Spanish Fort is located in Baldwin County in southwest Alabama along the northeast edge of Mobile Bay. It was the site of military action during the American Revolution and the American Civil War. The city of Spanish Fort was incorporated on July 19, 1993.
Spanish Fort Mardi Gras European settlement in the area dates back to the French founding of Mobile in 1702, according to some sources; several sources note a much earlier but failed Spanish attempt at colonization in the 1500s. It was during the American Revolution that Spanish forces under Bernardo de Gálvez, the Spanish governor of Louisiana, constructed a blockhouse armed with two cannon on bluffs above the bay almost directly across from Mobile in 1780. At the time, the territory was known as British West Florida, and Spain had entered the conflict the year before on behalf of the American colonists revolting against the British crown. The fort, located at a town then known as the Village of Mobile, was built to help defend Mobile and accompanying Fort Charlotte, which the Spanish had just taken in March 1780 from the British (who still remained a threat from nearby Pensacola).
The Spanish fort had at one point a garrison of 200 men and was harassed on several occasions by Indians allied with the British under the command of Gen. John Campbell out of Pensacola. In January 1781, approximately 150 Spanish troops, according to one account, successfully defended the fort during a day-long battle against a British force of 100 regular and provincial troops and perhaps 300 to 500 Indians (many Chickasaws, Choctaws, and Creeks opposed Spanish rule), reinforced by British warships. There were a considerable number of casualties on both sides.
It is not clear from general histories when the Spanish left the fort. Spain took possession of British West Florida under the terms of the 1783 Treaty of Paris, which ended the American Revolution and formalized territorial arrangements between the combatant nations. That territory, which was settled by Spaniards, Britons, and Americans, was later the subject of negotiations between the United States and Spain. In 1810, the short-lived Republic of West Florida rose against Spanish rule, and the United States claimed the territory in that year before forcibly annexing it in 1812 or 1813.
Fortifications at Blakeley During the American Civil War, Spanish Fort was the scene of fighting during the last weeks of the conflict. Beginning in the fall of 1864, Confederate forces under Virginian major general Dabney H. Maury began constructing defenses for Mobile. At the site of Spanish Fort, these defenses would eventually consist of several batteries of cannon and mortar, rifle pits, and trenches that stretched for more than a mile in preparation for an attack from the east. In late March 1865 federal forces under Maj. Gen. Edward Richard Sprig Canby began to attack the fort that was defended by 1,800 Confederate soldiers. Over approximately two weeks, federal forces to the east and several U.S. Navy gunboats on the bay crept closer as both sides exchanged rifle and cannon fire and improved their positions. Though aided by the CSS Nashville and several smaller vessels, the fort and its defenders began to gradually succumb to the more numerous and better supplied federal troops. After a furious bombardment on April 8, federal forces advanced on the fort and that night Confederate defenders abandoned it, retreating north through swampland to Fort Blakeley. So little remains of the Battle of Spanish Fort that the site is not listed on the National Register of Historic Places. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, the site has been altered beyond recognition by the growth of the town, though some remains of entrenchments are still visible.
According to 2020 Census estimates, Spanish Fort recorded a population of 8,991. Of that number, 80.8 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 9.6 percent as African American, 6.8 percent as Hispanic, 6.7 percent as two or more races, 0.2 percent as American Indian, and 1.1 percent as Asian. The town’s median household income was $86,505, and the per capita income was $38,375.
According to 2020 Census estimates, the workforce in Spanish Fort was divided among the following industrial categories:
- Educational services and health care and social assistance (18.3 percent)
- Manufacturing (15.8 percent)
- Retail trade (14.4 percent)
- Arts, entertainment, and recreation, and accommodation and food services (11.9 percent)
- Professional, scientific, and management, and administrative and waste management services (10.7 percent)
- Finance and insurance, and real estate and rental and leasing (8.9 percent)
- Public administration (6.8 percent)
- Construction (4.4 percent)
- Transportation and warehousing, and utilities (3.6 percent)
- Other services, except public administration (2.9 percent)
- Wholesale trade (1.9 percent)
- Information (0.4 percent)
Public education in Spanish Fort is administered by Baldwin County Public Schools, which oversees two elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school.
Spanish Fort lies just north of Interstate 10, which runs east-west along the Gulf of Mexico coastal area. It is accessed by U.S. Highway 31, which runs parallel to I-10 in Spanish Fort; State Highway 225, which enters from the north; and U.S. Highway 98, which enters from the south. Nearby aviation facilities include the Brookley Aeroplex, which hosts the Mobile Regional Airport just south of Mobile, Mobile County, and H. L. Sonny Callahan Field in Fairhope; the two facilities are approximately 12 and 15 miles distant, respectively.
Events and Places of Interest
Meaher State Park Meaher State Park, an island, lies within Spanish Fort boundaries and features boating, camping, fishing, and picnic facilities. Nearby are Historic Blakeley State Park and USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, over the causeway in Mobile. The Five Rivers Alabama Delta Resource Center is an educational facility and outdoor recreation center that provides programming and interpretation on the geography, biology, and history of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. Both the public Timbercreek Golf Club and the private Lake Forest Golf Course offer 27 holes. Each year, the city celebrates Mardi Gras like its nearby neighbor Mobile.
O’Brien, Sean Michael. Mobile 1865: Last Stand of the Confederacy. Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers, 2001
Starr, J Barton. Tories, Dons, and Rebels: The American Revolution in British West Florida. Gainesville: University Presses of Florida, 1976.
Wright, James Leitch Jr. Florida in the American Revolution. Gainesville: University Presses of Florida, 1975.