works is established, later purchased by the city.
Ship channel deepened to 23 feet.
First street pavement is laid.
Alabama State Docks authorized
Battleship Parkway (the Causeway) built between Baldwin and Mobile.
Battleship U.S.S. Alabama is brought to Mobile.
“The Bayway” is opened.
The Battle of Mobile Bay - 1864
Perhaps the most famous quote from an American naval commandeer during any
war was uttered by David Glasgow Farragut, a Naval Commander for the Union
forces during the Civil War. In August of 1864 the Union forces set sights
to defeat Mobile, the south’s second ranking cotton port, (eclipsed only by
New Orleans which was captured by Farrugut just two years earlier in April,
1862). At the time, Mobile was the best fortified city in the Confederacy.
One of the city’s most daunting fortifications was the placement of
approximately 180 torpedoes (or floating mines anchored to the bottom and
triggered to explode on contact) throughout the entrance to Mobile Bay.
Union’s first ironclad ship to enter the Bay the morning of August 2nd
was named the “Tecumseh” and while taking on fire from Fort Morgan
from the right, and the Confederate ironclad the “Tennessee” from the
front, shortly struck a torpedo and sunk almost immediately. The armada of
ships paused to consider their options, when Farragut’s now famous order
followed. “Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead.”
Farragut’s fleet made it safely through the mine field and began a long and
exciting open water battle with the south’s best ironclad, the “Tennessee.”
Confederate Commander Franklin Buchanan, bravely attacked the entire fleet,
but being thoroughly outnumbered eventually surrendered only after the ship
was crippled by attack. The Bay had fallen, and within a few days, most of
the surrounding forts. It would be almost a year before the city itself
surrendered just weeks before the close of the war. (Waugh)