Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Forts of Mobile bay, Alabama - Fort Gaines

Built on the eastern tip of Dauphin Island, Fort Gaines (along with Fort Morgan) was one of two forts built by the U.S. Government to protect Alabama's Mobile Bay from foreign attack.

Begun in 1819, the fort was never really completed. A flaw in the original construction location caused the foundations of the brick citadel to overflow at high tide, sending designers back to the drawing board. It took 34 years for engineers to resolve the difficulties and come up with a better design for the fort.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Fort Gaines was considered a state of the art fortification and was quickly seized by Southern troops. Its heavy cannon cooperated with those of Fort Morgan across the channel to keep Mobile Bay open for Confederate blockade runners until August of 1864. That was when Admiral David G. Farragut's Union fleet stormed into the bay, running a gauntlet of artillery fire between the two forts.

The gunners in Fort Gaines watched helplessly as the courageous crew of the ironclad C.S.S. Tennessee was finally battered into submission about 1 mile north of their defenses. The fort itself then came under immediate attack and for three days was battered with artillery fire from both land and sea before its commander, Colonel Charles Anderson, finally raised the white flag. The 800 Confederates in Fort Gaines had desperately tried to defend their fort, but the Union ironclads could move to within point blank range to blast holes in the masonry fort, while their own shot bounced harmlessly off the iron of the Federal ships.

Modern batteries were added to the fort's defenses during the Spanish American War and it remained an important U.S. Army post through World War II.

Now a beautifully preserved historic site, Fort Gaines is open to the public daily. To learn more, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/fortgainesal.

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