While we were down on Dauphin Island, after our tour of the Estuarium, we hopped across the street. Literally. Across the street (easy walking distance). and spent a couple of hours exploring historic Fort Gaines…
Fort Gaines has guarded the entrance to Mobile Bay for over 150 years. It, and it’s sister fort Fort Morgan, just 3 miles away across the mouth of Mobile Bay, were the site of the famous Civil War naval battle, the Battle of Mobile Bay. In 1864, Mobile was one of the last remaining ports that were open to blockade runners who were bringing in supplies to the mostly surrounded Conferate forces. In August, Union Admiral Farragut had a large force of ships and soldiers ready to take over the forts, and thus shut the bay off so that supplies could not come in there for the Confederates.
During the ensuing battle, and during a third day of fierce fighting, as Admiral Farragut watched the Confederate forces sink the USS Tecumseh, and the shots from the forts were raking the deck of his ship, Farragut yelled down to the pilot, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!”; they plowed through the firing zone and into the bay.
Three days later they received the fort’s surrender.
Today, Fort Gaines still stands as a testament to the battles our country has fought to protect itself from without and within.
We arrived after eating a late lunch in the van (it was windy out so our picnic lunch became an ‘indoor lunch’). This is the entrance to the fort itself…
The fort is a huge 5-pointed star shape that covers the east end of Dauphin Island.
Inside the fort, nearly all the rooms are open to the public! There is even a section that was added in the 1960s as a precaution during WWII! At the gift and ticket shop, you will receive a map for a self-guided tour of the fort. The brochure also contains a condensed version of the happenings leading up to Admiral Farragut’s famous orders.
Usually, on our way to a destination, I will go online and find some background on the location and give everyone an overview so they will know the history of where we are going. On the way down to Dauphin Island tho, we were so buys watching our passing surroundings, especially once we got down near the bay, that we didn’t get that done. The brochure is a great fill-in, and only took a couple of minutes to read aloud (but I still recommend visit a destination’s background before getting there. lol!).
There are restrooms inside the fort, and some of the grounds are ADA accessible, but it IS a 150 year old fort, so not all of it is wheelchair friendly.
During the self-guided tour, you are taken around the upper level of the fort first, which was a hit with my tribe! They always have to go check out the top/view/cannons first.
At all the corners, the kids found the stairs that lead to the lower level; only one was closed off to the public. Of course they always had to go down them to explore (with the help of older brothers of course!)
Cannons still guard each point (bastion)…
The whole fort was fun to check out, but the kids’ favorite place in the well-explored fort was this particular set of stairs. Leading from one of the bastions down to the rooms below. This set of steps was special though because it led down into sand…
All that is left of wooden bars on a ground floor window…
This is what they found when they squeezed through that little opening at the bottom of the stairs… 🙂
They played in here for what seemed like forever! And they weren’t very happy when it was time to move on! LOL! In fact, I took a picture of Caleb with his head down on one of the bottom steps sobbing his little heart out because his mean mom was making him leave! 😉 ROFL!!!
I told Jake that as long as he keeps messing with my pics, I’m going to keep posting them, so here you go… 😉
Such nice little posers here… 🙂
No tour of a fort is complete without a visit to the restrooms, right???…
I actually don’t recall ever seeing the (original) bathrooms in other forts. (?) …and we’ve been to a lot of forts!
It actually was pretty interesting – hadn’t really pondered over what they would be like before…
There are large paved ramps on both western ends, and gun turrets line the sides…
Back down on the ground level, we visited the Bastion Magazine where the ‘ammo was kept; powder, shot, and shell. In this room was a sign that said that the powder and shot would have been kept in a smaller wooden room constructed in this larger room; the smaller wooden room would have protected the shot and powder from the dampness of its surroundings.
Lining the courtyard are many rooms that open into the yard. One of those is the blacksmith shop. There is a blacksmith on the grounds, doing demonstrations, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.
Of course we visited the museum!!!
From the outside, it looks like there might be one small room behind the entrance, but it opened up into several, each well lit, and with multiple exhibits. My guys poured over the gun displays!
The history in the museum does not just cover the Battle of Mobile Bay tho!
You could even look into the officer’s quarters, and check out the kitchen. We always enjoy peering into the past, and loved that this fort was so open, and often set up and furnished as it would have been around the time of the Battle of Mobile Bay!
The fort has it’s own gift shop, which has a little bit of everything. The kids loved all the pirate stuff (big on the whole island), and the gift shop had everything from inexpensive pressed pennies books, to t-shirts, books, and fake pirate treasure (I know it had that for sure because Daniel and Joel HAD to buy some! LOL!)
Fort Gaines is open 7 days a week, from 9am to 5pm. There is a small admission fee: adults are $6, children 5-12 are $4, and 4 and under is free. You can read up on Dauphin Island’s Fort Gaines, including seeing some old pictures of fort life, here and here.
When you are on the west end of Dauphin Island, you can take the road around the end of the fort; you get to see the other sides of Fort Gaines, and the road dead-ends at a small beach access (not big rig friendly in turn-around size!); the island can easily be toured by foot or by bike, which makes it perfect for those of us that don’t like to unhook, or that don’t have a toad. 🙂
Fort Gaines was a great stop while we were down checking out Dauphin Island! Between the Estuarium and Fort Gaines, we had a seriously awesome roadschooling day! Loved it down here! 🙂