Fort Jackson, Louisiana

jrweaver

Corporal
Joined
Dec 9, 2020
Fort Jackson, Louisiana, is a classic pentagonal bastioned fort built early in the Third System of Coastal Defense to defend the main approach to New Orleans via the Mississippi River. It was built to work in cooperation with an old Spanish and French colonial fort on the opposite shore; a fort that was to be modernized to act as a supplementary for within the Third System, Fort St. Philip. While the shape is classic, the fort contains a number of features that make its design unique.
In addition to having a unique design, it provides an interesting look at how a battle in the Civil War changed, in a fundamental way, the way that the United States built coastal defenses in the last half of the 19th Century. Because of events at Fort Jackson and Fort Morgan (Mobile Bay), an evolution took place where the fort became less important and the weapon in the fort became more important. This culminated in the late 1880s with the publishing of the Endicott Board Report, 1886, and the construction of open-backed, concrete emplacements that would hold huge, breach-loading, steel cannon.
In this thread I'd like to start a discussion on the design of Fort Jackson, its development immediately prior to the Civil War, and the changes made right after the war - based on wartime events.
Unfortunately Fort Jackson is closed to the public, though it is sometimes possible to visit the fort through special arrangements. It is being maintained by Plaquemines Parish, who own the fort, and the Parish Government hopes to reopen the fort as soon as practical. The fort has a small, but nice, museum just a few miles upriver from the fort. That museum is also closed at this time, but there is also hope that it will be reopened as well.
15-33 Jackson sally port.jpg
 

jrweaver

Corporal
Joined
Dec 9, 2020
Fort Jackson is one of three Third system forts that was protected by two concentric wet ditches, providing a very strong infantry defense. The outer ditch was very wide, and crossed by a causeway leading to a masonry-revetted coverface. This coverface encircled three fronts of the fort, terminating at the Mississippi River on each extreme. The entry path crossed the outer ditch, then made a sharp turn into a small ravelin (or reentering place d'armes). This prevented direct fire on the ravelin and on the fort behind. The path then made another sharp turn in the opposite direction, leading directly to the sally port of the fort.
15-31 Jackson Scan NARA Color Smaller.jpg

2-22 Jackson entry passageway sketch.jpg

A second causeway crossed the inner ditch, terminating in a drawbridge at the sally port. While the drawbridge no longer exists, parts of the mechanism are still attached to the masonry of the sally port.
The modern bridge is in the same location, but the drawbridge has been eliminated.
25-9B Sally Port Option 02.JPG

This wheel is part of the original mechanism for the cable that raised and lowered the drawbridge.
IMGP8604.JPG
 

jrweaver

Corporal
Joined
Dec 9, 2020
The original plan of the fort had a coverface that protected all five fronts of the fort, but the coverface was deleted from the plan on the two riverine fronts, at the top of the drawing above. The remaining coverface had a salient place d'armes at each outward angle and demilunes, reentering places d'armes, at each reentering angle. Another modification in the design was that the semicircular demilunes were given a blunt-angle shape, typical of other reentering places d'armes.
Each place d'armes was protected by a traverse on each entry point from the remainder of the coverface, with a crochet providing a passageway around the traverse. Each traverse had a banquette for rifle fire, facing away from the place d'armes. The sketch below shows the original plan of the rounded demilune with the traverse and crochet on each flank. This is prior to the modification of the reentering place d'armes, but the design of the traverses and crochets remained the same.
Jackson traverse and crochet plan.jpg


As can be seen in the picture below, the curved front was actually built as a blunted triangular shape.
Reentering Place d'armes.jpg


Below is the remains of a traverse and crochet. The traverse is to the right of the picture. Note the slope from the parapet of the traverse, angling toward the remaining coverface. This provided a clear field of fire for defenders on the banquette of the traverse.
Crochet.jpg


This is another look at where the crochet opens to the remaining coverface, showing why the term crochet (French for little hook) is used to describe this passageway. Again, the traverse is to the right of the picture; I am standing on the glacis near the parapet of the coverface.
IMGP8877.JPG


As can be seen in the picture below, the coverface has been badly damaged by erosion and vegetation. What remains, however, does a great job of telling the story of the outworks of this wonderful fort.
 

bdtex

Major General
★★ Sr. Moderator
Silver Patron
Annual Winner
Regtl. Quartermaster Chickamauga 2018 Vicksburg 2019
Joined
Jul 21, 2015
Location
Texas
Fort Jackson, Louisiana, is a classic pentagonal bastioned fort built early in the Third System of Coastal Defense to defend the main approach to New Orleans via the Mississippi River. It was built to work in cooperation with an old Spanish and French colonial fort on the opposite shore; a fort that was to be modernized to act as a supplementary for within the Third System, Fort St. Philip. While the shape is classic, the fort contains a number of features that make its design unique.
In addition to having a unique design, it provides an interesting look at how a battle in the Civil War changed, in a fundamental way, the way that the United States built coastal defenses in the last half of the 19th Century. Because of events at Fort Jackson and Fort Morgan (Mobile Bay), an evolution took place where the fort became less important and the weapon in the fort became more important. This culminated in the late 1880s with the publishing of the Endicott Board Report, 1886, and the construction of open-backed, concrete emplacements that would hold huge, breach-loading, steel cannon.
In this thread I'd like to start a discussion on the design of Fort Jackson, its development immediately prior to the Civil War, and the changes made right after the war - based on wartime events.
Unfortunately Fort Jackson is closed to the public, though it is sometimes possible to visit the fort through special arrangements. It is being maintained by Plaquemines Parish, who own the fort, and the Parish Government hopes to reopen the fort as soon as practical. The fort has a small, but nice, museum just a few miles upriver from the fort. That museum is also closed at this time, but there is also hope that it will be reopened as well.
View attachment 389066
Thanks for the post. I didn't know any of that. It is certainly on the list of things to do in Louisiana now. Can't wait for the reopening.
 

jackt62

Captain
Member of the Month
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Location
New York City
This culminated in the late 1880s with the publishing of the Endicott Board Report, 1886, and the construction of open-backed, concrete emplacements that would hold huge, breach-loading, steel cannon.
I recall when visiting Ft. Sumter and Ft. Pickens, both have "Endicott" fortifications that are constructed within the confines of the original Third System forts. Were those cannon also designed as telescoping?
 

jrweaver

Corporal
Joined
Dec 9, 2020
I recall when visiting Ft. Sumter and Ft. Pickens, both have "Endicott" fortifications that are constructed within the confines of the original Third System forts. Were those cannon also designed as telescoping?
"Disappearing Guns" - guns using the Buffington-Crozier carriage system that dropped the gun tube below the concrete parapet for loading and aiming, then used a counterweight to lift the gun back to firing position - were used extensively during the Endicott Period. As artillery development continued, guns on warships could elevate to 45 degrees, while the Buffington-Crozier carriages could not. That meant that the ships could fire at longer distances, obsoleting the disappearing carriage. Many of the tubes were simply remounted on barbette or other types of carriages.
CDSG.org has a list of artillery in various locations and what carriages the tubes were mounted on, and in what time periods. Both Pickens and Sumter had guns on disappearing carriages at some point. Below is a disappearing gun at Baker Beach, San Francisco, CA. I had the privilege of "cranking down" the gun on Presidio-to-Park Day, when the Army turned over the Presidio to National Park Service, creating the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The design of the system is such that the recoil of the gun is what raises the counterweights, lowering the gun below the parapet. Since the gun is no longer actually fired, it must be manually lowered with hand cranks.
Chaimberlin gun in firing position 2.jpg

Chaimberlin gun in firing position.jpg


This is an engineering drawing of a Buffington-Crozier carriage system:
440px-Cannon_Disappearing_CA_1897_12_Diagram.jpg
 

jrweaver

Corporal
Joined
Dec 9, 2020
Fort Jackson, Louisiana, is a classic pentagonal bastioned fort built early in the Third System of Coastal Defense to defend the main approach to New Orleans via the Mississippi River. It was built to work in cooperation with an old Spanish and French colonial fort on the opposite shore; a fort that was to be modernized to act as a supplementary for within the Third System, Fort St. Philip. While the shape is classic, the fort contains a number of features that make its design unique.
In addition to having a unique design, it provides an interesting look at how a battle in the Civil War changed, in a fundamental way, the way that the United States built coastal defenses in the last half of the 19th Century. Because of events at Fort Jackson and Fort Morgan (Mobile Bay), an evolution took place where the fort became less important and the weapon in the fort became more important. This culminated in the late 1880s with the publishing of the Endicott Board Report, 1886, and the construction of open-backed, concrete emplacements that would hold huge, breach-loading, steel cannon.
In this thread I'd like to start a discussion on the design of Fort Jackson, its development immediately prior to the Civil War, and the changes made right after the war - based on wartime events.
Unfortunately Fort Jackson is closed to the public, though it is sometimes possible to visit the fort through special arrangements. It is being maintained by Plaquemines Parish, who own the fort, and the Parish Government hopes to reopen the fort as soon as practical. The fort has a small, but nice, museum just a few miles upriver from the fort. That museum is also closed at this time, but there is also hope that it will be reopened as well.
View attachment 389066
On to the main fort, starting with the sally port. As you can see in the picture above, the sally port was flanked by two howitzer embrasures, and the picture below shows a howitzer position in the flank of the each bastion. That means four howitzers would guard the causeway and drawbridge leading to the sally port, as well as rifle and gun positions on the ramparts.
IMGP8606.JPG


In addition to breaching the drawbridge in the "up" position, an attacker would be faced with two sets of wooden doors within the sally port. Both sets would have been three-ply doors, all three plies made of hard wood - in this case I believe them to be cypress. The outer layer would have the grain of the wood running diagonally, the middle layer on the opposite diagonal, and the inner layer the same as the outer layer. This way, someone attempting to breach the door with an axe would be able to split the outer layer with the grain, but would then be chopping cross-grain on the middle layer. In addition, every six inches in all directions would be iron studs. If the axe struck one of these studs, one of two things would happen. Best case (for the attacker) is that his back teeth would ring for hours! Worst case is that his axe head would shatter, and he'd be left with an axe handle to attempt to breach the door!
Once through the first set of doors, the attacker would find himself fired upon through loopholes in the sides of the sally port. These loopholes opened into two guard rooms, one on either side. With the brick walls and confined space, missed shots would ricochet around the area until they hit someone or their energy was expended.
IMGP2939.JPG

Finally, when the second set of doors were breached the attackers would most likely be looking into the muzzle of a field piece standing on the parade, loaded with cannister shot.
 

Rusk County Avengers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 8, 2018
Location
Coffeeville, TX
Great analysis of Fort Jackson.

I used to know a fellow who was real partial to the fort as he had a grandfather who was killed there by the mutineers in the Mutiny of Fort Jackson after Farragut passed by. I've never got out there myself, but he used to say the way things are now geographically, when your standing on the walls your looking up at ships passing by.

I hope the powers that be down there don't let the fort get the way it was before it was preserved. It'd be a tragic loss. Years ago when they held reenactments there they didn't allow cannons to be fired from the walls, or fort itself because of the condition of the bricks and mortar. Which its easy to see from these pictures why.
 
Joined
Sep 28, 2013
Location
Southwest Mississippi
Great post !

I would always stop by Fort Jackson when returning from Deep Sea fishing trips in Venice, Louisiana.

Hurricane Katrina put this fort almost completely underwater for weeks.
After the water subsided, Fort Jackson was buried in mud for a few years.

I honestly thought it might be gone forever.
Subsequent hurricanes didn't help matters.

Anyway, I'm glad to know Plaquemines Parish is working to preserve and reopen Fort Jackson.





 

jrweaver

Corporal
Joined
Dec 9, 2020
The Parish is doing what they can, but are having limited success. I testified before three Federal Magistrates in a FEMA hearing regarding funding for damage from Hurricane Katrina. The Parish received only 10% of the requested amount. They are trying, but there are safety issues that must be addressed. The biggest issue is salt infiltration into the mortar; that's expensive to remedy.
 
Joined
Sep 28, 2013
Location
Southwest Mississippi
The Parish is doing what they can, but are having limited success. I testified before three Federal Magistrates in a FEMA hearing regarding funding for damage from Hurricane Katrina. The Parish received only 10% of the requested amount. They are trying, but there are safety issues that must be addressed. The biggest issue is salt infiltration into the mortar; that's expensive to remedy.
Yeah, that Parish has been dealing with multiple issues each year for almost two decades.

I do admire everyone from Plaquemines Parish.
 

jrweaver

Corporal
Joined
Dec 9, 2020
On topic, wondering when the last Third System fort was planned, built, and commissioned?
The last fort planned and commenced was Fort McClary in Kittery, Maine. Construction began in 1863 and the fort was not completed. There is still a lot of stone at the site that was shipped there for building the fort but was not laid.
6-26 McClary Blockhouse and Second System Battery.jpg

6-27 McClary Scarp and Bastionette.jpg

6-29 McClary Bastionette.jpg

PICT6760.JPG

PICT6770.JPG


The last for planned, but not built, was a fort on Pelican Spit at Galveston, Texas. When Texas seceded, planning and material purchasing stopped and was never restarted. The Confederate engineers built a battery at that location, but nothing like a Third System fort.

The second-last fort to begin construction was Fort Preble in Portland Harbor, Maine. It was not completed, either. Portions of the scarp were completed and it was able to mount cannon, but the casemates were not built.
3-5 Preble Incomplete Construction Smaller.jpg
 

jrweaver

Corporal
Joined
Dec 9, 2020
Yeah, that Parish has been dealing with multiple issues each year for almost two decades.

I do admire everyone from Plaquemines Parish.
I really enjoyed working with the guys down there! We established a great friendship, and I have visited with them since the testimony in DC. My last trip down was cancelled due to COVID, but I might be back down that way this winter.
I became friends with the Parish Attorney, Rennie Buras, and asked him about the town. He confirmed that Buras, Louisiana, is indeed named for his family. He is a great person!
 
Top