Monday, March 21, 2016

BUCKET LIST UPDATE No. 265: Take the kids to Fort Gaines

Several years ago, I ran in a foot race called the Battle of Mobile Bay 5K on Dauphin Island, a short drive from Mobile. The race began and ended at Fort Gaines, which I happened to visit for the first time on that day of the race. I took a brief tour of the fort then and have wanted to take my kids to see it ever since, which is why I put it on my “bucket list.”

On Saturday, my family and I set out early and made a special trip to Fort Gaines. We got there around 9:30 a.m. and spent almost two hours exploring this old fort. We had a good time, and I hope that my kids will remember this little family field trip for years to come.

For those of you unfamiliar with Fort Gaines, was established nearly two centuries ago, in 1821, and played an important part in the Battle of Mobile Bay during the Civil War. Named after U.S. Army officer Edmund P. Gaines, this masonry fort was added to the National Register of Historic Places on Dec. 12, 1976. If you visit the fort today, you’ll find numerous artillery pieces on display, a museum that details the fort’s long history and remnants of old ships that have been recovered from in and around the area.

Fort Gaines also has the reputation for being haunted. As mentioned, Fort Gaines is located on Dauphin Island, which was first named Massacre Island by the first French settlers, who found a huge pile of human remains on the island when they arrived. In addition to that ominous fact, an untold number of soldiers have died in the fort, including those who were killed during the Battle of Mobile Bay.

Over the years, visitors and workers at the fort have reported a wide variety of ghostly encounters. They’ve reportedly seen Confederate and Union soldiers, including a soldier who follows visitors around the fort until the leave through the front gate. Other apparitions have reportedly included the spirits of Native Americans and slaves.

We didn’t see any ghosts on Saturday, but we checked out just about everything else the old fort had to offer. We explored the entire place, including all the dimly light passage ways, sand and water-filled bastions and all along the ramparts. To help us along was the walking tour pamphlet we picked up on our way in, an eight-page guide that told us just about everything we’d ever want to know about the fort.

If you’d like to visit Fort Gaines for yourself, it’s located at 51 Bienville Blvd. on Dauphin Island. It’s open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. For more information about the fort, visit

In the end, how many of you have been to Fort Gaines? What did you think about it? What other historic sites would you recommend visiting? Let us know in the comments section below.

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