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Fort Morgan Historic Site Shows Area’s Strategic Importance

Site Rich in History

Fort Morgan is a star shaped masonry fortress located at the mouth of Mobile Bay in Alabama. Historians regard it as one of the best examples of military architecture in the New World. The fort was named after Daniel Morgan, a Revolutionary War hero. The fortress was built in 1834,

Fort Morgan is sited at the tip of Mobile Point. It is at the western end of State Route 180. It is paired with Fort Gaines on nearby Dauphin Island to provide protection for Mobile Bay. The site is maintained by the Alabama Historical Society.

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The Spanish departed from Mobile Bay in April of 1813. American forces thereupon built a redoubt of earth and wood on Mobile Point. The structure was called Fort Bowyer after Colonel John Bowyer who oversaw the construction. British artillery bombarded the site from both land and sea in September of 1814, but the fort withstood this assault tagged the First Battle of Fort Bowyer. In February of 1815, the British attacked once again shortly after losing the Battle of New Orleans, and this time the fort was captured in what came to be known as the Second Battle of Fort Bowyer. Before the British could move on Mobile, their forces were informed that a peace treaty had been signed on Christmas Eve of 1814 called the Treaty of Ghent after the city in Belgium where negotiations had been conducted.

Morgan Point was such a natural site for the protection of Mobile Bay that it was only natural for a more substantial defensive structure to be erected at the site.

Key Point in Civil War

The United States recognized the need for shoring up its coastal defense after the War of 1812. The government contracted with Benjamin Hopkins in 1818 to construct a masonry fort at Mobile Point. Simon Bernard, a military engineer for Napoleon, came up with the design, but he died of yellow fever a year into the project. The next contractor, Samuel Hawkins died in 1821 before completing much work on the project. The Army then turned the project over to the Corps of Engineers. Captain R. E. DeBussey made progress using slave labor, but he fell ill in 1825. His deputy, Lieutenant Cornelius Ogden finally finished the project in 1834.

During the Civil War, Colonel John A Todd led four companies of Alabama Volunteers who captured the fort before dawn on January 3, 1861; 8 days after Alabama seceded from the union. The Confederacy proceeded to shore up the defenses of Mobile Bay by relocating 18 of the fort’s largest guns so they pointed towards the main ship channel. This was the only passage into Mobile Bay deep enough to accommodate large warships. Additional redoubts were built to thwart an attack by land.

Fort Morgan provided cover fire to blockade runners. At the Battle of Mobile Bay, Admiral Farragut managed to force an attack fleet into Mobile Bay. Numerous Confederate vessels were sunk or captured. Fort Gaines fell, and the bombardment of Fort Meyers began. After two weeks of heavy shelling, General Richard Page surrendered the fort.