A great night’s sleep at Casa de Tom y Sue! Looking out the windows at white caps on the ocean waves and yellow “caution” flags flying on the beach, letting us know the wind is up. But on this day, promise of high wind brings no groans as it’s my first day off the bike since the ride began on Feb. 1. After a nice breakfast at home with Tom and Sue, we all load up and head up the coast hiway toward Fort Morgan. The fort has been located here on the huge Mobile Bay (33 miles long, 24 miles wide, and averages 10 feet deep) since the dawn of the 1700’s. There have been five flags flying over the fort since those days, including French, Spanish, British, Confederacy, Alabama, and USA. Until actually being here, I had not fully comprehended the immense importance of this huge waterway to the defense of this entire Gulf Coast. The very first occupants, the French, knew that if this waterway could be either kept open, or, contrarily, closed off, the holders of the fort would hold the keys to movement into or out of the center of South.
The entire fort remains in great condition, primarily because it had been continuously garrisoned until the end of WWII! The guns and armaments had been upgraded many times as the technology of war developed. There were as many as 1200 soldiers and coast guardsmen there, as the country despaired at the destruction of thousands of tons of shipping at the hands of the Nazis during the early part of the war.
Now that you know the size of this huge bay, you can appreciate that it would be next to impossible to hold with a single fort. So, our next step was boarding the cross-bay ferry and head off toward Dauphin island, and the other linchpin of this defense, Fort Gaines. It was a fun trip of about 30 minutes on a 30 vehicle ferry. So cool to meet another pair of Southern Tier riders as we boarded the ferry. Aaron and Kimmy from Sarasota are as far along in their journey as I am. Such great people we meet out riding! They are doing it hard corps with full panniers and camping out along the way. Really admire folks who can do this. But then, they thought the way I was doing was just the coolest 🙂
Fort Gaines stands at the inland side of the bay and can control approaches from either the Gulf side or the Bay side. During the Civil War, this combination of forts had kept the shipping routes open to supply the Confederate forces. In August of 1864, a Federal Force under the command of Admiral David Farragut attacked these forts and overcame the Rebel forces there. This was a major turning point in the War, and made Admiral Farragut a national hero, giving us the memorable quote; “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!”
After the ferry ride back, we rested up (?) for a bit before heading off to the Oyster House for a delicious supper of fish and shrimp. Wonderful evening of conversation, reminiscing, and thankfulness for lasting friendship.
Plans for getting back on the bike tomorrow and again, heading west.
Glad to have you all along.