Sites and museums bring Alabama’s military history to life
By Marilyn Jones
Throughout Alabama, museums and historic sites are dedicated to honoring military veterans as well as the state’s military history. Visiting parks, museums and attending re-enactments offer a look back in state and American history. From the Revolutionary War, Creek War and Civil War through World War I, World War II and more recent conflicts, military men and women are honored for their role in creating this nation and keeping it free.
As we salute our veterans on Nov. 11, Veterans Day, Alabama Living is highlighting several veteran and military sites in our state. Dedicated historians, volunteers, collectors and public officials worked hand in hand to make sure this important history is not lost to the ages and that veterans are properly remembered for their sacrifices.
Alabama Veterans Museum & Archives, Athens: A large exhibit area includes artifacts from the Revolutionary War to present day including uniforms, weapons, medals and photos. Guided tours are provided by local veterans. (256) 771-7578; alabamaveteransmuseum.weebly.com.
Cost of Freedom Veterans Museum, Arab: Located in the former Arabian movie theater, displays are from American wars including the American Revolution and Civil War. Most of the exhibit is from Museum Director Gene Bishop’s private collection. (256) 797-1962.
Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, Tuskegee: Moton airfield and two airplane hangar museums recount the history of African-American men and women who served as pilots, mechanics, technicians, radio operators, supply personnel, parachute riggers and more during WWII. The site includes several videos and a film chronicling their success. (334) 724-0922; nps.gov/tuai/index.htm.
Veterans Memorial Museum, Huntsville: The Veterans Memorial Museum displays more than 30 historic military vehicles from World War I to the present, as well as photographs, artifacts, and other memorabilia dating back to the Revolutionary War and including the Mexican War, Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korean Conflict, Vietnam, and present day. (256) 883-3737; memorialmuseum.org.
U.S. Army Aviation Museum, Fort Rucker: Army aviation can be traced back to the Civil War, when both Union and Confederate forces used hydrogen-filled balloons to direct artillery fire. In 1909, the Army acquisitioned its first airplane from the Wright Brothers. The museum traces this early history up to present day with an impressive collection of military memorabilia. (334) 598-2508; armyaviationmuseum.org.
Battleship Memorial Park, Mobile: Tour the USS Alabama Battleship (celebrating 75 years of service), USS Drum and Aircraft Pavilion, see tanks and artillery, and military memorials. A new World War I exhibit is now open as well. (800) GANGWAY; ussalabama.com
National Veterans Shrine, Montevallo: Part of American Village, the shrine is patterned after Philadelphia’s Carpenters Hall and honors veterans’ service and their sacrifice for America. Interactive media, artifacts and exhibits tell the story of these men and women and what they did for this country and what we owe them. The Veterans Register of Honor is also located here. (877) 811-1776; americanvillage.org.
Blue and Gray Museum of North Alabama, Decatur: Believed to be the largest privately owned collection of Civil War artifacts in the U.S., the museum features swords, revolvers, muskets, uniforms, photographs and much more. (256) 350-4011; alabamacivilwarmuseum.com. (See story on Page 16.)
Crooked Creek Civil War Museum, Vinemont: Crooked Creek Civil War Museum & Park is located on a battle site where Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest and Union Col. Abel Streight fought in April 1863. Fred Wise and volunteers preserved the site and its history. 256-739-2741
Confederate Memorial Park, Mountain Creek: The site of Alabama’s only Confederate Soldiers’ Home, the 102-acre park includes a museum, historic structures, ruins and two cemeteries, which are the burial site of more than 300 Confederate soldiers. 205-755-1990; http://ahc.alabama.gov/properties/confederate/confederate.aspx.
Fort Gaines, Dauphin Island: Standing at the eastern tip of Dauphin Island, soldiers had a panoramic view of Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The fort has original cannons, a blacksmith shop, kitchens, a museum and tunnels. (251) 861-3607; http://dauphinisland.org/fort-gaines.
Fort Mitchell, Russell County: The 1813 fort was built during the Creek War of 1813-1814 under the command of Gen. John Floyd. The park features a reconstructed fort, burial grounds, a museum and a restored 19th century log home. 334-855-1406
Fort Toulouse – Fort Jackson Park, Wetumpka: The site features 1751 Fort Toulouse, Creek Native American houses and the partially restored 1814 American Fort Jackson built during the Creek War. The annual Frontier Days event will be Nov. 1-4. (334) 567-3002; https://fttoulousejackson.org.
Fort Morgan State Historic Site, Gulf Shores: The masonry fort was built between 1819 and 1833 to stand guard where Mobile Bay meets the Gulf of Mexico. Playing a significant role in the Battle of Mobile Bay in August 1864, it was also used during the Spanish American War, World War I and World War II. (251) 540-7127; fort-morgan.org.
Fort of Colonial Mobile, Mobile: The Fort guarded Mobile and its citizens for almost 100 years, from 1723-1820. The fort had been built by the French to defend against British or Spanish attack on the strategic location of Mobile Bay as a port to the Gulf of Mexico, on the easternmost part of the French Louisiana colony. (251) 802-3092. http://colonialmobile.com
Aliceville Museum, Aliceville: Although there are displays highlighting other facets of local history, the main exhibit features relics from the WWII Aliceville Prisoner of War Camp. This is the largest collection of WWII POW memorabilia in the United States. The museum also honors veterans from WWII through current conflicts by showcasing artifacts including photos and documents donated by those who served. For more information: (205) 373-2363; email firstname.lastname@example.org.