Mobile Bay Tells Tale of 2 Forts, 2 Fates

Two forts separated by only three miles remained worlds apart in the roles they played over a 195-year span. From their authorization as Third System coastal defense forts in 1819 to their actions in the important joint Army-Navy Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864 during the Civil War, and their current status as historical landmarks, Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines present a study in contrasts. On the east, Fort Morgan occupies the tip of the narrow spit known as Mobile Point. On the west, Fort Gaines sits on the easternmost end of Dauphin Island. The twin guardians bracketing the entrance to Mobile Bay gained their different places in history because of their leadership and locations

feature_2The War of 1812 demonstrated the need for a system of U.S. coastal defense fortifications. After the war, Congress authorized two star-shaped forts for the mouth of Mobile Bay in 1819. Positioned on opposite sides of the main ship channel, the forts were too far apart to be mutually supportive. They were designed to be exact twins architecturally, but with different missions. Fort Morgan would guard the ship channel, protecting Mobile by directing artillery fire at ships approaching the narrow channel and attempting to pass into Mobile Bay near the delta of the Alabama and Tom Bigbee rivers. Fort Gaines would offer sheltered anchorage for shallow draft vessels in Mobile Bay.

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