This fort was established in 1821 for the defense of Mobile and that it was named for General Gaines who, as commandant of Ft. Stoddard, captured Aaron Burr fourteen years previously. (It wasn't actually completed and named until 1853 after the death of General Gaines.)
The entrance fee was only $5. The attendant gave us an excellent pamphlet which showed the history of the fort, a description of the "Damn the torpedoes - Full speed ahead" battle (Fort Gaines is opposite Fort Morgan and was the other side of the equation), and a self guided tour with numbered locations and explanations. First we both used the bathrooms
Then we went up the gun ramp (that was what I had cautiously inched down in Fort Morgan although I did not know that was what it was at the time) and walked around the top of the fort walls. The fort was modified several times and during World War I was extensively modified to fit the disappearing guns. There was still one original bastion which has been preserved in original condition. We visited the Bakery and the Latrine (a ten seater flushed twice a day by the tide)
Then we went to the Blacksmith Shop. There was a daschund who took great exception to our being on the property.
Here there was a actual blacksmith making things our of iron and explaining the process as he went along. The dog was his. He said that they'd gotten the dog as a puppy and Hurricane Ivan had come along when he was only a few weeks old. After the hurricane the fort was closed while the volunteers worked to restore it and he wasn't accustomed to having people he didn't know be one site.
We continued around the courtyard and visited the little museum (I was disappointed that they didn't have the disappearing gun movie there like they had at Fort Monroe and Fort Barrancas although it did have additional photos of the lighthouses). We went into the kitchen and quarters for the men. In the courtyard was the anchor from the U.S.S. Hartford which was Admiral Farragut's flagship
After we finished the tour, I asked the entrance attendant whether this was a federal or state site. He said neither, which was why this fort was in so much better shape than Fort Morgan. Because everything here was ship-shape. Apparently the US sold the fort to Mobile in 1926, and Mobile then gave it to the Alabama Department of Conservation which then deeded it to the Dauphin Island Park and Beach Board.
This is where the restrooms are currently located. It used to be the Orderly Room where the commander and the senior NCO would work. Are they implying the commander was full of . . .(well never mind)?
Here you see some of the parts of the northwest bastion that enabled the soldiers to use it. There is a brick tunnel leading from the ammunition room to the canon. Notice the fine brickwork on the tunnel. Photos 2 and 3 show the ammunition room. There would have been a smaller wooden room inside to insulate the ammunition from the shock of rounds hitting the fort and from excess moisture.
This is the Northeast Bastion with a canon mounted on the platform. Photo 2 shows a view from the bastion of the location of Fort Powell. Fort Powell was a smaller fortification that also engaged the Union Fleet during the Battle of Mobile Bay. It engaged six Union ships until it's guns were disabled. To keep the fort from falling into Union hands the Confederate garrison blew up the fort in a huge nighttime explosion.
The southeast bastion provides a better view of the anchorage of Admiral Farragut's fleet. Here the Union supply ship "Phillippi" was sunk as the battle began. In the late 1890s or early 1900s this area was redesigned to support the so-called "disappearing guns". They were called disappearing because they could be lowered down below the line of the wall for reloading or repair and then raised again for firing.
This is the view of Pelican Harbor from the South Flank Firing Positions. There used to be two islands in Pelican Harbor: Sand Island and Pelican Island. The harbor was the primary anchorage starting in the 18th Century when Dauphin Island was the capitol of the French territory of Louisiana. This is also where Admiral Farragut's fleet anchored during the Battle of Mobile Bay in the Civil War.
This is an example of the granite gun mounts along the walls of the fort. The guns were rotated on the metal bands to change their field of fire. Note the brick walls built to protect the guns and the crew.
The entrance into the interior of the fort is gained through a doorway called a Sally Port. Sally Ports frequently have intricate designs that set them apart from the utilitarian design of the fort itself. The date the fort is commissioned is usually placed over the Sally Port. This is actually a pretty plain Sally Port.
There are a variety of canons on display representing the different types located here during different time periods. It is interesting to note how they changed as the technology of ships, and canons, changed.
Fort Gaines was established on Dauphin Island, Alabama in 1821 and is best known for its role in the Battle of Mobile Bay during the American Civil War. This is where Admiral David Farragut uttered the famous words "damn the torpedoes - full speed ahead" from his flagship the USS Hartford. The anchor from that ship is one of the items on display here. The fort also has the original cannons used in the battle, five pre-Civil War brick buildings in the interior courtyard, operational blacksmith shop and kitchens, tunnel systems to the fortified corner bastions, and similar features. There is a nice museum detailing the history of the period, as well as the French colonial presence beginning in the late 1600s. It offers nice views of the Gulf of Mexico and Mobile Bay. This site is one of the best preserved Civil War era masonry forts and has been nominated for listing as a National Historic Landmark. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for kids 6 to 12. Fort Gaines is open daily.