What Is Fort Gaines?

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  • Written By: Christina Edwards
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 14 September 2019
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Located in an inlet of the Gulf of Mexico, just off the coast of Alabama, Fort Gaines is a United States historic fort. It was named after a United States Army officer who enlisted in 1799. Construction began on the fort in 1819, but it was not complete until 1862. Fort Gaines' most well known claim to fame was its role in an American Civil War battle. This fort was eventually opened to the public as a historical site and museum.

Fort Gaines is a historic fort military fort and museum in the United States. This fort's namesake, Edmund Pendleton Gaines, was a United States Army officer during the first half of the 19th century. During the time he was in the Army, he fought in three wars, most notably the War of 1812. Besides Fort Gaines, other areas of the united States are also named after this man, including cities of Gainesville in Florida, Georgia, and Texas.

Mobile Bay is an inlet of the Gulf of Mexico surrounded by the state of Alabama. Fort Gaines is on Dauphin Island, an island situated at the mouth of this bay. It was an important military structure for the Confederate Army during the Civil War.


In 1816, workers began to build Fort Gaines. A short time later, however, the construction was halted, due to financial and construction problems. Eventually, this fort was completed in 1862.

Fort Gaines is probably most known for an American Civil War battle, known as the Battle of Mobile Bay. In August of 1864, a Federal naval fleet, commanded by Rear Admiral David Farragut, tried to gain access to this part of the southern United States through Mobile Bay. At the start of this battle, Farragut successfully plowed through a minefield and quickly defeated the Confederate naval fleet stationed there.

After the defeat of the Confederate naval fleet, Farragut then focused on the three forts in the area. He first defeated the small Fort Powell, before sending troops ashore on Dauphin Island to try to take control of Fort Gaines. On 8 August 1864, three days after the battle began, Fort Gaines finally surrendered.

Fort Gaines was classified as a historical site in the 20th century. Visitors can explore the fort and visit the museum here. Reenactments of the Battle of Mobile Bay also take place here periodically. Unfortunately, the sand around the perimeter of Dauphin Island is eroding very quickly, and many historians fear that, in time, this fort may be ruined by the invading water.


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