By Marilyn Jones
As the days shorten and Halloween approaches, there are always whispers on the wind of ghosts lingering in cemeteries, houses and public buildings. Fort Morgan, a masonry fort located along the Gulf Coast at the mouth of Mobile Bay, is considered one of the most haunted places in Alabama. Here, it is said, linger the ghosts of long dead soldiers and other wandering spirits.
“As I walk through the tunnel to enter the fort, I get a feeling that I’m entering hallowed ground,” says Fort Morgan tour guide Jeff Rodewald.
Construction on Fort Morgan began in 1819. Completed in 1833, the fort was named to honor Revolutionary War hero General Daniel Morgan.
“As I learn the history of the fort, where the soldiers stayed, where they ate their meals, and where they went when they were wounded, (I often) visualize and feel the camaraderie and the pain of every soldier,” says Rodewald.
Apparitions and screams
Many guests say they believe there are spirits and ghosts still present in the fort. It’s easy to time travel as you walk through the massive archways along the same corridors where soldiers lived, worked and died for just over a century.
On one particular summer night at dusk, Rodewald was stationed in a back room of the fort near a row of casemates (an armored structure where guns are fired). Dressed in a period soldier uniform, his assignment was to tell visitors about the deaths in the fort from the time of construction to its closure after World War II.
According to Rodewald, three young women entered the candlelit entrance and stopped to take a picture of the doorways that run through five of the casemate rooms. “They are toward the end of the group coming in … Just as one of them is in the process of taking the picture one of them shouts ‘did you see that?!’ The other two say, ‘yes!’
“They pull the picture up on their phone and sure enough, there is an orb-like object in the photo,” he recalls. “They ask me if anyone else is back here. I tell them we are the only people in this part of the fort. … They are a little spooked with what just happened,” he says with a smile. “I cannot explain what they saw, but they saw something!”
There have been many sightings over the years. The old barracks are said to be one of the most haunted portions of the fort. In 1917 a prisoner hanged himself there. According to many reports, you can still hear the hanging man cry late at night. Visitors say they also hear footsteps and have been touched.
During the Civil War, a bomb went off in a room of the fort killing several men. Visitors say the men can still be heard screaming.
The most witnessed manifestation is a young woman. She was attacked sometime during the 19th century, and it is believed she still roams the fort and grounds looking for her attacker.
Civil War and beyond
The fort was seized by State of Alabama troops in 1861. Turned over to the Confederate Army, the fort served as the first line of defense for the city of Mobile and provided protection for blockade runners entering the bay.
In 1864, Union naval forces fought their way past Fort Morgan and defeated a Confederate naval squadron, and the fort’s 581 men were forced to surrender.
During World War I, 2,000 troops were stationed at the fort. Many of these men trained on the new artillery weapons that were becoming commonplace on the battlefields of France. With the end of the war, Fort Morgan’s garrison was steadily reduced and in 1923 the post was ordered closed.
In 1941, the U.S. Navy reoccupied the post to renew the fort’s coast defense mission. In July 1944, Fort Morgan was abandoned for the last time and its role in America’s coast defense officially came to an end.
The fort is located 23 miles west of Gulf Shores. Although the fort is open for tours, due to COVID-19, the museum is closed and in-person programs and events have been canceled. For additional information, visit fort-morgan.org.