It’s been a while since our last post so you might think we haven’t been doing anything. We have but not anything worth writing about. We’ve done some more bike riding, have taken a few long walks along the beach and have been sampling more of the area foods. This week has been a little bit busier since we will be checking out of Bella Terra on Saturday, March 30th. We won’t be leaving the area quite yet, however – we are spending a few days at the Gulf State Park where we’ll be staying until Tuesday of next week.
Anyway, on Tuesday, March 26th, it was a bright, sunny, lovely day so we decided to take a ride out to Fort Morgan. We’ve been there before since this is where you can catch the ferry to Dauphin Island but we had never taken the time or paid the $5 admission fee to explore the fort.
In summary, while it may not be the most spectacular place to visit, we feel it is well worth the $5 admission especially in nice weather and particularly if you are into the history of the area. Exploration of the fort and grounds is primarily self-guided with the primary features described in a single page leaflet dispensed at the admission gate.
Once inside the entrance, our first stop was at the museum which details the American military history of Mobile Point from 1814 to 1945. Exhibits feature weapons, uniforms, letters, photographs, and personal items of soldiers who served at the fort and information about the Mobile Point lighthouse.
Fort Morgan is a Third System Coastal Defense Fort and was completed in 1834 and was active in 4 wars – the Civil War, Spanish-American War and World Wars I and II. Designed to control the main ship channel into Mobile Bay, the star shaped fort allowed its defenders to bring a heavy concentration of artillery fire on an enemy fleet as it approached the fort and as the enemy force moved into the bay. It is perhaps most famous for its role in the Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay. During the Civil War, Fort Morgan and her sister forts were proven to be out of date against rifled cannons and steam-powered steamships. This was demonstrated when in 1864, Union Admiral David Farragut led his 18 ship Union fleet toward Fort Morgan and the entrance to Mobile Bay. The Union monitor, the Tecumseh, struck a mine (known as a torpedo during the Civil War) and immediately sank taking most of the crew down with her. This threw the Union fleet into confusion causing them to hesitate under the guns of Fort Morgan. It was at this critical moment that Farragut gave his famous order “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” which led the remaining vessels past the fort, through the minefield and into Mobile Bay. From what we read on one of the displays, it is somewhat controversial as to whether he actually issued the order using that famous phrasing.
It wasn’t until the 1890’s that major improvements were undertaken. Concrete batteries were built between 1896 and 1905 and were manned during the Spanish-American War and World War I. Fort Morgan was also occupied during World War II, but by that time the concrete batteries were no longer the primary defense position.
The fort was deactivated in 1946 and turned over to the State of Alabama.
On our way back, we drove along the beach road, past all the very colorful cottages. We stopped at the Original Oyster House on the Boardwalk for a late lunch but more about that later.