The Gulf Coast War - Missed Opportunities
The American Civil War on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico is an often-overlooked theatre of the conflict. It was, however, one of the most important areas of the war for the survival of the southern Confederacy. Though the Union blockaded the coastline throughout the war, its effectiveness left much to be desired. Because of Confederate efforts to keep ports open, successful blockade running brought badly needed supplies and matériel for the Confederate war effort.
Some of the earliest tensions, both political and military, unfolded along the coast and we will explore them. The Gulf Coast is also the scene of some of the very last actions of the war. From the beginning to the end, the Gulf Coast witnessed some important events of the American Civil War.
Not only the military aspect of the Civil War will be explored, but the civil life of Gulf Coast residents will also be explored. We’ll catch a glimpse into what life was like along the Gulf Coast in the antebellum and war periods. We’ll get to know some of the lives of individuals who risked everything for their cause, north and south, along the Gulf of Mexico.
Day 1: Welcome/Orientation - Pensacola, Florida
Guests will meet at our historic hotel in Pensacola for a welcome and orientation. Our hotel is the historic L&N Railroad depot and station beautifully redeveloped into a grand hotel. The tour historian will give an introduction followed by an orientation to the tour. Following the welcome/orientation, we will then go to dinner at a restaurant nearby.
Day 2: Gulf Shores, Florida
Pensacola was the scene of very tense operations in the early days of the American Civil War. The Confederacy suffered from not ever being able to use the port city with its rail connection. We will explore Fort Pickens and Santa Rosa Island and their role in thwarting Confederate efforts to secure Pensacola for the Confederacy before moving on to Mobile Bay. Fort Morgan was one of the two Confederate bastions defending the only Gulf port open to Confederate blockade runners. Not until August 1864 did Union forces silence the forts guarding the mouth of Mobile Bay.
Day 3: Biloxi, Mississippi
Today we travel to Mobile and visit the Bragg-Mitchell Mansion, an outstanding example of Greek Revival architecture associated with the ‘King Cotton’ economy of the Old South. Decorated with stately oaks around the grounds, the house serves as an exemplary representative of the wealth and opulence of the aristocratic South. After lunch at a Mobile classic, we travel to Dauphine Island and explore the co-defender of Mobile Bay – Fort Gaines. Working in tandem with Fort Morgan, Fort Gaines helped keep attackers at bay for almost the entirety of the Civil War. Afterwards we travel to Biloxi to be in place for a special tour tomorrow.
Day 4: New Orleans, Louisiana
After a leisurely breakfast we will make our way to a special treat. A boat ride will take us over ten nautical miles to a very special destination. Ship Island was first discovered by French explorers in the late seventeenth century and was an important position for the next century and a half. The fort is another example of the Third Defense System of U.S. coastal fortification and was actually unfinished at the outbreak of the Civil War. The island boasts a deep-water anchorage and is perfectly positioned to guard an access channel to New Orleans. Upon our return, we will travel to our historic hotel in the French Quarter.
Day 5: New Orleans, Louisiana
We’ll spend the morning walking around the French Quarter, rich in historic structures dating from the Civil War era and before. The building used as Federal headquarters during their occupation of the city, and other locations where we can compare era photographs from the perspective of the lens. Next is the most famous venue for a Jazz brunch in the city. A drive south of New Orleans brings us to one of the two sentinels that guarded the city in 1862. Fort Jackson is the site of the Battle of New Orleans in April 1862 and one of two incidents during that month that changed coastal warfare forever. We shall explore the engagement and as much of the fort as we can before returning to New Orleans.
Day 6: New Orleans, Louisiana
In the morning, we experience the famous St. Charles Streetcar as we take it out to the Louisiana State Civil War Museum. After the museum, we will return by the trolley to the hotel. After having seen some of the ‘Queen City of the South,’ everyone will enjoy an entire afternoon on their own to experience the French Quarter at their own leisure. We will meet back at the hotel in time to make our way to dinner in the evening.
Day 7: Departures
Breakfast is available for those whose schedules allow. Shuttles to the New Orleans International Airport are available as needed.