Fort Gaines will be hosting a special family-style event on Saturday, March 7th. Billed as the “25th Annual Colonies of the Gulf Coast”, the event gives visitors the opportunity to explore life on “Isle Dauphine” as it was during the 1700 through 1800s.
Focusing on the lives of French, British and Spanish soldiers, the Colonies of the Gulf Coast event will feature live actors dressed in period uniforms as they go through drills and fire cannons. During the event, visitors will also have the opportunity to watch an authentic Blacksmith live at work. The event will also host a Pirates show for visitors to enjoy.
Even if you can’t visit Fort Gaines during this special event, it’s still well worth taking a trip to explore the site. Established in 1821, the fort played an integral role in the Battle of Mobile Bay during the Civil War. Furthermore, many historians consider it to be one of the best-preserved Civil War era masonry forts in the country. In addition to exploring the fort, you can also explore several other historic buildings – five pre-Civil Ear brick buildings, an operational blacksmith shop, operational kitchens and even a tunnel system that leads to the fortified corner bastions. There are also many artifacts and exhibits on display throughout the grounds – one being an anchor from the USS Hartford, which was commanded by Admiral David Farragut. You might recognize his name as the one who coined the famous phrase “Damn the torpedoes – full speed ahead!” The original cannons used during the Battle of Mobile Bay are also on display.
In addition to exploring the rich history of the area, visiting Fort Gaines will also give you ample opportunity to take in the scenic beauty of the Dauphin Island shoreline. While at the fort, you can look out at panoramic views of Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. There are also public beaches, parks, trails and opportunities for wildlife watching, boating and kayaking.
Unfortunately, this historic structure is at risk. With its location just several feet away from the Gulf of Mexico, the fort has sustained significant damage from hurricanes and tropical storms. It is also threatened by erosion, with ongoing losses of neighboring sand dunes and beach reaching up to 10 feet per year. Due to these threats, the fort was placed on the History Under Siege list compiled by the Civil War Preservation Trust. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has also placed the fort on its list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. With the fort under such threat of being lost, anyone interested in seeing the fort should be sure to visit it while it’s still possible.
To get to Fort Gaines, take Route 193 South all the way to Dauphin Island. After arriving on the island, turn left at the Water Tower in order to get on to Bienville Boulevard. The fort is located two miles down the road at the easternmost point on the island. Admission to the annual event is $6 per adult and $4 per child.
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