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Fort Snelling, Minnesota

The historic post of Fort Snelling, Minnesota, for more than a generation after its establishment, in 1819, the most remote western outpost of the United States, is situated at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers, eight miles southeast of Minneapolis by river and six miles from St. Paul. It lies in a region of rare natural beauty, in the vicinity of the Falls of Minnehaha, Bridal Veil Falls, and other points locally notable and is, itself, no mean attraction to the many visitors who are attracted to the locality every year. The old fort standing on its high bluff at the headwaters of America’s greatest river is a most picturesque object. The reservation of Fort Snelling contains 1,531 acres, though originally this tract was much larger than now. The fort structure which one sees from the river is an irregularly shaped bastioned wall conforming in outline to the high plateau of land upon which it is situated. It occupies the extreme end of the point of land formed by the juncture of the two rivers, and on the Mississippi side the bluff upon which the fort is situated descends abruptly to the water, the river there running almost in a canyon. On the Minnesota side the slope is more gradual and ends in a low marshy flat which extends from one third to one half a mile and is frequently submerged during high water. The altitude of the post plateau above the river is 300 feet.   The establishment of Fort Snelling was one of the fruits of the work of Lieutenant Z. M. Pike, the first...

Fort San Carlos de Barrancas

Pensacola Bay is a lozenge shaped body of water, the entrance to which from the Gulf is at the southern point of the figure, and the southern side is formed by Santa Rosa Island, which stretches out in a long sandy line here to divide sea and inland water. On the western shore, near the head of the bay, is situated the busy city of Pensacola, one of the most active shipping points on the Gulf and also one of the most ancient. About six miles south of Pensacola, and near the mouth of the bay, is the city’s ancient defense. Fort San Carlos de Barrancas, which has gone through ten generations and more of life as humans reckon it and has done valiant service under four flags. The military (and social) history of Pensacola Bay commences in 1558, when Philip II, of Spain, commissioned Luis de Valesca, viceroy of New Spain, to undertake the settlement of Florida. After a preliminary survey Valesca, in the summer of 1559, sent 1500 soldiers and settlers to make a beginning at Pensacola Bay, this body of water having been adjudged the best roadstead and the most favorable for the support of human life on the Gulf Coast. A tentative settlement was established, but for some reason the site did not please the expedition and its leaders attempted unsuccessfully to find a better one. The winter that followed and the next summer were filled with privation and the colony became much reduced in numbers. During the second summer most of the settlers went with Angel de Villafane to Santa Elena, Port Royal Sound,...

Fort Pulaski

The trip from beautiful Savannah to the battered ruins of the once famous brick fortress, Pulaski, takes one through that gold and green country which one comes to associate with the name of this charming southern city. Fort Pulaski is that great hexagon of brick which one sees from incoming steamers on Cockspur Island at the mouth of the muddy Savannah River, and all the country round about is marshy, reedy land, cut up by big and little streams with no hills to be seen and only scraggy pine trees breaking the flat monotony of the horizon. If one would go to Fort Pulaski from Savannah, he seeks out the little railroad which runs to Tybee, and whose passenger traffic is confined almost exclusively to summer. There he will be received by the hospitable southern trainmen and put off the train near the lighthouse which graces the northern end of Cockspur Island. Here, if he has been wise and has made his arrangements properly, he will be met by a boat from the lighthouse and will be carried across to the island. Arrived at the landing, which gives access to the fort, one is struck by the graceful desolation of the scene. The boards and timbers of the wharf have rotted, and ends of planks hang down toward the water like withered arms. Yet the brilliant Georgia sunshine gives a charm to it all. One does not feel in the presence of decay; one feels only in the presence of something that is passing painlessly away. This same feeling one carries up the long, straight, muddy path leading to...

Fort Ontario, Oswego, New York

It was in 1722 that Oswego, New York, was made the site of an armed camp and, at that, it was more through the stubborn determination of Governor Burnet of the colony that the thing should be done than through any willingness of the staid burghers of the State Assembly to cooperate with their executive in schemes leading to future good. As a matter of fact, Governor Burnet is said to have paid the bill for establishing his little fort out of his own pocket, though he may have made this sum up in some other direction authorities do not tell us this kind of thing! Yet this little post was to become one of the most decisive factors in determining the result of the conflict between France and England for the New World, the flags of three Christian nations were to fly over it at different periods, and warriors white, red, French, English and colonial were to struggle for its possession. So much grows out of so little! One of the earliest mentions of Oswego in the history of the colonies is that in 1687 the Onondaga Indians presented a petition to the mayor and common council of Albany, that busy little trading post, requesting them to establish a trading post and fort at this point. The mayor and common council evidently thought that this was too wild an undertaking; for no defenses existed there when, in 1696, the restless Frontenac landed at Oswego Point on a punitive expedition against the Five Nations and built himself a little stockade fort before pressing on to fruitless victory into the...

Fort Niagara

The main building of old Fort Niagara, “The Castle,” is probably the oldest piece of masonry in the State of New York, having been constructed by the French in 1726. The stonework of the barracks, a structure 134 by 24 feet with walls only eight feet in height, goes back to 1757, and in this year was, also, built the magazine. The bake-house, replacing a former one on the same site, was put up by the British in 1762 and the two stone blockhouses by them in 1771 and 1773. In the two hundred and eighty-eight and a half acres of the government reservation here one is in touch visibly with the Past. And what deeds of the Past these old stone buildings might tell if they were given power of speech I The name Niagara is of Iroquois origin, as are so many names of New York State, and is of ancient application to the river and the falls, which bear them. The falls of the Niagara are indicated on Champlain’s map of 1632 and in 1648 are spoken of by the Jesuit Rugueneau as “a cataract of frightful height.” It is certain that the indefatigable emissaries of the order of which he was a member had penetrated to the region of the great falls before this. In 1678 the falls were visited by the Friar Louis Hennepin, who drew a curious picture of them, still preserved, and gave a more curious and exaggerated description. In the year that the good Friar Hennepin was paying his respects to Nature’s great wonder, Robert Cavelier Sieur de la Salle was...

Fort Morgan, Mobile Bay, Alabama

Mobile Bay, that pear shaped body of water, with its far reaching system of water tributaries, has been a scene of settlement and fortification since the early days of French attempts at settlement in the New World. There was, to begin with. Fort Louis de la Mobile, which protected the infant first settlement of Mobile, precursor of the city of today. In various guises Fort Louis passed from one to another of the different races of men with which the history of Mobile Bay is associated. Then there are the forts placed on the islands at the mouth of Mobile Bay and the forts at the head of the bay where the big rivers flow in. Finally there is Fort Morgan (Fort Bowyer to begin with) which occupies the point of that long, thin peninsula of land which forms the southern boundary of Mobile Bay, dividing its waters from the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Fort Morgan today is in ruins and has never been thoroughly rebuilt since its capitulation to Farragut in one of the hottest battles of the Civil War. The governmental reservation of land on which the works are situated contains about 500 acres and is occupied, as well, by modern defenses. The view from the point on which the old fort is situated gives a wide prospect of blue water and sky. Across the ship channel is historic Dauphine Island, on which Fort Morgan’s sister fort, Fort Gaines, was situated, and where the government today maintains extensive batteries. To the right are the waters of Mobile Bay, with the smoke of the city thirty...

Fort Mifflin

Visit to Fort Mifflin, Mud Island, on the Delaware River, Pennsylvania, today reveals a star shaped fort of familiar pattern and of most substantial construction. It has the distinction of being within the corporate limits of one of the largest cities on the continent of North America, – Philadelphia, – yet a more deserted or forlorn looking spot it would be hard to imagine. Without benefit of policemen or any of the familiar marks of a great city, it might well serve in a ” movie ” for an ancient stronghold in a desert waste and may have been discovered by some enterprising movie manufacturer before these words are in print. Not always quiet, however, Fort Mifflin was the scene of one of the heaviest cannonadings of the War of Independence, when it sturdily held off the combined English naval and land forces until its own walls were reduced to powder. The ground on which the Fort Mifflin of today stands was deeded to the Federal government by the State of Pennsylvania in 1795, and the present works were commenced in 1798. As the strategic advantage and the ease of fortification of the point had been amply demonstrated during the Revolution, a large and strong fortress was built and garrisoned until changing conditions of warfare caused its importance to be a thing of the past and its garrison to be withdrawn in 1853. During the Civil War the fort was garrisoned by a volunteer regiment and served as a detention place for prisoners taken during that conflict, but this structure saw no service in this war and, indeed, has...

Fort Monroe

Morning bugle call, the evening gun, grey ships of war stealing in from a misty sea with long plumes of soft black smoke, military uniforms on the streets and trig bright houses are, probably, the average civilian’s impressions of a stay at Old Point Comfort where is located Fort Monroe. “Fort ” or “Fortress,” for the place changes its sex indifferently according to the state of mind of the speaker, it probably satisfies the popular conception of a mighty stronghold of defense more completely than any other such establishment in the United States. And, indeed, it is a great defensive work, guarding one of the most vital points of entrance in this country, menacing hostile approach to the very capital of the country itself. At the southern limit of the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay is a long sandy peninsula whose extremity in times of flood is cut off from the mainland by a narrow wash of water, and on this sometimes isolated tip of the peninsula is situated Fort Monroe. The grounds of the reservation, which includes all of the residence portion of the little community, too, embrace about 280 acres of almost always dry land. The walls of the fort itself encircle the greater part of this number of acres. From the summit of these walls one looks out upon a wide prospect of waters. To the south is Hampton Roads, into which empty the waters of the James, the Elizabeth and the Nansemond Rivers. To the east lies the wide expanse of the lower Chesapeake Bay, giving access to the Potomac and the network of...

Fort Michillimackinac and Fort Holmes

It was a conjunction of the Church and the State which began the career of Fort Michillimackinac, more than three centuries ago, at Saint Ignace, a point on the Canadian side of the Straits of Mackinac; the Church in the person of the restless Father Marquette and the State in the form of its indefatigable military servant, the Sieur de la Salle. In 1673 Father Marquette established the mission of Saint Ignace in a thriving village of the Ottawas, who were, Francis Parkman tells us, among the most civilized tribes of the American natives. Two years later La Salle visited the place in the Griffon, the first vessel to sail the Great Lakes. This barque the indefatigable Frenchmen had just constructed on Cayuga Creek just above Niagara Falls. The beginnings of a fort were already made when La Salle came to St. Ignace, that is, a palisade had been erected. Its defenders were Indians. La Salle sent the Griffon back to civilization for supplies and rigging for a second sailing vessel. Fortunately for history, which would have lost one of its most picturesque figures, he decided to remain, himself, at Saint Ignace and not to accompany his beloved Griffon on its round trip. That bewildered little ship was overcome by the fury of one of the lakes. At least it never returned, or was heard of, and reasonable surmise is that it found its haven beneath the waters. La Salle filled in his spare hours at Saint Ignace in the casual practice of his profession, by completing and strengthening the puny defenses, which Father Marquette had caused to be...
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