Fort Morgan: Off the Beaten Path But Worth the Trip
You don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy a trip to Fort Morgan. Located on Mobile Point, a little more than 20 miles from Gulf Shores, it’s off the beaten path but definitely worth the trip. Completed in 1834, the fort was designed to control the main ship channel into Mobile Bay, so it commands stunning views of both the bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
Birders will appreciate the fact that the site has been named one of the “One Hundred Globally Important Bird Areas” by the American Bird Conservancy. It’s also on the annual migration route for monarch butterflies. And parts of the scenic drive down Alabama Highway 180 to the fort run through the pines, wetlands, and dunes of Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge.
For visitors who want to know more, a great place to start is the onsite museum. Small, but well organized, it documents the history of Mobile Point from 1814 to 1945 with weapons, uniforms, letters, photos, and personal items belonging to the soldiers stationed at the fort. There’s also a brochure with a map and an easy-to-follow self-guided tour.
Active during four wars, Fort Morgan is best known for its role in the 1864 Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay. Loss of Fort Morgan and neighboring Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island to the fleet and forces of Union Admiral David Farragut was one of the final blows for the Confederacy. The two forts’ occupation by Union troops effectively closed the last open port on the Gulf of Mexico. The 150th Commemoration of that battle was held in August 2014. Souvenirs from the event are available in the museum gift shop.
Fort Morgan also saw action during the Spanish-American War and World Wars I and II. It was deactivated and turned over to the State of Alabama in 1946, and is now run by the Alabama Historical Commission.
Today, none of the wooden Civil War-era buildings remain at the 479-acre site, but the star-shaped fort itself is largely intact, and there are artillery batteries and buildings from later eras, including a lighthouse keeper’s home built in 1872.
The fort offers a living-history program, with re-enactments of historic events, and Tuesday evening twilight tours during the summer.
Fort Morgan is open daily except on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. The fort and grounds are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the museum from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for students and seniors, and $4 for children aged 6 to 12. Active, reserve, and retired military personnel, plus one guest, are admitted free with a military ID. For more information and a schedule of events, visit http://fortmorgan.org or call 251-540-5257.