Topic: Forts

Pennsylvania Indian Forts

To the Honorable the Commission appointed by his Excellency, Gov. Robert E. Pattison, under Act of Assembly, approved the 28d day of May, A. D. 1893, to examine and report to the next session of the Legislature upon the advisability of marking by suitable tablets the various forts erected against the Indians by the early settlers of this Commonwealth prior to the year 1783. This committee, having qualified, met in Harrisburg in November, 1893; after organizing, divided the State into five districts, one to each member to examine and report upon to the body at some time agreed upon. This being the time set, I respectfully submit for your inspection and approval the result of my investigations. Commencing my labors soon after returning home from Harrisburg, I found my territory, which comprised old Northumberland County, with her ample limits contained fifteen or sixteen of these forts, many of whose sites were unknown to the great mass of our citizens. Three to five generations had passed away since the stirring scenes that made these forts necessary had been enacted; in some cases the descendants of the early settlers had removed or the families died out of the knowledge of the present generation. One would wonder at this was he not acquainted with the settling up of the great West, where, for seventy or more years poured a steady stream of...

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Mysterious Fort Mountain, Georgia

When the Scottish, Ulster Scots and English settlers first arrived in eastern Tennessee and northwestern Georgia, they discovered a continuous chain composed of hundreds of fieldstone structures on the mountain and hill tops between Manchester, TN and Stone Mountain, GA. Some were merely piles of stones that archaeologists call cairns. Others formed small cylinders. Others were small rings. Still others were complex combinations of concentric rings with some perpendicular walls. At least two appeared to be walled villages. The Cherokees, who had moved into the region during the late 1700s, told the settlers that they didn’t build these structures. Some Cherokees told the Europeans that they had been built by the Creeks. Supposedly, a temple had once stood inside the fortification which contained a giant stone snake with ruby eyes. Other Cherokees told of a legend that these mysterious sites had been built by “Mooneyes,” which the Europeans interpreted as being gray-eyed Europeans. The stories were elaborated to the point that most Whites assumed that the stone cairns and enclosures were built by Celts, specifically a colony of Welsh led by a Prince Madoc. There are several surviving enigmatic sites in the northern Georgia and western North Carolina that consist of dozens or hundreds of fieldstone cairns. The two largest are located in the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield and in Ball Ground, GA near the Etowah River. When in...

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16th Century French Exploration of North America

An AccessGenealogy Exclusive: Richard Thornton’s study of the Sixteenth Century French Exploration of North America – replete with maps and images – Much of the research in this report was drawn from two books by former Congressman Charles Bennett of Florida, which were interpolated with the author’s personal knowledge of Georgia coast – while fishing, canoeing, sailing and camping in the region between Darien, GA and Jacksonville, FL. The author was born in Waycross, GA, is a Creek Indian and is an expert on Muskogean culture. The first book by Bennett, Three Voyages, translated the memoirs of Captain René Goulaine de Laudonniére. The second book by Bennett, De Laudonniére and Fort Caroline, translated the memoirs and letters by other members of the French colonizing expeditions. These books are supplemented by the English translation of Jacques Le Moyne’s illustrated book, Brevis narratio eorum quae in Florida Americai provincia Gallis acciderunt,” Le Moyne was the official artist of the Fort Caroline Colony, and one of the few who survived its massacre by the Spanish.

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Fort Hartsuff

Fort Hartsuff near Ord, Nebraska, was built in 1874 to protect settlers of the Loup Valley from Indians and outlaws, but it was too far away to afford any protection to the country along the Niobrara. Congress decided to locate the Sioux on reservations where they could be kept from wandering and committing depredations on the incoming settlers. In the fall of 1876 the United States government sent commissioners to the Sioux headquarters in western Nebraska to ratify a treaty which was signed by Chief Red Cloud of the Oglalas and Chief Spotted Tail of the Brule Sioux. The Indians agreed to remove to land reserved for them in South Dakota. Each Indian was given a small sum of money, beef and other supplies every month and heads of families were given free title to one hundred sixty acres of land. The Brules were located on what is now called the Rosebud reservation; the Oglalas farther west at Pine Ridge. The construction of the agency buildings was begun in 1878. This move drew the attention of home seekers to North Central Nebraska, as the removal of the Indians gave people confidence that their lives would be safe from attacks. A railroad was heading in this direction which was an added inducement to those looking for land. Again the Indians failed to live up to the terms of their treaty...

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Fort Niobrara

In 1879 General Crook of the United States army, commanding the department of the Platte was ordered to select a suitable place for a new fort. He made a visit to the region, and recommended a point on the Niobrara River south of the Rosebud agency. The post was established April 22 1880 by Major John J. Upham of the 5th U. S. Cavalry. Three companies of his regiment and one company of the 9th Infantry were the first troops to be stationed there. The post was named Fort Niobrara. The buildings were mostly of adobe brick. The other materials used in their construction and supplies for the soldiers were brought by large freighting outfits from Neligh, then the western end of the railroad. These outfits consisted of ten to twenty heavy freight wagons with twelve yoke of oxen on each wagon with trailer. Some smaller freighting outfits did a thriving business hauling supplies for the new military post, and for ranchers who established themselves nearby. They in turn did a good business selling their cattle on hoof to the government to feed the soldiers and for the monthly beef issue to the Indians. t Niobrara was abandoned in 1907, troops were removed and all the buildings disposed of but one which is now used by the U. S. Game Preserve which has its headquarters on the site of...

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The Non-Search for Fort Caroline and a Great Lake

Most history books and online encyclopedia sources state unequivocally that Fort Caroline was built on the St. Johns River in present day Jacksonville.  They state that the May River named by de Laudonniére, was the same as the San Juan (St. Johns) River named by the Spanish. Virtually none of the articles tell you that Fort Caroline National Memorial is a reproduction of what some people “think” the fort looked like, constructed at a location that was good for tourism.  No artifacts have been found in the Jacksonville area that can be definitely tied to French colonial activities in the 1560s. Early French explorers verbally described a great lake along the May (Altamaha River.)  It was shown on all French maps until the late 1600s.  The French said that the May River flowed into this lake and then flowed out.  The location of this lake appears to have been south-central Georgia, immediately southeast of Macon.  Traders and government representatives traveling through central Georgia in the early 1700s did not mention seeing a large lake, only several large swamps. There is no reason to doubt René Goulaine de Laudonniére’s description of the Great Lake. Everything other physical feature that he described in his memoir has been confirmed by this research project.  There are two explanations for the lake not being visible in the 1700s.  The first is that it was...

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What If’s

An incredible series of “things gone bad” turned the 16th century colonization efforts of the French government into a tragic disaster.  French efforts were far better planned than their Spanish or English counterparts in the 16th century.  At the start, France seem destined to be the dominant power in North America.  If any one of many decisions had been made differently, the French Colony may have succeeded.  Here are some of the “what if’s.” If Jean Ribault and René Goulaine de Laudonniére had brought along a couple of fishing boats from Brittany on their voyages, the colonists would have had an abundance of food.  Excess fish could have been traded to the Natives for grains and vegetables. If France had established a powerful military and naval base prior to sending over large numbers of non-combatants and non-productive people such as musicians, it is unlikely that the Spanish would have been able to dislodge the colonists from La Florida. If the first phase of the Religious Wars had no broken out, Jean Ribault would have been able to resupply and reinforce both Charlesfort and Fort Caroline before starvation set in. If one man had not remained behind at Charlesfort, the Spanish would not have known that a second and larger colony had been planned to the south. If some of the Fort Caroline garrison had not mutinied, the Spanish would...

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Fort San Mateo

Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés simultaneously built fortifications in Saint Augustine Bay and at La Florida’s planned capital of St. Elena on Parris Island, SC. Next he repaired and strengthened Fort Caroline, renaming it Fort San Mateo.  Efforts were made by the Spanish in 1566 to bribe Indian tribes within the interior of Florida to turn over the Frenchmen, who avoided execution in 1765.  Apparently, the Natives could not be bribed. Fort San Mateo was to be the center of a planned mission system run by the Jesuits. The excellent harbor near Fort Mateo was to be a place where Spanish treasure fleets could find haven from English privateers and hurricanes.  The fact that Spanish galleons could not even enter the St. Johns River is further evidence that neither Fort Caroline nor Fort Mateo were located there.  The Jesuits attempted to convert Native villages near the outlets of the Altamaha, Satilla and St. Marys Rivers around 1568, but did not have much success. Since the victims of the massacre were flying the flag of France, most Frenchmen, whether Protestant or Catholic, considered the murders to be an act of war by Spain.  Had not France been badly divided by the Wars of Religion, it probably would have declared war on Spain.  King Charles IX did nothing more than protest the massacre. Captain Dominique de Gourgue, a Catholic nobleman in...

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Two Massacres at Matanzas

Survivors of Jean Ribault’s fleet staggered onto the beach south of St. Augustine with nothing but their torn clothes.  Eventually, the castaways clustered into two groups. One, numbering about a hundred were under the command of Ribault.  A smaller group came together on a beach farther south.  Neither group had food or water.  Apparently, none knew how to catch fish in tidal pools or which coastal plants were edible. Ribault’s party staggered northward in search of potable water.  Eventually, the desperate men encountered a small search party dispatched by Menéndez to look for survivors of the French fleet.  Ribault assumed that his group of about 100 men would be treated decently and fed, since René de Laudonniére had treated two ship-wrecked Spaniards as guests.  This was not to happen. As soon as Menéndez heard about the surrender of the Frenchmen, he sent word to have their hands bound behind their backs.  They were then individually interrogated.  The few Catholics in the group were freed and given food and water.  Then following direct orders from King Phillip II, Menéndez  gave each Protestant a chance to renounce his faith and convert to Roman Catholicism.  Apparently, none did.  Ten at a time, they were marched to a river then rowed across to the other side. Their throats were slit behind a sand dune, where the others could not see their pending fate....

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Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés Arrives at Fort Caroline

One September 2, 1565, just after Ribault had sailed in three of his small ships to Fort Caroline, six large Spanish ships appeared at the entrance to the May River.  It was the force commanded by Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés that the king of Spain had ordered to drive out the heretic French colonists.    The Frenchman, who had elected to stay behind at Charlesfort had been captured by the Spanish.  He had told the Spanish approximately where the other colony was located. Many of the tribes may have been in cahoots with the Spanish, not knowing that the Spanish would be far worse masters than the French. In fact, the invitation to travel to the Appalachian Mountains might well have been a trap.  The fort would have been weakened by the lost of a large party of soldiers headed north.   An attack on the gold-hunting party could have been planned once they were in the province of their enemies.  Whatever was planned, it turned out not to be necessary. During the 1500s the Spanish style of naval warfare was to grapple an enemy ship then board it with large numbers of soldiers.  English ships relied on superior cannon and gunnery skills. Probably, the French and Dutch Protestant ships were fairly similar to the English ones.  The big Spanish ships were probably galleons, for Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés...

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Jean Ribault Arrives at Fort Caroline

On August 28, 1565 the two ships at Fort Caroline’s dock prepared to hoist anchors and sail for France.  Then sails were seen on the horizon.  It was Jean Ribault’s large fleet of at least seven ships, carrying 800 colonists.  Ribault had finally returned to France from England in June of 1565.  While in England he had almost been successful in convincing Queen Elizabeth to send a English colonists to Fort Caroline. Those colonists, who returned to France after the fort was constructed, told authorities that de Laudonniére was a tyrannical commander, who would resist militarily any attempt by other Frenchmen to occupy the fort.  Ribault was under orders to arrest de Laudonniére, if the information was found to be true.  If the allegations were not true, nevertheless, Ribault was to take command of the colony. Ribault quickly realized that de Laudonniére was innocent of the charges.  Ribault offered to name him is second-in-command.  De Laudonniére refused and asked to be allowed to return to France. The day after Ribault’s arrival Native leaders from throughout the region arrived at the fort to inquire.  Again we have proof of a very speedy communication system among the coastal provinces.  Presumably, in the flatlands, it was based on runners, rather than hill top signal fires.  However, de Laudonniére makes no mention of any communication system among the Natives. The indigenous visitors to...

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Geography Around the Coastal Region of Fort Caroline

To understand why Captain René de Laudonniére would be drawn to either the Satilla, St. Marys or Altamaha Rivers as the location of France’s first permanent colony in North America, one has to first look at the “ground level” geography, i.e. what the officers would have seen from a mile or so out to sea. Maps of the Florida and Georgia coast are included with this article. The mouth of the St. Johns River would appear to be that of small, shallow river flowing through marshes. The outlet of the river was often blocked with dangerous sand bars until...

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Where was Fort Caroline?

A very important historical fact should be considered with evaluating alternative locations for Fort Caroline. The cities of Darien, Brunswick and St. Marys on the Georgia coast were booming ports for many decades before Jacksonville, FL even existed. Their harbors were naturally deep enough to handle sea going vessels.  At that time the St. Johns River was so shallow in places that cattle could be driven across; hence the city’s original name, Cowford. It was only after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged and widened the St. John River’s outlet that the port of Jacksonville was able to attract large sea-going vessels.  Jacksonville was really not a seaport until the 1850s. De Laudonniére described Fort Caroline as being triangular.  The west side faced forests and prairieland. It was protected by a moat.  The north side adjoined the freshwater creek that contained potable water.  The other side faced the May River and tidal marshes.  A drawing by Jacques Le Moyne showed the May River to be relatively narrow near Fort Caroline.  René de Laudonniére’s commentary suggests that crossing the river between the fort and his beloved “modest mountain” was a fairly easy task, not one requiring several hours of rowing across a wide bay. The May River was consistently shown in the same location as the Altamaha River by French colonial maps.  Most maps show the May River beginning...

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Second Voyage Commanded by René Goulaine de Laudonniére

In early 1562 the government of France dispatched Captain Jean Ribault with a small fleet to explore the South Atlantic Coast; claim it for the King of France; and identify potential locations for colonies. Ribault brought along with him three stone columns displaying the coat of arms of the King of France.  He placed one of these columns at the mouth of the River May, which contemporary scholars assume to be the St. Johns River.  Ribault’s fleet then sailed northward along the coast, mapping the islands and river outlets, until it reached was is now assumed to be Port Royal Sound.  Ribault planted a second column at the mouth of the sound. Most of the expedition’s energies during the short stay of Captains Ribault and René de Laudonniére were focused on constructing a fort and buildings for the 28 men, who were to stay at the new colony while the remainder went to France for more supplies and colonists. Captain Albert de la Pierria was placed in command of Charlesfort.  Because a religious civil war had broken out in France during their absence, neither Ribault nor de Laudonniére was able to return to Charlesfort as soon as promised. The garrison faced starvation and was saddled with a increasingly neurotic commander.  Captain Albert was killed by the garrison.  The survivors then built a sail boat. All but one sailed to...

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History of Charlesfort

René Goulaine de Laudonniére described Charlesfort as a simple, triangular earthen fort, reinforced with vertical timbers and bales of faggots (small limbs.)   It contained a fairly large timber-framed warehouse in the center, plus a small house for the commander, a somewhat larger house for the officers and a barracks for the enlisted men.  Much of the construction of the buildings was done by local Natives.  Presumably, these buildings resembled Native American structures of the region. There was also a cooking shed, an outhouse, a covered oven, well and a woodshed. Charlesfort would have given little protection from a warship,...

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