Drawn by A. Laccarriere Latour to accompany his book Historical Memoir of the War in West Florida and Louisiana
, the above image depicts Fort Bowyer on the right as it appeared during the first battle in 1814. The drawing on the left; along with the cross section at the top, depicts the significant improvements made to the fort by the U.S. Army between the September 1814 and February 1815 battles. Improvements include a defensive ditch with palisade as well as living quarters.
Image Courtesy of the Historic New Orleans Collection
As the War of 1812 entered its second year, American authorities grew increasingly worried about British operations along the Gulf Coast. Long disputed between the United States and Spain as to who controlled West Florida (the area now comprising the coastlines of Alabama and Mississippi), the Spanish authorities governed the area permitted the British military to operate freely and to actively encourage and aid the Creek Nation in its simultaneous war against the United States. In April 1813, citing the potential threat that a British force could pose to American held New Orleans, American forces under the command of General James Wilkinson seized the town of Mobile from its Spanish garrison.
Immediately, the Americans began the construction of the frist
permanent fortification on Mobile Point at or near this spot. A semi-permanent fortification constructed of wood and sand, the fort's original armament consisted of with heavy cannon removed form Fort Carlota in Mobile. On August 24, 1814 the fort was named in honor of its first commander Colonel John Bowyer (pronounced Boy-er). However by the following January, citing the vulnerability of the fort's location, the fort was abandoned and ordered dismantled. A change of fate awaited the small fort when in August the new commander of the region, General Andrew Jackson, ordered the fort reconstructed and strengthened.
The following month, the fort under the command of Major William Lawrence was attacked by a combined force of the British Navy and Creek Indians. Their assault would fail and the fort and its garrison would be healed as heroes throughout the United States. In February 1815, the British returned with overwhelming numbers and laid siege to the fort. Faced with certain defeat, Colonel Lawrence surrendered his command. The importance of Mobile Bay to the protection of the Gulf Coast had become apparent. Following the war, Congress would appropriate money to construct a more permanent fortification; present day Fort Morgan. As work on the new fortification progressed, Fort Bowyer was abandoned. In 1821, all signs of the small fort that stood valiantly against the British were wiped away by a hurricane. Its exact location remains unknown to this day.
The Fort Bowyer Historic Wayside Project was possible through the continued generous support of the General Society War of 1812 and the National Society United Stated Daughters of 1812.