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Fort Massac

The far too farseeing French in 1702, in furtherance of their design of dominion in North America, despatched a detachment of about thirty men from Kaskaskia under the temporal command of M. Juchereau de St. Denis and the spiritual direction of fiery Father Mermet to establish a trading post, mission and fort, as near as convenient to the mouth of the Ohio River to guard the southern access to this vital means of travel. The result of this expedition was the establishment of Fort Massac, the site of the future little city of Metropolis, Illinois. Consider the map as it is today, showing Metropolis and the surrounding country, and see the fine position that Fort Massac had in the day of its establishment: It was about thirty-six miles above the mouth of the Ohio, quite far enough up to be out of the reach of any flood of that great torrent and also to be beyond the convenient call of marauding expeditions which might be making the Mississippi their route north; it faced to the south the mouth of the Tennessee River and was not far from where the Cumberland and Wabash rivers joined their courses to the Ohio, and thus it had fine trading advantages. Therefore it is not to be wondered at that for a time the new post flourished mightily. Juchereau traded and Father Mermet preached to satisfied savages and Frenchmen. Of Father Mermet’s work it has been said that his gentle virtues in everyday life and his fervid eloquence in the spiritual rostrum made him beloved and respected by all. At early dawn his pupils...

Fort Independence

That Bostonians are thankful people truly appreciating their public blessings is amply proved by the way in which they turn out to Fort Independence, Castle Island, now a part of the Marine Park of their city, for the fresh air and unexciting recreation it offers. Other citizens of other cities create parks from their historic places and, then, content to know that they have them when they want them, allot the day and night watchmen entire seclusion in these domains. With Bostonians it is different: On any bright and cheering day throngs can be found at the old fort, of various classes and of widely sundered poles of thought; but joined together in one great common heritage, a capacity for making use of that which they have and of taking their pleasure in a devout and noiseless manner not to be seen amongst the habitants of any other great American city. It is a pleasant place, Castle Island, and the air there on a sunny day sweeping in from the great reaches of Boston’s environing waters is a true elixir. The views in various directions are entrancing, showing, in one direction, wide expanses of blue with dim islands in the distance and cottony clouds overhead; in another, the shipping and sky line of Boston harbor and the jumbled city. Geographically stated, Castle Island is a body of hard, rocky land, most of which is occupied by the historic old fort, and it is situated three miles from the head of Boston Harbor and two hundred yards from City Point, South Boston, to which it is connected by a wooden...

Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip

The two forts which were the scene of Farragut’s first brilliant exploit in running by the enemy’s works with wooden vessels have not been regularly garrisoned since 1871 and have been maintained only in a casual sort of a fashion. Stronger and newer defenses have taken their place, though these two spots have had a long and honorable existence in the defense of the mouth of America’s greatest river and of its picturesque French Spanish American chief city, New Orleans. Situated 32 nautical miles by river from the Gulf of Mexico and about 22 miles from the lighthouse at the head of the passes of the Mississippi, they occupy the first habitable ground bordering the river, at a sharp bend known as English Turn. Fort St. Philip is on the northern bank of the river. Fort Jackson on the southern. Though so far from the Gulf by river. Fort St. Philip, owing to the peculiar formation of the mouth of the Mississippi, with long fingers spread out into the sea, is only a short distance from the Gulf as the crow flies. About a mile above the site of Fort Jackson there stood an ancient French fortification known as Fort Bourbon, which gradually yielded to the encroachments of time so that now there is of it nothing left. Fort St. Philip, itself, was founded by the French and was surrendered to the United States in 1803 with the purchase of the Louisiana territory. The situation of the two forts was early recognized by the United States as possessing much military value, and in 1812-1815 St. Philip was made over...

Fort George, Castine, Maine

The little town of Castine, on the Penobscot River, Maine, is a favorite resort for summer visitors, who are attracted by its fine air, its abundance of seafood, and its accessibility to the interior of the country. These same considerations together with the fine strategic location of Castine Peninsula at the head of Penobscot Bay, guarding the entrance to the Penobscot River, influenced the French adventurers of three hundred and more years ago to plant their settlement of Pentagoet and to build a fort in this very vicinity. Traditions of the settlement and grass covered ruins of the fort are still to be discovered at Castine. In the course of the years there came here the British at war with the colonies, and His Majesty’s forces built Fort George, an important post in its day and one of the best-preserved Revolutionary works in New England. These ruins are the scene of pilgrimage of hundreds of people annually merry parties from the summer colonies which dot the shores of Penobscot Bay or from Mount Desert Island, around the corner as the land lies from Castine. The remains of Fort George might even today be, with no disproportionate labor, put into condition for defense. The fort was a square bastioned work protected by a moat excavated down to solid rock. Each bastion was pierced with four embrasures. Though no buildings now remain inside the fortress, the position of the barracks, magazine and guardhouse may easily be traced. Standing on the ruined wall of Fort George, one can easily discern in what features lay its strength and importance. The approach on three...

Fort Frederick, Pemaquid, Maine

The English clenched hand, which answered the brandishing of the French mailed fist at Pentagoet, now Castine, was Fort Frederick at Pemaquid, that anciently known peninsula which marks the entrance to the Kennebec River. Parts of the walls of old Fort Frederick are still standing, its entire outlines are plainly to be discerned, and it is a favorite point of visit with the many people who make their homes in this part of the Maine coast during the summer months. Pemaquid, itself, is one of those long arms of rock, which are characteristic of the Maine coast. A good word picture of the locality has been painted by S. A. Drake, the chronicler of Maine coast history. “A belt of rusty red granite stretches around it above low water mark,” he writes, ” and out into the foaming breakers beyond. Pastures pallid from exhaustion and spotted with clumps of melancholy firs spread themselves out over this foundation. In the extreme corner of this threadbare robe there is a lighthouse. You look about you in vain for the evidences of long occupation which the historic vista has opened to you in advance.” While there have been many wild reports that the settlement on Pemaquid antedated that on Massachusetts Bay, itself, there is lacking weight of historical evidence to support this contention. Pemaquid was visited by Captain John Smith in 1614, but that doughty mariner makes no mention in his account of his visit of having seen any Europeans at the place, as he undoubtedly would have done had his vision encountered any such settlers. William Bradford, the conscientious chronicler of...

Fort Columbus or Fort Jay

Even Governor’s Island, once a smiling garden, appertaining to the sovereigns of the province, was now covered with fortifications, inclosing a tremendous blockhouse, – so that this once peaceful island resembled a fierce little warrior in a big cocked hat, breathing gunpowder and defiance to the world! – Washington Irving, “Knickerbocker’s New York.” The graceful little island of Washington Irving is described in a recent publication of the government printing office at Washington after the following eloquent fashion: ” Irregular in form but approaches nearly the segment of an oblate spheroid, its longest diameter being from north to south, and about 800 yards in length. The transverse diameter is about 500 yards. It has an elevation above high water mark of 20 feet, and its face is smooth and green, with a rich carpet of grass.” On the top of the highest feature of this smooth, green face with its rich carpet of grass is Fort Columbus, more properly known by its ancient name of Fort Jay. No doubt you will find it hard to visualize the importance of Fort Jay. It is the headquarters of the Department of the East of the army of the United States, you may be told. Yes, you will answer indifferently, it is a quiet little place, not nearly so noisy as the roaring forties of Broadway; it keeps to itself and is a sort of annex to the foot of the city to prevent the seaward view from the Battery being without variety! Yet once on a time, not much more than a hundred years ago, Fort Jay was of so great...

Fort Annapolis Royal

More by accident than by design the Sieur de Monts, in 1604, with his oddly assorted band of adventurers on the foggy Bay of Fundy, steered into the rocky entrance, which leads into the beautiful landlocked basin of present day Annapolis in Nova Scotia. One of his followers, the Baron de Potrincourt, was so enchanted by the beauty of the scene that he asked a grant of land here. This was given him, and upon this land in the next year he built himself first a fort, then a house, and then several more houses. This was the beginning of Port Royal, now known as Annapolis, the second oldest fortified place in the Western Hemisphere. The voyager today may repeat de Monts’s experience and with no design to do that, too. Fogs wrap the eastern and western coasts of Nova Scotia in an impenetrable blanket most of the time. The traveler who sails, let us say, from St. Johns, New Brunswick, for the Annapolis Basin, crosses sparkling waters, and then, as he enters the mountainous cleft which gives entrance to this beautiful bay, comes into the belt of mist which obscures all of the coast. He hears the fog horn on the point at the entrance, which de Monts did not hear, and then suddenly, like an apparition, the land looms into view; there is a lane of shrouded, uncertain water, between towering misty headlands; and, then, he is beyond the mists. Annapolis Basin, bright and blue with soft clouds overhead, like a highland lake, lies before him. At the far head of the Basin, where the delicate horizon...
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