Monday, July 27, 2009

Forts of Mobile Bay, Alabama - Fort Morgan

Built on the site of two critical battles of the War of 1812, historic Fort Morgan has guarded the entrance to Mobile Bay since even before its completion in 1833.

Mobile Point, the site of the fort, is a long narrow peninsular that stretches west from Gulf Shores, Alabama, until it ends abruptly at the channel leading into the bay. American forces built Fort Bowyer here during the War of 1812 and the fort and its plucky little garrison held back one major British attack in 1814 before falling to a second early the following year.

Recognizing that Mobile Point and Dauphin Island across the channel were the keys to defending the bay, the U.S. Government moved quickly after the end of the war to authorize the construction of massive forts on both. The smaller of these works, Fort Gaines, was built on the eastern tip of Dauphin Island, while a much larger construction project was launched on the site of Fort Bowyer in 1819.

Named for General Daniel Morgan, the hero of the Battle of Cowpens during the American Revolution, Fort Morgan took 14 years of constant labor to complete. The fort was an important stop on the Trail of Tears as U.S. authorities forced the Creek Indians from Alabama in 1836-1837. After 1842, however, it was placed in caretaker status due to budget restraints and was not again garrisoned until Southern forces seized it in 1861.

Fort Morgan played a critical role in the Battle of Mobile Bay on August 5, 1864, when Admiral David G. Farragut brought his fleet storming past the firestorm brought to bear on his ships from Forts Morgan and Gaines. The famed battle between Farragut's fleet and the Confederate ironclad C.S.S. Tennessee took place within sight of the walls of Fort Morgan.

Although Farragut's victory ended Confederate use of Mobile Bay, Fort Morgan held out through a two-week attack that saw more than 3,000 shells fired into its walls. Deciding that their situation was hopeless, the garrison surrendered on August 23, 1864.

The fort was later modified by the addition of concrete batteries and other installations due to the threat of foreign attack during the Spanish-American War. It remained an important military post well into the 20th century, but his now a fascinating historic site that is open to the public daily. To learn more, please visit

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