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Fort Alcatraz

Discussion in 'Forgotten Forts & Places' started by NFB22, Nov 23, 2012.

  1. NFB22

    NFB22 First Sergeant

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    I was reading about Fort Alcatraz this morning. Before it was a famous prison Alcatraz served as a military post. Most history buffs familiar with the island know this but I dont think people really realize how extensive this fortification was. By the end of the war Alcatraz had an armament of over 100 cannon. Heres a few diagrams and picture I found. I wonder how she and her garrison would have faired in a fight with an invading fleet...

    795px-Alcatraz_Plan_1867.jpg

    Alcatraz_013.jpg

    fort-alcatraz-san-francisco-california.jpg
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  3. Zuzah

    Zuzah Sergeant Major Forum Host

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    That is effin awesome man
  4. NFB22

    NFB22 First Sergeant

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  5. Dave Wilma

    Dave Wilma Sergeant Major Forum Host

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    Part of the fortifications at the time were cannon at Fort Point today just under the Golden Gate Bridge. Fort Point was designed along the same lines as Sumter with vertical masonry walls and completed just before the war. By that time, it was obsolete because of exploding shells. Still she could have dealt out punishment to an attacker and along with Alcatraz, running the Golden Gate, weather and current permitting, would have been a long shot. Even the Union Navy would struggle with that one.

    The history of coast artillery at San Francisco is fascinating (my Scouts camped in the bunkers and on the grounds of the old forts). By World War II the San Francisco Groupment featured 16" rifles that fired over the horizon.
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  6. NFB22

    NFB22 First Sergeant

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    When the Golden Gate Bridge was being built the builders actually wanted to demolish Fort Point. Thankfully the chief architect recognized it's historical value and designed an arch over the fort to preserve it.
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  7. Republican Blues

    Republican Blues Sergeant Major

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    There was supposed to be a triangle of forts, with Fort Point, Fort Alcatraz, and fort on the Marin side, close to where Fort Baker is now, but that work was never built, nor were batteries even emplaced there. (Ironically, I started reenacting at Fort Point
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  8. gary

    gary 1st Lieutenant

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    Contact the Friends of Civil War Alcatraz. They know everything about the fort. I used to be on their board and we help organize the 2010 Civil War Conference in San Francisco. The theme was Blood on the Ramparts: Coastal Defense in the Civil War. Our speakers include James McPherson, Craig Symonds, Ranger Rick Hatcher (Charleston, SC), John Martini (ret. Ranger who wrote the book on Fortress Alcatraz). The Friends organize two Civil War theme days on Alcatraz and garrison the island with reenactors who help interpret life on the island during the Civil War.

    Anyway, post-Civil War the Army wanted to demonstrate to San Francisco the effectiveness of its defenses and the triangle of death. An old ship was loaded with explosives and anchored in the bay. Upon a signal, Fort Mason (in San Francisco) and Fort Alcatraz opened fire on it (I'm not sure if Fort Point did). Anyway, after the smoke cleared, the barge was unscathed. An enterprising officer rowed out and set the target afire. It blew up then.

    As to the effectiveness of any of those forts during the Civil War, none were ever fully garrisoned. A squadron of wooden warships would be hard pressed to defeat those forts (remember what Nelson said about ships v. forts).

    If you look at that model of Fortress Alcatraz, you will see the masonry citadel. The basement still exists today and is beneath the prison structure.
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  9. gary

    gary 1st Lieutenant

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    BTW, the Army also wanted the Marin headlands (opposite side of the Golden Gate and where Star Fleet HQ is to be built) to build a fort opposite to Fort Point. Anticipating it, a rancher bought the land and asked an enormous price for it. The Army balked. It finally did become federal property and is today part of the National Park Service's Golden Gate National Recreation Area. They have a restored Nike battery there.
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  10. NFB22

    NFB22 First Sergeant

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    Here is an excellent picture of Fort Point with the arch spanning the structure so it didnt have to be destroyed during the Golden Gate Bridge's construction and also a few older photos.

    fort-point.jpg

    FORT%20POINT.gif

    FortPointSanFran1866-500.jpg
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  11. gary

    gary 1st Lieutenant

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    I used to bicycle from Civic Center down to the Embarcadero and then along the Marina through the Presidio to Fort Point on the way home (ultimately West Portal). The uphill climb through the Presidio was tiring, but if you went slow, it's doable. Thank you NFB22 for the memories.
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  12. NFB22

    NFB22 First Sergeant

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    I've been to Alcatraz and the NPS did a great job talking about and pointing out the old fortifications in the pre-prison years. If I go back to California and am back in the area I'd like to visit Fort Point and add it to my ever growing list of forts I've been to here in the United States
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  13. matthew mckeon

    matthew mckeon Brigadier General Moderator

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    Now I want to visit San Francisco. First three stops: Golden Gate, Fort Point and Alcatraz.
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  14. NFB22

    NFB22 First Sergeant

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    Certainly a trip work making if you have the time and money.
  15. gary

    gary 1st Lieutenant

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    Make your reservation on Hornblower Yachts in advance. They sell out three days before for Alcatraz. Try to time it with a Civil War Day on Alcatraz (check http://www.FriendsofCivilWarAlactraz.org) for information.

    If you stay around the Fishermans' Wharf/North Beach area, you can walk to Fort Mason and to Hornblower. You can walk to North Beach and Chinatown, Lombard Street (2nd crooked street in the world), Telegraph Hill (with Coit Tower). I used to walk all over that area as a child (it was safer in the '60s and '70s).

    Best Italian restaurant: Firenze by Night (on Stockton between Vallejo and Green - within walking distance)
    Best pizzeria: Tomasso's (on Kearney between Broadway and Pacific - also within walking distance).
    Best foccacia bread: Liguria Bakery on Filbert and Stockton. Go before noon because they sell out. Buy a slice and hike up to Coit Tower and have your lunch from a million dollar view

    Catch the California Street Cable Car line. No crowds unlike the other two lines. You can catch the F Streetcar from a motel/hotel on Fishermans' Wharf/North Beach.

    Emory Upton committed suicide in the Presidio. He was commandant of Presidio at the time. The Officers' Club there is now a museum and you can see the remains of the original Spanish building there. Irwin McDowell and California Joe (Truman Head, 1st Berdan Sharp Shooters) are buried in the Presidio.
  16. diane

    diane Lt. Colonel

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    There's some legendary CW-related gravesites on the San Francisco Peninsula, too, and over in Sonoma. This is a great thread! :D People completely forget California and, one might argue fairly well, California rather than South Carolina precipitated the war simply by being admitted to the Union. And the Union was mighty glad to get that gold, too...

    p s
    Tomasso's! Forgot how good their pizza was. Haven't been up Telegraph Hill in years but used to eat lunch under Coit's Tower, which is shaped like a fire hose nozzle, on a bench which was stamped: "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto." There were lots of wild parakeets, too.
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  17. Dave Wilma

    Dave Wilma Sergeant Major Forum Host

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    This is totally OT, but relates to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and the old forts. In about 1988 I took the Scouts camping and we spend the first night at Fort Barry. The next day they hiked under their own supervision across the Golden Gate Bridge to Fort Scott. I drove to meet them there. That's when I recalled that they hiked right through the clothing-optional Baker Beach on a sunny Saturday. I asked one kid later how was it. He replied, "Oh yeah, there was this lady..." and he was interrupted by someone complaining about food or something. I never heard the end of his story. No angry calls from parents though. But our parents were pretty easy going.
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  18. NFB22

    NFB22 First Sergeant

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    People seem to forget that when Brig. General Henry Sibley started his New Mexico Campaign that his ultimate goal was to push to California. Not just hang around New Mexico and Colorado.
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  19. gary

    gary 1st Lieutenant

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    Halleck's (Mercury) Mine near San Jose is open to the public.
    Sherman's Bank is on Montgomery and Jackson Street (near Tomasso's). Look for the plaque on the brick wall.
    If the War Memorial Veterans' Building (401 Van Ness, across the street from City Hall and next to its near twin building, the Opera House) is still open (not closed for earthquake renovation), there's a trophy room in there with some Civil War guns. It's only open on Mon & Wed, 1-4 p.m. They've a engraved Henry, an Infantry Spencer, two 1841 Mississippi Rifles, at least one 1863 Springfield and Pershing's Shako helmet that he wore at West Point.
  20. ExNavyPilot

    ExNavyPilot 2nd Lieutenant

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    I grew up in the SF Bay Area in Hayward (East Bay). Didn't know much Civil War history at the time but sure enjoyed visiting Fort Point, Alcatraz, and Angel Island (Boy Scout campouts at the group site on Angel Island with hikes to see the old fortifications). Check out this page on California Military Museum's website for more info on Alcatraz and other Bay Area Civil War posts. http://www.militarymuseum.org/Alcatraz.html

    My dad, who was very interested in Civil War history and got me turned on to it, died almost 2 years ago and was buried in the veteran's section of a cemetery in the Hayward hills (he was a Fire Control Technician (FT2) on a Fletcher-class destroyer in the Korean War.) As he died from a long, drawn-out illness related to ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), he was able to chose his burial site. I didn't understand why he was so satisfied with that site until his interment; there were numerous Civil War veterans' gravemarkers and a 12-pdr Napoleon within 20 yds of his resting place.
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  21. Roland

    Roland Sergeant

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    Very interesting! Thanks
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