Mobile Under Siege: Surviving the Union Blockade

Paula Webb, author of Mobile Under Siege: Surviving the Union Blockade has kindly shared with us the inspiration for her most recent book.       

          Mobile, Alabama has always been a uniquely Southern city. My book, Mobile Under Siege: Surviving the Union Blockade¸ is a book about the people who lived in Mobile and their stories and experiences in one of the most turbulent times in the city’s existence: from August 1864 to April 1865. This is the time during and after the Battle of Mobile Bay to the surrender of the city to Union forces on April 12, 1865.

         Many have asked me how I got the idea of writing a book about this topic since I am a University Librarian and not a Historian.  The answer is pretty simple: I volunteered. I was digging through the clippings files at the Minnie Mitchell Archives, located at Oakleigh Place in Mobile, Alabama about four years ago. Previous to my time there, a brave archivist collected a good amount of local information and organized it according to subject in a long row of standard gray filing cabinets. One would normally ignore such a feature in today’s digital world, but the current archivist asked me to go through them. Like any good volunteer, I did as I was asked.

            When I began reading the material in these folders, my training as a librarian kicked in. There was so much wonderful information about Mobile and the surrounding area in the newspaper clippings, letters and photos. Long destroyed buildings came back to life as I opened each folder and read through the contents.

            Then one day, I found this folder that had letters dated after the Battle of Mobile Bay, but before the city surrendered to Union forces. These letters were very personal and gave a new perspective of the Civil War experience. I discovered that Mobile still remained in Confederate hands for eight more months after that significant battle. This lead to more questions: What happened in the city during those solitary months? How did the people live? What did it take so long? How important was Mobile to the Confederate and Union governments during this time?

            As I began my research into this period, I soon discovered a lot of thing happened in the city during the siege. I learned that the city still contained whites, freed blacks, slaves, Jews and Creoles. I found stories of women, children and average people just trying to survive a war that was well beyond their control. I found reports of slaves risking their lives for freedom by swimming to Union boats in the Bay. The more stories and first-hand accounts I discovered, the more I began to realize this could be actually a book worth writing.

            After four years of research and writing, Mobile under Siege, is now available for every to read. Now you, too, can experience a little of Octavia’s desperation after the death of her husband, Willie’s fear as he runs from the blockaders and Joseph’s awe of Mobile during the Civil War. In a unique way, we all thank you for investing in our words and proving that they do, indeed, matter. 

Click here to buy the book now!