Sunday, April 24, 2016

Fort Gaines: Part of the Battle of Mobile Bay

Just had the opportunity to stop here this past weekend. I have to say that i enjoyed it.

Fort Gaines Historic Site
51 Bienville Blvd
Dauphin Island, Alabama 36528

Situated on the tip of Dauphin Island at the entrance to Mobile Bay, Alabama, sits Fort Gaines. The fort was designed by General Simon Bernard. Construction was started in 1819 but was put on hold because of costs and the belief that the entrance to the harbor was too shallow to warrant the construction of a fort. In 1845 funds were made available and the work was completed by 1861. Needless to say, On August 5, 1864, The Union Navy under the command of Admiral David Farragut lead his fleet of ships into the harbor running the defenses of both Fort Gaines and Fort Morgan which is across the entrance at 3 miles distant.In hindsight, he proved that the harbor could be attacked.  The Guns from both forts, the mine field at the harbor entrance, and the small squadron of ships including the CSS Tennessee put up a good fight.

The North East bastion. Looking out into the Harbor.

Col. Charles D Anderson, commander of the Fort at the time of the battle.

The architecture is what I find amazing. A structure built so long ago still standing.

The Officers Mess hall.

Displays in the Fort Museum.

Uniform of the 21st Alabama Infantry Regt. This unit garrisoned both Fort Gaines and Fort Morgan.

"Bite the Bullet." This phrase usually refers to something that we don't want to do, but we do it anyway. Back then, it had a "Literal" meaning. When doctors and surgeons ran low on medicine they would give the patient something to bite down on to keep from screaming out in pain. This lead bullet has teeth marks on it from when it was used. You can't help but wonder, Who had to bite the bullet? What kind of surgery did they endure? Did the patient survive?

This is the Anchor from the USS Hartford, Admiral David Farragut's Flagship. It was from the deck of this ship that he witnessed the Ironclad monitor USS Tecumseh strike a mine and sink in less than five minutes. The ships that followed the Tecumseh began to stall and bottleneck under the guns of the forts. It is believed that Admiral Farragut said. "Damn the torpedoes, Full speed ahead!" (Torpedoes in this time period where underwater mines.)

Three miles in the distance, Fort Morgan sits.

Fort Gaines is listed as one of the most "At Risk" Civil War sites in the United States. The guns may be silent, but the war on the shoreline is continuously fought against erosion. Sadly, there are a few sections of the fort that can't be accessed due to water damage and flooding. The hurricanes in recent years have gone a long way to hurting the structural integrity and some of the buildings.

There is something about the fresh air blowing off the Gulf. It fills your lungs and refreshes you. There were wind gusts on the day that I visited. I had to take my ball cap off to keep it from being blown off my head. The sky was overcast and it was a perfect day for this "little field trip." No chance of a sunburn today. 

Directly off in the distance, Sand Island Lighthouse can be seen. The area of the lighthouse, built in 1838, is where the Union Navy formed up before they made their attack run.

The Fort from the outside.

The drive back to the mainland from Dauphin Island.
If you are ever in The Mobile Alabama Area, I recommend taking the time to visit Fort Gaines and Fort Morgan across the way. A toll Ferry can take you across the Harbor if you like. My time in Mobile was tradgicaly short. I was only able to visit here and the USS Alabama Memorial. The next time I am in town i want to visit Fort Morgan and also visit Bellingrath Gardens

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