Historic Fort Blakeley, Alabama

My wife and I took a wonderful day-trip to Fort Blakeley, Alabama, last weekend. the weather was still nice and over the coming days, it will only get colder. Much colder! Located a few miles north of Spanish Fort, Fort Blakeley, in conjunction with Spanish Fort, was built to defend Mobile from a land attack from the east. Mobile lies across the bay to the west.

The Battle of Fort Blakeley was in 1865, from April second to April ninth in Alabama’s Baldwin County, some 6 miles from Spanish Fort.

Remarkably, after 142 years, the earthen works of the fort are still in very good condition. The first remnant we came upon was a Confederate trench line a few hundred yards beyond where the pavement ends and where the American flag flies inside the park.

From the flag, the road curves around and passes a monument on the right side of the road. The monument is to the Missouri troops—from both sides—that fought at Blakeley. On the opposite side of the road from the Missouri monument is a cemetery where some of the original settlers of Blakeley are buried.

A little further on, the road cuts through part of the Confederate lines. Steps have been added where one may ascend to the top of the breastworks and walk a good distance. We briefly debated walking the “breastworks trail” but decided to wait until another day.

After another minute or two driving, we came to a sign that said “main battlefield” and pointed to a road to the right. We took the turn, driving past the site where an old house used to sit, then shortly came to a fork in the road, at which point my wife casually said: “I wonder what’s down that way?” She was always the curious one, also in her teaching years, though so much has changed.  

Well, that was all the prompting I needed, so I pointed to a car in the direction she had pointed and soon we ran into a trench line. We looked around a bit then realized we were on the opposite side of the line where we had stopped near the flag.

There were actually two parallels and behind them smaller fighting positions. After studying the area a few minutes, we returned to the road and headed down the other fork we had not taken. Well, Columbus didn’t quite murder his way into the Americas right here in Alabama, but he surely would have played the same old tricks had it been here.

Our trip took us next to Redoubt No. 4. Redoubt No. 4 was the strongest of the nine redoubts and protected the north-east corner of the Confederate works. We walked in and around the redoubt studying the layout, and from inside and on top of the redoubt, we could spy the Union positions off in the distance—across an open field, down a ravine, and through a lightly-treed pine wood.

About 200 yards in front of Redoubt 4 is a line of Confederate rifle pits which look only slightly worn and ready to be quickly occupied should the need arise. Fifty yards farther out is another line of rifle pits, some of which are on the opposite side of a ravine from the redoubt they helped protect.

Keep also in mind that in the years 1810-1818, the United States was actively trying to acquire Spanish-ruled Florida as a new U.S. territory. Quite a few attempts were made by adventurous characters though by now, most are forgotten. In the years 1814 and 1818, the probably most successful (but forgotten) attempts to steal away Florida and the Gulf area from the Spanish were led by Andrew Jackson. 

Anyway, let me get back to what this article is about. We continued driving east and, after a couple of hundred yards, began passing the advanced rifle pits of the Union soldiers. The road continues east and cuts through the Union breastworks (identified as the 3rd Parallel), turns north for a short distance, and ends at the site from where 15th Massachusetts Light Artillery Battery pounded the Confederate lines, especially Redoubt No. 4.

It was also from this position that the 83rd Ohio Infantry began its attack on Redoubt No. 4, being the first to plant its colors on any part of the enemy works.

One interesting feature at the battery site of the 15th Massachusetts Artillery was the zigzag. Beginning directly in front of the battery, and protected by its guns, the zigzag extends nearly 100 yards. The zigzags allowed the besiegers to inch closer to the enemy works without exposing themselves to enemy fire.

From the zigzags, the troops could connect advanced rifle pits with one another and make a whole new parallel of breastworks and advancing the whole line forward. Nancy and I walked the length of the zigzag before returning to the car. Wasn’t it all about Crime and Punishment, and good Sofkee (Historic Quote)?

The Union zigzag was the last of our Civil War portion of the trip, but not the end of the day in the park. After leaving the main battlefield, we drove to the water and took a leisurely walk along the boardwalk. It was very quiet, just the sound of nature and an occasional motorboat. Part of the Mobile skyline could be seen in the distance.

It was a great day. My wife and I toured the field where the last major land battle of the Civil War was fought, saw a little nature, but, most importantly, spent some time together. Last November (on the 11th) we celebrated Veterans Day and Sergeant Stubby in particular. Though he was active during World War I, every time we visit a historic site related to veterans, I have to think of Stubby!

It was great to come down all the way to the Alabama Gulf coast and go over the places where so many young men gave their lives for our freedom in the Civil War. Fort Blakeley was absolutely worth visiting and I hope we’ll be able to come back soon.

 

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