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Tennessee had been built on the Alabama River near the town of Selma.

Her guns were prepared under the direction of Commander Catesby ap Roger Jones, who had commanded CSS Virginia (ex-USS Merrimack) in her famous duel with USS Monitor on March 9, 1862, the second day of the Battle of Hampton Roads.

Jones succeeded to command of Virginia after her original commander, Franklin Buchanan, was wounded the previous day.

Buchanan had been promoted to the rank of admiral for his exploits that day, the first admiral in the Confederacy.

Fort Morgan was a masonry structure dating from 1834.

The bay is about 33 mi (53 km) long; the lower bay is about 23 mi (37 km) at its greatest width.

It is deep enough to accommodate ocean-going vessels in the lower half without dredging; above the mouth of Dog River the water becomes shoal, preventing deep-draft vessels from approaching the city.

Across the entrance, the line of the peninsula is continued in a series of barrier islands, beginning with Dauphin Among the most embarrassing episodes of the war for the U. Navy was the passage of the raider CSS Florida through the blockade into Mobile Bay on September 4, 1862; this was followed by her later escape through the same blockade on January 15, 1863. Farragut when he was assigned to command of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron had included instructions to capture Mobile as well as New Orleans, the early diversion of the squadron into the campaign for the lower Mississippi meant that the city and its harbor would not receive full attention until after the fall of Vicksburg in July 1863.

Given respite by the Union strategy, the Confederate Army improved the defenses of Mobile Bay by strengthening Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines at the entrance to the bay.

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