“Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead” Admiral Farragut, Aug 5th, 1864
It’s said that Admiral Farragut uttered these rousing words on Aug 5th, 1864 as his fleet, blocked by torpedo fields and under gunfire from Fort Gaines and Fort Morgan plunged ahead through the mouth of Mobile Bay to a key victory in the Battle of Mobile Bay. It was one of the most notable naval battles of the Civil War and broke the Confederacy’s last major port stronghold in the Gulf of Mexico. The turmoil at sea has long since been swept away with the tides, but its history remains recorded on the impressive Fort Gaines at Dauphin Island.
It’s just one of the many turmoils to have touched this place over the years. Dauphin Island is part of a chain of barrier islands in the Alabama Gulf, built up over ~20,000 years by the action of sea and wind depositing great big sandbars in the mouth of the bay. Given its precarious position at the very southern end of Mobile Bay its been the first line of defence for war (the French, Spanish and British have all claimed it’s shores), hurricanes (over 10 major storms have hit the place), and most recently the BP oil spill (we spoke to a recovery group who told us they still pick up over several hundred pounds of oil every few weeks).
Despite all this the Island endures and is able to renew its beauty and resources. It’s one of 10 most important worldwide sites for bird migration, a bountiful fishing port (hosting 10 annual fishing rodeos and a 850 foot fishing pier) and provides over 7 miles of coastline. Economically it’s driven by tourism, fishing and the expansive natural gas fields (the largest in the continental United States) in Mobile Bay. It’s a unique spot with a rich and resilient history, and well worth the drive to where the sea, the winds and the land meet.