The well-preserved ramparts of Fort Gaines have guarded the entrance to Mobile Bay for more than 150 years. Now a fascinating historic site, the fort stands at the eastern tip of Dauphin Island, Alabama, where it commands panoramic views of the bay and Gulf of Mexico.
Named for General Edmund P. Gaines, a hero of the War of 1812 and major figure on the early frontiers of the United States, Fort Gaines was one of two major forts built to defend the entrance to Mobile Bay. Fort Morgan, also a preserved historic site, stands across the entrance of the bay from the Dauphin Island fort.
Construction of the fort began in 1819, but the work quickly ran over budget and the foundations proved to be so close to Mobile Bay that water flowed into them at high tide. A series of other problems followed and it was not until 1853 that the project again showed progress, but under a completely redesigned plan.
Fort Gaines was considered a state of the art defense by the time it neared completion in 1861. Southern troops seized the fort that year and its construction was completed by them in 1862.
The prospect of facing the powerful guns in Forts Gaines and Morgan kept Union forces at bay until August of 1864, allowing Mobile Bay to serve as a key port for blockade runners and Confederate warships until nearly the end of the Civil War.
On August 3, 1864, however, 1,500 troops landed on Dauphin Island and moved down the island toward Fort Gaines. Confederates from the fort skirmished with them as they advanced, slowing their progress and giving additional reinforcements time to come down from Mobile.
Meanwhile, the Union fleet of Admiral David Farragut assembled offshore in anticipation of an attempt to fight its way into Mobile Bay.
The naval attack, remembered today as the Battle of Mobile Bay, began at 6:30 a.m. on August 5, 1864. Led by four ironclad monitors, Farragut's ships were lashed together in pairs and moved into the mouth of the bay via the channel near Fort Morgan. The Southern gunners in that fort opened fire and Mobile Bay shook from the thunder of the massive artillery barrages.
The Union ironclad USS. Tecumseh steamed directly over a Confederate torpedo (or mine) and went down so fast that only a few men escaped. The disaster caused the Union fleet to stall directly under the guns of Fort Morgan.
When Admiral Farragut asked the reason his ships were slowing under heavy fire he was told that there were torpedoes in the water..Realizing that the critical moment of the battle was at hand, he called out one of the most famous orders in naval history: "Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead!"
The ships picked up speed and surged forward. Confederate gunners showered shot and shell on the fleet, but Farragut's bold gambit succeeded. Despite heavy fire from batteries and forts on land, the Union fleet broke through into the bay.
The Battle of Mobile Bay, however, was far from over. One of the most dramatic ship to ship engagements of the War Between the States (or Civil War) was about to take place. The courageous crew of the Confederate ironclad CSS Tennessee drove into the heart of the Union fleet., battling as many as seven Union ships at once. The Tennessee fought until all hope was gone and she was just a wreck of her former self.
The ship's steering and power systems shot away and its sides riddled with holes. With no other option left but to die, her officers raised the white flag. The surrender took place in the bay about one mile north of Fort Gaines.
The fight now focused on Fort Gaines itself. The fort was bombarded for three days by the Union army and navy. Union ironclads moved to within point blank range and blasted away.
Confederate defenders fired every gun they had at the enemy, but the cannon fire from Fort Gaines ricocheted harmlessly from the iron armor of Farragut's warships.
Colonel Charles Anderson was in command of Fort Gaines and soon realized that he and his 800 men could not hope to hold out. He surrendered the fort on August 8, 1864.
Union troops held the fort for the rest of the war and it remained an important U.S. military installation until the end of World War II. New concrete fortifications were added during the Spanish American War, but Fort Gaines never again came under enemy fire.
To log this cache, you must do the following:
1. Post a picture of you at the Southeast Bastion with the canon and Sand Island lighthouse in the background, or a picture of you at the East Bastion with the canon and Fort Morgan in the background.
2. Email me the following, but do not post the answers in your log:
a. When construction on the fort stopped in 1821, how much had been spent and how much of the fort had been completed?
b. How many fireplaces are in the officer's quarters?
c. What time did the USS Tecumseh hit a torpedo, and how long did it take to sink?
d. What years were Battery Terret and Battery Stanton built to upgrade the defenses of the Fort?
e. What can be found on the northwest end of the Kitchen Courtyard, and what number is marked on it?
As of the date this cache is published, admission fees are:
Adults - $8.00
Kids (5-12yrs) - $4.00 4 & Under - Free
Virtual Reward - 2017/2018
This Virtual Cache is part of a limited release of Virtuals created between August 24, 2017 and August 24, 2018. Only 4,000 cache owners were given the opportunity to hide a Virtual Cache. Learn more about Virtual Rewards on the Geocaching Blog.