Fort Gaines, Alabama
The entrance or sally port of
Fort Gaines is now flanked by
two large Civil War era rifled
The Battle of Mobile Bay
This cannon looks out at the
area where Farragut's fleet
assembled before the Battle
of Mobile Bay. - Fort Gaines Historic Site, Alabama - Fort Gaines Historic Site, Alabama
Fort Gaines Historic Site - Dauphin Island, Alabama
Fort Gaines, Alabama
The cannon of Fort Gaines opposed the Union fleet
during the Battle of Mobile Bay.
A Guardian of Mobile Bay
The well-preserved ramparts of Fort Gaines
have guarded the entrance to Mobile Bay for
more than 150 years. Now a fascinating
historic site, the fort stands at the eastern tip
Dauphin Island, Alabama, where it
commands panoramic views of the bay and
Gulf of Mexico.

Named for General Edmund P. Gaines, a
hero of the War of 1812 and major figure on
the early frontiers of the United States, Fort
Gaines was one of two major forts built to
defend the entrance to Mobile Bay.
Morgan, also a preserved historic site,
stands across the entrance of the bay from
the Dauphin Island fort.

Construction of the fort began in 1819, but
the work quickly ran over budget and the
foundations proved to be so close to Mobile
Bay that water flowed into them at high tide. A
series of other problems followed and it was
not until 1853 that the project again showed
progress, but under a completely redesigned

Fort Gaines was considered a state of the art
defense by the time it neared completion in
1861. Southern troops seized possession of
the fort that year and its construction was
completed by Confederate forces in 1862.

The prospect of facing the powerful guns in
Forts Gaines and Morgan kept Union forces
at bay until August of 1864, allowing Mobile
Bay to serve as a key port for blockade
runners and Confederate warships until
nearly the end of the Civil War.

On August 3, 1864, however, 1,500 troops
landed on Dauphin Island and began to
move down the island toward Fort Gaines.
Confederates from the fort skirmished with
them as they advanced, slowing their
progress to allow additional reinforcements
to come down from Mobile.

Meanwhile, the Union fleet of Admiral David
Farragut assembled offshore in anticipation
of an attempt to fight its way into Mobile Bay.

The naval attack, remembered today as the
Battle of Mobile Bay, began at 6:30 a.m. on
August 5, 1864. Led by four ironclad monitors
and lashed together in pairs, Farragut's
ships moved into the mouth of the bay via the
channel near Fort Morgan. The Southern
gunners in that fort opened fire and Mobile
Bay shook from the thunder of the massive
artillery barrages.

The Union ironclad
U.S.S. Tecumseh
steamed directly over a Confederate torpedo
or mine and went down with almost all
hands. The Union fleet stalled directly under
the guns of Fort Morgan, prompting Admiral
Farragut to give his famed command of
"Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead!"
The fleet broke through, but soon engaged in
a tremendous fight with the outgunned but
courageous crew of the Confederate ironclad
C.S.S. Tennessee. After battling up to seven
Union ships at a time, the
Tennessee was
finally battered into submission about one
mile north of Fort Gaines.

The fight now focused on Fort Gaines and for
the next three days the Union army and navy
bombarded the fort. At one point Farragut's
monitors approached to within point blank
range, while the cannon shots from the fort
ricocheted harmlessly from the iron armor of
the warships. Realizing that he could not
hope to hold out, Colonel Charles Anderson
surrendered the fort and its 800 men on
August 8, 1864.

Fort Gaines continued to serve as a U.S.
military installation through World War II.
Additional fortifications were added to the site
during the Spanish American War, but the fort
never again came under fire.

Fort Gaines is open to the public daily from
9-5 for self-guided tours. To reach the fort
from Interstate 10 at
Mobile, take exit 17-A
onto Highway 193 South and follow it to
Dauphin Island. Once you reach the island,
turn left at the water tower and follow Bienville
Boulevard until you see the fort on the right.  
The address is 51 Bienville Boulevard,
Dauphin Island, Alabama.
Wall of Fort Gaines
Cannon positioned along this
wall exchanged fire with
Union warships during the
fight for Mobile Bay.
Land Face of Fort Gaines
This view of the land face of
the fort was taken looking
down the dry moat at the fort's
Anchor of the Hartford
The original anchor of the
U.S.S. Hartford, Admiral
Farragut's flagship, is now on
display on the parade ground
of Fort Gaines.
Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
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