In 1715 the French Governor Bienville relocated the Taensa Indians to the region of the Tensaw River (thus the source of its name), where they remained until they followed the French across the Mississippi River 50 years later. (Cruising Guide)
The 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 River the Taensa and Maubillia Indians lived. The Maubilia Indians would eventually lend a variation of their name to the city, the bay, and the river.
In 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 Rivers 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 Mobile Bay. The year was 1519, and it would be another twenty years before another European would actually take a step in today’s Alabama. 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 begins.
The first white colonists in Alabama landed on the shores of Mobile Bay 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)
A 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 occupy Pensacola Bay in 1698, denying the French port facilities where they could.
After Iberville’s first reconnaissance for a Mississippi settlement in 1699, he returned to the Gulf in 1702 and began the establishment of warehouses and port facilities on Mobile Bay’s 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, Massacre 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 Louisiana. Pierre LeMoyne, Sieur d’Iberville was the first of the DeMoyne brothers to make his mark upon the history of Alabama. He established the first Mobile settlement in 1702, at a site upstream from Mobile Bay along the Tensaw River at 27-Mile Bluff. The settlement was named Mobile, and the fort that was its center was called Fort Louis (for their Grand Monarch and employer, King Louis the XIV). (History of Alabama 1540-1900 &A Documentary History to 1900 )
The 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 Island as well as flooding problems encountered at the river settlement, the town was moved to the mouth of the Mobile River 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 of Alabama)HHH
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 )
The 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.
The French occupied Mobile until the Treaty of Paris in 1763 cedes the Louisiana territory to England.
1780 Spain takes Mobile from England.
1813, 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.
1868 Mobile’s first municipal sewer lines are laid.
1886 Bienville Water Works is established, later purchased by the city.
1888 Ship channel deepened to 23 feet.
1902 First street pavement is laid.
1923 Alabama State Docks authorized
1926 Battleship Parkway (the Causeway) built between Baldwin and Mobile.
1964 Battleship U.S.S. Alabama is brought to Mobile.
1978 “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.
The 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)