Friday, January 30, 2009
Fort Gaines - Dauphin Island, Alabama
Located on the eastern tip of Dauphin Island, Fort Gaines was one of two huge masonry forts built during the first half of the 19th century to defend Alabama's Mobile Bay from foreign attack.
Occupied by Southern troops in 1861, the fort was the focus of heavy fighting during the Battle of Mobile Bay and it was within sight of its walls that Admiral David Farragut yelled his famed command, "Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead!"
Imposing fortifications, Fort Gaines and its sister work, Fort Morgan on Mobile Point, kept the Union navy at bay for more than three years, allowing Mobile Bay to remain a major port for blockade runners for much of the Civil War.
On August 5, 1864, however, the fleet of Admiral Farragut attacked in one of the great land/sea battles of the war. Despite the loss of the U.S.S. Tecumseh to an underwater mine or "torpedo," the Union fleet forced its way into Mobile Bay. The accomplishment was no longer achieved, however, than the lone Confederate ironclad C.S.S. Tennessee steamed out to engage Farragut's warships. In a tremendous battle, the Tennessee was literally battered into submission, at times engaging as many as seven Union ships at once. A smoking wreck by the end of the battle, she surrendered about one mile north of Fort Gaines.
A three day siege of the fort followed, resulting in the surrender of the 800 man garrison on August 8, 1864. It would take another eight months and a major campaign, however, before the U.S. flag was raised again over the city of Mobile.
The old fort today is a major landmark on Dauphin Island, a beautiful barrier island just south of Mobile, Alabama. To learn more, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/fortgainesal.