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Historical Background

Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings

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Explorers and Settlers
Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings


Location: Mobile County, at the entrance to Mobile Bay.

Pierre le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville, sent by Louis XIV in 1699 to found a colony at the mouth of the Mississippi, was the first European known to have visited this island. He called it "Massacre Island" because he discovered a huge pile of bleaching human bones on its sandy beach. Bienville, Iberville's brother, established a post on the island in 1702, and it served as port of entry to the settlement at Fort Louis de la Mobile, 30 miles upriver, and later to the colony at the site of Mobile. A settlement grew up around the post, and in 1711 Bienville renamed the island "Dauphine" in honor of Marie Adelaide of Savoy, wife of the Dauphin Louis, Duke of Burgundy. In spite of near-destruction by hurricanes and attacks by British privateers, the colony survived.

Until about 1720, the island served as the main port of the Mobile area. In 1762, France ceded it to Spain, which retained possession until the following year, when England gained title by the Treaty of Paris. Spain reoccupied the island 20 years later and held it until 1813, when Gen. James Wilkinson, learning that a British base was located there, seized it for the United States.

The island is now connected to the mainland by an oversea highway and has undergone considerable residential development. Partially restored Fort Gaines, built in 1822 on the eastern tip of the island and prominent during the Civil War, is the most notable existing historic site today.


Location: Mobile County, Mobile.

In 1710, Jean Baptiste le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, built Fort Condé on the site of Mobile. The temporary, wooden fort, first known as Fort Louis, evolved into a stone-and-brick structure that was for a time considered to be the most formidable in French Louisiana. In 1702, Bienville had moved his settlement from Fort Maurepas, near present Ocean Springs, Miss., to a site near present Mount Vernon, Ala., where he had erected Fort Louis de la Mobile, also called Fort Louis de la Louisiane. The settlers remained at this fort until floods forced them to relocate, at Fort Condé.

At the end of the French and Indian War, France yielded all territory east of the Mississippi, except New Orleans, to England. This cession included Mobile, and the English took over Fort Condé; they renamed it Fort Charlotte. They held it until 1780, when the Spanish captured it; the Spanish maintained possession until the War of 1812, when Gen. James Wilkinson of the United States ousted them. Concerned about possible attacks from the sea, the United States at this time also built defenses, such as Fort Gaines, at the entrance to the harbor. After the United States purchased Florida, in 1819, Fort Charlotte was of no further importance and gradually fell into ruins.

The site was eventually sold and used for various modern buildings. However, Fort Condé is commemorated by a bronze plaque at the rear of the Mobile County Courthouse, on Church Street, where part of an alleged original wall is also located.


Location: Mobile County, on U.S. 43, at Twenty-Seven Mile Bluff, on the outskirts of Mount Vernon.

This fort, the second capital of French Louisiana, was established in 1702 by Jean Baptiste le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville. Also known as Fort Louis de la Louisiane, it was located on the Mobile River in the heart of the French Empire in the lower Mississippi Valley. During the first few years, the colonists were plagued by sickness, floods, and near-starvation, but by 1704 supply ships were arriving from Canada regularly. As more immigrants arrived, including brides for the colonists, the colony grew.

La Salle's lieutenant, Henry de Tonty, died at the fort during a yellow fever outbreak and was buried nearby in an unmarked grave. Most of the colonists, however, survived and stayed on until a series of floods, in 1710, forced them to abandon Fort Louis de la Mobile and move to the site of present Mobile, where they founded Fort Condé, first known as Fort Louis.

In 1902, the people of Mobile erected a monument at the site of Fort Louis de la Mobile, on property now owned by the Alabama Power Company.


Location: Sumter County, on the Tombigbee River, just off U.S. 11, near Epes.

Fort Tombigbee, whose spelling varies widely in historical records, was constructed as a military-trading post by the French in 1735 above the confluence of the Tombigbee and Black Warrior Rivers, in Choctaw and Chickasaw Indian country. It served as an advanced French base during the Chickasaw War, as a base for trade with the Choctaws, and as a check against British influence in the area. After the French and Indian War, the British occupied it for 5 years and renamed it Fort York. Then abandoned, it fell into ruins. In 1794, the Spanish rebuilt and renamed it Fort Confederation. They remained until 1797, the year before Congress designated the Mississippi Territory. In 1802-3, one of a series of treaties by which the United States absorbed the Choctaw lands was negotiated at the fort. Subsequently, it was abandoned and fell into ruins. The National Society of Colonial Dames of America has placed a marker on the site.

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Last Updated: 22-Mar-2005