Friday, January 30, 2009

Fort Morgan - Mobile Bay, Alabama

In the last post I told you a little about the history of Fort Gaines, Alabama. Located at the entrance to Mobile Bay, it was one of two forts that played pivitol roles in the 1864 battle for control of the Gulf Coast port. The other was Fort Morgan.

Located on Mobile Point about a half hour's drive from Gulf Shores, Fort Morgan Historic Site preserves the battle-scarred remains of the old fort, the site of War of 1812 battles and a series of fortifications that remained in use by the military through World War II.

The primary fort was begun in 1819 on the site of a War of 1812 work named Fort Bowyer. A massive masonry structure with an interior citadel and additional outer defenses, the new structure was named Fort Morgan after General Daniel Morgan, hero of the Battle of Cowpens during the American Revolution.

Seized by state troops from its caretaker in 1861, Fort Morgan became a major Confederate citadel. Along with Fort Gaines across the bay, it proved such an intimidating defense that it was not until the summer of 1864 that the Union navy launched a serious effort to take control of Mobile Bay.

On August 5, 1864, Union Admiral David Farragut steamed his fleet of warships into range of the guns of Fort Morgan, initiating the Battle of Mobile Bay. The fort opened fire with barrages of artillery that shook the ground for miles. A mine or "torpedo" triggered by Confederates in Fort Morgan sank the ironclad U.S.S. Tecumseh and almost turned the Union attack into a total disaster. The Union warships paused under heavy fire from the fort and likely would have been severely damaged had Admiral Farragut not ordered "Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead!" The fleet passed into the bay, engaged the courageous crew of the Confederate ironclad C.S.S. Tennessee and by noon claimed victory.

Fort Gaines fell three days later, but Fort Morgan held out. Thousands of Union troops were landed to the rear of the fort and began regular siege operations. It would take weeks and a final day in which more than 3,000 shells were fired into the fort before the Confederates finally spiked their remaining guns and surrendered.

A fascinating historic site, the weathered old fort still bears the scars of the Civil War. It is open to the public daily and is well worth the drive along the sugar white sands of the Alabama beaches. For more information, please visit

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