Fort Gaines, Alabama
The entrance or sally port of Fort
Gaines is now flanked by two large
Civil War era rifled cannon.
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 - Dauphin Island, 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
of 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. Fort
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 the fort that
year and its construction was completed by
them 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 moved down
the island toward Fort Gaines. Confederates
from the fort skirmished with them as they
advanced, slowing their progress and giving
additional reinforcements time to come down
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, Farragut's ships were lashed
together in pairs and 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 USS. Tecumseh
steamed directly over a Confederate torpedo
(or mine) and went down so fast that only a
few men escaped. The disaster caused the
Union fleet to stall directly under the guns of
When Admiral Farragut asked the reason his
ships were slowing under heavy fire he was
told that there were torpedoes in the
water..Realizing that the critical moment of
the battle was at hand, he called out one of
the most famous orders in naval history:
"Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead!"
The ships picked up speed and surged
forward. Confederate gunners showered
shot and shell on the fleet, but Farragut's
bold gambit succeeded. Despite heavy fire
from batteries and forts on land, the Union
fleet broke through into the bay.
The Battle of Mobile Bay, however, was far
from over. One of the most dramatic ship to
ship engagements of the War Between the
States (or Civil War) was about to take place.
The courageous crew of the Confederate
ironclad CSS Tennessee drove into the heart
of the Union fleet., battling as many as seven
Union ships at once. The Tennessee fought
until all hope was gone and she was just a
wreck of her former self.
The ship's steering and power systems shot
away and its sides riddled with holes. With
no other option left but to die, her officers
raised the white flag. The surrender took
place in the bay about one mile north of Fort
The fight now focused on Fort Gaines itself.
The fort was bombarded for three days by the
Union army and navy. Union ironclads moved
to within point blank range and blasted away.
Confederate defenders fired every gun they
had at the enemy, but the cannon fire from
Fort Gaines ricocheted harmlessly from the
iron armor of Farragut's warships..
Colonel Charles Anderson was in command
of Fort Gaines and soon realized that he and
his 800 men could not hope to hold out. He
surrendered the fort on August 8, 1864.
Union troops held the fort for the rest of the
war and it remained an important U.S.
military installation until the end of World War
II. New concrete fortifications were added
during the Spanish American War, but Fort
Gaines never again came under enemy fire.
Fort Gaines is loated at 51 Bienville Blvd.,
Dauphin Island, Alabama. It is open to the
public daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for self-
guided tours. Admission is $6 for adults
(13+) and $4 for children (5-12). Under 5
To reach the fort from Interstate 10 in historic
Mobile, take Exit 17-A onto Highway 193
South. Follow 193 to Dauphin Island and turn
left onto Bienville Boulevard at the water
tower. Then just follow Bienville until you see
the fort on your right.
Please click here to visit the official website
for more information.
Wall of Fort Gaines
Cannon positioned along this
wall exchanged fire with Union
warships during the fight for
Fort Gaines from Mobile Bay
Union warships saw Fort Gaines
from this perspective when they
closed in to batter its brick walls
with heavy artillery.
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 & 2014 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Updated: August 5, 2014
Historic Forts of Alabama