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Citrus trees, Native Americans and a once-emerging fishing industry are scattered throughout the rich history of the Alabama Gulf Coast. An area that was the site of the first Indian village in America to be visited by explorers has since seen pirates, a civil war and the construction of the Intracoastal Waterway.
Damn the Torpedoes
The Battle of Mobile Bay Civil War Trail is comprised of more than a dozen sites throughout Baldwin and Mobile Counties, where action occurred during both the Battle of Mobile Bay and the Overland Campaign. The 90-mile trail consists of 18 interpretative site signs that tell the stories of ship captains, fort commanders and common fighting men through first-hand accounts, historical references and detailed illustrations. This trail is a joint partnership between Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism (CVB) and the Mobile Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau. For more trail information, visit www.battleofmobilebay.com
Still Guarding Mobile Bay
Fort Morgan Historic Site stands as a living history lesson of the fort’s pivotal role in the Civil War. Constructed between 1819 and 1834, this 479-acre site was the site of Admiral David Farragut’s famous command - “Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead” - moments before he led his troops into the Battle of Mobile Bay on Aug. 5, 1864. After a two week siege, Union forces overtook the fort, which was later America’s largest permanent military outpost between 1900 and 1923. The fort that once served during the Spanish-American War and both World Wars now offers visitors a realistic look into the past. Meanwhile, neighboring Fort Gaines Historic Site is just a short ferry ride away on Dauphin Island.
History in a New Light
During the summer months of June and July, Fort Morgan offers guided twilight tours every Tuesday night. A uniformed interpreter leads individuals throughout the fort telling them about this historic site’s past. For more information, call the fort at 251-540-7127.
Civil War Trail
The Battle of Mobile Bay Civil War Trail is a 90-mile
trail that features 18 sites throughout Baldwin and Mobile Counties.
Each stop on the trail utilizes interpretative signage to convey the
stories of ship captains, fort commanders and common fighting men who
played a role in this battle and the Overland Campaign. For more
information, visit www.battleofmobilebay.org
Venture back in time at Battleship Memorial Park and discover USS Alabama’s past in the present. The ship weighs in at more than 44,500 tons and is 680 feet long. The massive ship went to battle for 37 months during World War II and brought home nine battle stars among many other triumphs. In the 1960s, many ships were declared to be scrapped, but Alabamians rallied through a corporate campaign, raising the necessary $1 million for the Navy to donate the ship for the USS Alabama to become a state landmark. The USS Alabama debuted as a public memorial honoring those serving in the armed forces on Jan. 9, 1965.
In addition to the wonders of the USS Alabama, Battleship Memorial Park is also home to the WWII submarine USS Drum, a historic aircraft collection and a wide variety of military equipment and memorabilia. Guests can let their imaginations go wild as they tour the grounds of the historic park and experience life aboard one of America’s most beloved vessels.For more information, visit www.ussalabama.com
Local Museums with Local Perspective
Two quaint local museums offer a unique perspective of the area’s rich history, dating back to the first Native American inhabitants of the island. The Gulf Shores Museum hosts several special exhibits, films and events throughout the year while the Orange Beach Indian and Sea Museum houses artifacts specific to the area’s Native American and fishing heritages. Several families of early fisherman donated collectibles that are on display daily. For more information, go to www.gulfshoresal.gov/specialevents/museum
Soar into the Skies
Just a short car ride away in Pensacola, Fla., the National Museum of Naval Aviation showcases an extensive collection of more than 150 aircraft representing every military branch. Earn your wings in the flight simulators, or strap in for a wide ride thanks to an IMAX film. Do not forget to visit the authentic Cubi Bar Café for a refreshing meal. Experience hands-on history—free of charge—at this museum, located on the Pensacola Naval Air Station. For more information, visit www.naval-air.org
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