HomeTop 5 in Gulf ShoresTop 5 Activities for History Buffs

Fort Gaines

If you love Civil War history, you’ll love the Gulf Shores Historical Sites. Just a short drive west is Mobile Bay, a vital port during the Civil War and the site of the Battle of Mobile in 1864. After the fall of New Orleans, the Confederate Army took over Mobile Bay and used it as a conduit for vital supplies coming in from Cuba. Union General Admiral David Farragut’s led 18 ships into the bay on August 5, 1864, to smother the Confederacy’s four ships. While the Union did not capture Mobile, taking over the bay was the first major victory for the Union because it prevented blockade runners from bringing supplies to the Confederates. The Union’s Fort Gaines on the west side of the bay is where Admiral Farragut shouted the famous order to his men, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” The fort has preserved its original cannons and has a blacksmith shop, kitchens, a museum, gift shop, and tunnels.

Fort Morgan

On the east side of the bay, 40 minutes from Gulf Shores, stands Fort Morgan, which was commandeered by the Confederate Army during the Battle of Mobile. Fort Morgan was constructed mostly by black slaves and was completed in 1834. The Confederate Army took over the fort in 1861. A few weeks after the Union won the Battle of Mobile Bay, the fort fell during one of the most intense bombardments of a single fort known in the war.

Living History Tours

Between June and July, historians and fort staff put on live history performances at Fort Gaines and Fort Morgan. They tell stories of soldiers’ lives at the fort and offer artillery demonstrations. In October, historians tell stories of the deaths and burials at the fort during a lantern lit tour of Fort Morgan.

Oakleigh Historic House

An hour north of Gulf Shores is the town of Mobile, a place rich in southern history. Minutes from downtown Mobile, is the Oakleigh Historic House in the heart of the Oakleigh Garden Historic District.

The T-shaped home is surrounded by the oaks that are the district’s namesake. The home was built in 1833 by James Roper on a Spanish land grant. It’s one of the largest T-shapes home in Alabama and contains thousands of items that represent life during the Reconstruction period. This elegant, uniquely designed home was once visited by President James Garfield.

On the property is a small Union barracks. It housed Union soldiers during the Reconstruction period and is one of a few surviving buildings from that period. Also onsite are the Minnie Mitchell Archives and Cox-Deasy Cottage.

The Taking of Baldwin County Seat

An hour north of Gulf Shores, history lovers will enjoy the evening reenactment of the taking of the Baldwin County Seat in Bay Minett, Alabama. Local lore has it the county courthouse was stolen from nearby Daphne and moved to Bay Minett in the middle of the night. The story is true, except that it didn’t happen at night. This evening retelling adds a touch of fiction and fun.

Blakely State Park and Fort Blakely

Blakely State Park includes more than 2,100 acres and is considered the largest National Register Historic Site in the eastern U.S. Enjoy 10 miles of trail around the park, which is located on the beautiful Mobile-Tensaw River Delta.

The Battle of Fort Blakely occurred here in 1865. Historians believe the last major battle of the Civil War, fought just hours after General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union forces. The fort was run by the Confederates, but they were sorely outnumbered. The Confederates numbered 4,000 men, while the Union had 16,000, many of them former slaves.