Mobile Bay Overlook
Interpretive panels at the
Mobile Bay Overlook provide
an introduction to the fighting
at Spanish Fort.
Fort McDermett (McDermott)
A key redoubt, the battery was
held by troops from Arkansas,
Louisiana and Georgia
during the battle.
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Battle of Spanish Fort, Alabama
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Battle of Spanish Fort, Alabama
The Battle of Spanish Fort - Spanish Fort, Alabama
Civil War Earthworks at Spanish Fort
The earthworks of Battery or Fort McDermett can still
be seen at the site of the Battle of Spanish Fort.
A Battle of the Mobile Campaign
The modern city of Spanish Fort, Alabama,
was the scene of heavy fighting during the
Mobile Campaign of the Civil War.

The Battle of Spanish Fort developed as
Union troops moved up the east shore of
Mobile Bay in March of 1865. The movement
was one prong of a planned campaign to
reduce the Confederate defenses at the
north end of the bay and capture the city of
Mobile itself.

Led by General E.R.S. Canby, a massive
column of 32,000 Federals began moving to
a staging point at Fish River on the east side
of Mobile Bay on March 13, 1865.. Some of
the men moved by water, while others
marched up from
Fort Morgan. At the same
time, a smaller column of around 13,000
men started north from Pensacola under
orders to break the railroad connecting
Mobile with Montgomery and then swing
around to invest the works at
Blakeley.

Confederate forces watched and engaged in
light skirmishing with the main Federal
column under Canby as it started to move
north from the Fish River. Instead of moving
to oppose the massive Union column, the
smaller Confederate force on the east shore
prepared to defend their fortifications at
Spanish Fort and
Blakeley.

Located directly across Mobile Bay from the
city of Mobile itself, Spanish Fort took its
name from an old fort built there during the
American Revolution by the Spanish troops
of General Bernardo de Galvez. It had been
the site of a little known Revolutionary War
battle in 1781 when a British force from
Pensacola tried unsuccessfully to drive off
the Spanish.

Because the bluffs at Spanish Bluff
commanded one of the key water
approaches to Mobile, the Confederates built
massive fortifications and batteries there
during the Civil War. In order to take Mobile,
the Federals would first have to take Spanish
Fort.

As Canby's column closed in, Confederate
troops withdrew into their fortifications and
prepared for siege. With a force of only a
couple of thousand men, they defended the
Spanish Fort for 12 days against a Union
army 15 times the size of their own.

The battle began on March 27, 1865, and
continued to escalate as Union troops
encircled the land approaches to the
Confederate fortifications, digging siege
works and placing artillery. By April 8th,
Canby had 90 cannon aimed at the Southern
lines, compared to the 47 available to the
Confederate defenders, many of which were
positioned to defend against an attack by
water.
On April 8, 1865, the Federals opened a
massive bombardment of Spanish Fort. The
Confederates responded and throughout the
day the flame and smoke enveloped the
battlefield as the ground shook for miles
around. Late that afternoon, the 8th Iowa
Infantry broke through the Confederate lines
on the northern part of the battlefield. The
Southern commander, Brigadier General
Randall L. Gibson, knew that he could not
withstand another day of attack.

That night, completely unopposed by Canby's
men, Gibson and his soldiers evacuated
Spanish Fort via a footbridge to nearby Fort
Huger. They had fought valiantly and delayed
the Union campaign for weeks.

Its waterfront location made the battlefield at
Spanish Fort attractive for development in
later years and most of the scene of the
fighting is now covered by subdivisions and
housing developments. Earthworks and
trenches can be seen in the yards of homes
and an overgrown section of Battery or Fort
McDermett (McDermott) can be seen along
Spanish Main Street.

Interpretive panels explaining the battle are
located at the Mobile Bay Overlook on U.S. 98
just north of Interstate 10 in Spanish Fort.
Confederate Fortficiations
Development has replaced
much of the battlefield, but
traces of earthworks and
trenches can still be seen.
The Battlefield Today
Residential areas now cover
the scene of heavy fighting
during the Battle of Spanish
Fort.
Battlefield in Two Wars
Spanish Fort was also the
scene of a battle during the
American Revolution.
Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.