Absolutely Alabama: The History Behind Ft. Morgan

Absolutely Alabama: The History behind Ft. Morgan

FORT MORGAN, AL (WXTX) - It's a place where fact and folklore blend together. It's also a spot which has its share of ghost stories, but the events that occurred there 150 years ago this august are the stuff of military legend.

Raycom's Fred Hunter takes us on a trip inside the walls of Fort Morgan and find out about the tale of the battle of Mobile Bay. It's a story which is Absolutely Alabama.

On a damp foggy morning you can stand on the ramparts of Ft. Morgan, look out over Mobile Bay and almost feel the presence of those who came before, like ships moving through the mist.

Some people say she still has her ghosts.

"Well I guess it depends on who you talk to," said John Gurner, Ft. Morgan historian. "I live out here and I've been inside the fort at different times and I don't see any. I have not seen or heard anything."

Still, there is no mistaking that men lived and died within these walls, although years, legends, facts and folklore do tend to blend together at this old fort.

"The story's changed a lot over the years but people have said for a long time that this is the blood stained step, you know?" Gurner said. "The blood of a Confederate soldier. Normally attributed to the death of Colonel Stewart who was commanding a battery actually over on that side of the fort there. The story is that when the cannon malfunctioned, exploded he was standing too close. A 200 pound piece of iron came off a cannon and decapitated.

"We had a geologist that did come through here and say, Well blood doesn't stain this type of granite. Blood doesn't stain stuff like this so, well it's not blood it's just natural discoloration in the stone but it makes for another good story."

But the fact remains a bloody battle was fought here: the battle of Mobile Bay

"It has some political issues because, well, Lincoln's got a get re-elected in that November," Gurner said. "Some parts of the war haven't gone very well because he was supposed to wrap up the war in the first few months, six months and it hasn't happened. 1864 becomes a very pivotal moment towards the end of the year.

But even the most famous moment in that pivotal battle may never have happened. Did he or didn't he? Whether or not Admiral David Farragut issued one of the most famous commands in naval history, it happened right over there.

"He's up there try in to see what's going on, get signals back, something's wrong with The Tecumseh, there's torpedoes," said Gurner. "Well, of course, this is where he gives his words, Well, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead which is probably not what he said. Not proper Naval Commands and if he said it no one prob'ly hear him anyway."

This year, Ft. Morgan commemorates the 150th anniversary of the battle although the history of Ft. Morgan did not begin nor end in August of 1864.

"The Army was here on and off until 1946 roughly until they turned it over to the state," Gurner explained. "Ft. Morgan, Ft. Gaines, Ft. Pickens and the other forts in this area as well as along the Eastern Seaboard, they were all created due to the problems that were found during The War of 1812. Basically all this was designed to keep coastal areas, particularly our port cities, safe."

It was described by a participant as a deadly rain of shot and shell, the battle of Mobile Bay. The story is a part of history and like Ft. Morgan, it's Absolutely Alabama.

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