Fort Jackson, Louisiana

James N.

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Bypassing them was anything but simple, and certainly did not open up the Mississippi River... Farragut managed to pass the forts, with some losses, and reach the river upstream, but merchant or cargo ships could not manage to pass the forts. The Mississippi was still closed to Union transports. It wasn't until later when the Confederate defenders mutinied and surrendered the forts that the Mississippi was opened.
Well, it was a lot simpler than trying to reduce them BEFORE proceeding upriver to the true prize, New Orleans. Once the city surrendered to his fleet the forts became redundant even if they were still blocking free passage to the other vessels. The two forts were obsolete to the extent they were unable to prevent the fleet from passing them relatively unscathed with the help of the improvised chain armor.
 

jrweaver

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Well, it was a lot simpler than trying to reduce them BEFORE proceeding upriver to the true prize, New Orleans. Once the city surrendered to his fleet the forts became redundant even if they were still blocking free passage to the other vessels. The two forts were obsolete to the extent they were unable to prevent the fleet from passing them relatively unscathed with the help of the improvised chain armor.
The forts had relatively small armament compared to the Union artillery. It had been shown that it took large-bore cannon mounted on the forts to be able to stop the run-past, and the Confederate forces did not have the big Rodman guns. Does it make a fort obsolete to have sub-standard artillery?
 

James N.

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The forts had relatively small armament compared to the Union artillery. It had been shown that it took large-bore cannon mounted on the forts to be able to stop the run-past, and the Confederate forces did not have the big Rodman guns. Does it make a fort obsolete to have sub-standard artillery?
Probably, if you're considering it in all its aspects. The fact of being susceptible to flooding too (as was earthen Fort Henry in Tennessee), especially in the floodplain of the Mississippi Delta, a place regularly ravaged by hurricanes, shows that it wasn't a very good idea in the first place!
 

NFB22

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Probably, if you're considering it in all its aspects. The fact of being susceptible to flooding too (as was earthen Fort Henry in Tennessee), especially in the floodplain of the Mississippi Delta, a place regularly ravaged by hurricanes, shows that it wasn't a very good idea in the first place!
I think that's more on the French colonists that founded an entire city beneath sea level. After the Louisiana Purchase and the War of 1812, the city became a thriving port both for the slave trade and other goods. At that point the United States was forced to somehow account for its defense hence the multiple fortifications located not only along the Mississippi River but those like Fort Pike & Macomb leading into Lake Pontchartrain and other smaller defenses located along Lake Borgne.
 

jrweaver

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I think that's more on the French colonists that founded an entire city beneath sea level. After the Louisiana Purchase and the War of 1812, the city became a thriving port both for the slave trade and other goods. At that point the United States was forced to somehow account for its defense hence the multiple fortifications located not only along the Mississippi River but those like Fort Pike & Macomb leading into Lake Pontchartrain and other smaller defenses located along Lake Borgne.
The Mississippi River was vital to all of our trade in the west in 1816. Goods were shipped to the river, down to the Gulf of Mexico, and out through the Florida Strait, the either to the East Coast of the United States or over to Europe and Africa. The Mississippi HAD to be defended. If those defenses were also to defend New Orleans, they had to be well south of the city to prevent a ship from bombarding it from a distance. All of the Mississippi shoreline south of New Orleans was swamp land, below sea level. There was really no choice but to build a fort below the level of the river!
The choice of location for the fort was one of two places where there was a very sharp bend in the river, causing sailing ships to need to slow down and tack to navigate through. English Turn had been fortified, but was too close to the city itself. Plaquemines Bend was the other logical choice, both by the French who built Fort St. Philip and the Americans who built Fort Jackson. Had this fort been armed by the Union forces, it could have stopped anyone trying to pass it by using 15-inch Rodman guns and Parrott Rifles. The Confederate forces at this location did not have these guns, and chose not to move them from other locations to arm these forts. They chose to provide the defense with 42-pounders, 32-pounders, and 24-pounders. These could not stop the ironclads and protected wooden ships, though they did cause significant loss to the fleet. Despite the losses, Farragut and Porter were able to run by the forts.
Following the war, the Federal Army mounted larger guns at the site and could have prevented that kind of incursion.
When judging the location, around the turn of the 20th Century, consider that the Federal Government spent a great deal of money and dedicated a large number of resources to the defense of the river at that point! The two batteries at Fort Jackson were supplements to the large number of guns mounted at Fort St. Philip. It was a very impressive defense, and demonstrated the value of that position.
 

NFB22

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The Mississippi River was vital to all of our trade in the west in 1816. Goods were shipped to the river, down to the Gulf of Mexico, and out through the Florida Strait, the either to the East Coast of the United States or over to Europe and Africa. The Mississippi HAD to be defended. If those defenses were also to defend New Orleans, they had to be well south of the city to prevent a ship from bombarding it from a distance. All of the Mississippi shoreline south of New Orleans was swamp land, below sea level. There was really no choice but to build a fort below the level of the river!
I've always wondered how far a foreign fleet could have gotten unchecked in say....the 1850s, had they been able to get past the New Orleans area defenses. I don't know of any other major defenses that existed on the river against incursion deeper into the United States at that time or any major naval opposition in that immediate area.
 

jrweaver

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I've always wondered how far a foreign fleet could have gotten unchecked in say....the 1850s, had they been able to get past the New Orleans area defenses. I don't know of any other major defenses that existed on the river against incursion deeper into the United States at that time or any major naval opposition in that immediate area.
The Third System defenses stopped at New Orleans. I think all the upstream defenses were built for the Civil War. That's a great point - the New Orleans defenses were critical.
 

jrweaver

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I think it warrants another one of your in depth threads, mainly so we all know what's left.
Here's my "travelogue" of Fort St. Philip from 2002. I can update the information after the trip next year!
This is the terreplein with the gun positions. The masonry "wall" in the left-center was the parade wall, but the infill has almost completely covered the parade.
St Philip gun positions.jpg

This is an exterior view of the scarp
St Philip March 2002 003.jpg

St Philip March 2002 004.jpg

St Philip March 2002 005.jpg
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St Philip March 2002 007.jpg

St Philip March 2002 008.jpg

St Philip March 2002 009.jpg

Below is the pintle of a gun.
St Philip March 2002 010.jpg

St Philip March 2002 011.jpg

St Philip March 2002 013.jpg

St Philip March 2002 014.jpg

This is an interior view of the sally port.
St Philip March 2002 015.jpg

Exterior view of the sally port
St Philip March 2002 017.jpg

The chapel
St Philip March 2002 018.jpg

St Philip March 2002 016.jpg

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St Philip March 2002 025.jpg

An exterior view of a bastion
St Philip March 2002 026.jpg

St Philip March 2002 030.jpg

St Philipt March 2002 020.jpg

I didn't edit any of these photos - they are just as they were taken. That way they show the current (as of 2002) condition of the fort.
 
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Here's my "travelogue" of Fort St. Philip from 2002. I can update the information after the trip next year!
This is the terreplein with the gun positions. The masonry "wall" in the left-center was the parade wall, but the infill has almost completely covered the parade.
View attachment 389414
This is an exterior view of the scarp
View attachment 389415
View attachment 389416
View attachment 389417View attachment 389418
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Below is the pintle of a gun.
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This is an interior view of the sally port.
View attachment 389426
Exterior view of the sally port
View attachment 389428
The chapel
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View attachment 389431
An exterior view of a bastion
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I didn't edit any of these photos - they are just as they were taken. That way they show the current (as of 2002) condition of the fort.
Spectacular images !

However, unless controlled . . . the flora will eventually overwhelm and destroy the brick structures.

It may take fifty to one hundred years. . . but the Vegetation will prevail and destroy the brick and mortar.
 
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jrweaver

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Spectacular images !

However, unless controlled . . . the flora will eventually overwhelm and destroy the brick structures.

It may take fifty to one hundred years. . . but the Vegetation will prevail and destroy the bricks.
I agree completely. It has already done a lot of damage, and we could easily lose this fort! It is privately owned, though, and I don't know what can be done about it. Back when the Federal Government was considering a Lower Mississippi National Park there was hope, but that's about the only way there would be enough money to preserve the fort. It's sad.
 

A. Roy

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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.

Your explanation helps a lot in understanding this fort -- thanks so much! After looking at these photos and reading all this, I have to say that this is not just a utilitarian structure, but in a way it is really beautiful and elegant.

Roy B.
 

Rusk County Avengers

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I agree completely. It has already done a lot of damage, and we could easily lose this fort! It is privately owned, though, and I don't know what can be done about it. Back when the Federal Government was considering a Lower Mississippi National Park there was hope, but that's about the only way there would be enough money to preserve the fort. It's sad.

Put out a call for volunteers to come out with shovels, heavy equipment, and so on to dig it out and build a berm along the river and surrounding it with all the soil dug out from it and where ever it can be found.

There's enough folks who'd like to see it saved to volunteer their time and sweat. Least I'd wager that.
 

jrweaver

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Put out a call for volunteers to come out with shovels, heavy equipment, and so on to dig it out and build a berm along the river and surrounding it with all the soil dug out from it and where ever it can be found.

There's enough folks who'd like to see it saved to volunteer their time and sweat. Least I'd wager that.
That would be great, but there are a lot of issues. First is access: the only way to get to the fort is by airboat from Fort Jackson, beaching the boat and wading in. Second, there are a LOT of snakes - maybe other wildlife as well (I've heard of, but not seen, alligators). Water moccasins seem to love the place. Third, it's privately owned so permission would need to be gained. Finally, there is an unbelievable number of cubic yards of earth in the fort. I can't picture being able to clear it without heavy equipment. I don't mean to throw a wet blanket on the idea - I would love to see it happen and would come down from Indiana to help - but I'm not sure it's realistic.
I was part of a group at Fort Pike which had many less obstacles, but we could not sustain a volunteer effort. I'm thinking that opening Fort Jackson would be more realistic if we could mobilize a volunteer force to help the Parish perform the needed repairs there to be able to open it to the public.
 

jrweaver

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Your explanation helps a lot in understanding this fort -- thanks so much! After looking at these photos and reading all this, I have to say that this is not just a utilitarian structure, but in a way it is really beautiful and elegant.

Roy B.
Most definitely! It has many wonderful architectural components.
 

Rusk County Avengers

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That would be great, but there are a lot of issues. First is access: the only way to get to the fort is by airboat from Fort Jackson, beaching the boat and wading in. Second, there are a LOT of snakes - maybe other wildlife as well (I've heard of, but not seen, alligators). Water moccasins seem to love the place. Third, it's privately owned so permission would need to be gained. Finally, there is an unbelievable number of cubic yards of earth in the fort. I can't picture being able to clear it without heavy equipment. I don't mean to throw a wet blanket on the idea - I would love to see it happen and would come down from Indiana to help - but I'm not sure it's realistic.
I was part of a group at Fort Pike which had many less obstacles, but we could not sustain a volunteer effort. I'm thinking that opening Fort Jackson would be more realistic if we could mobilize a volunteer force to help the Parish perform the needed repairs there to be able to open it to the public.

Eh, if the landowner would like to see preservation work done free of charge....

It'd have to be in the coldest winter months of the year for safety snake wise, (not saying much in that part of the country), with a lot of snake away thrown out the day before just in case. I know I've killed a lot of water moccasins with a shovel, but armed guards, and or folks with revolvers loaded with snake shot would handle that issue.

Looking at the pictures, and satellite images of the fort, bare minimum on heavy equipment would be two back hoes. Getting them out there could be done with a rented barge. Bare minimum on people working would probably be around 20 people, and also for safety no one wondering off alone. It could conceivably be done over the course of 3 or 4 years, working weekends in the winter, or even two weeks a year. Come summer rain and other coastal happening would probably help clear the fort after the ground's been turned up, but in that case supports would need to be placed everywhere around the fort, especially where digging has taken place.

Another big safety concern would be all the unexploded ordnance, but experts could be had if they're allowed to take them home. Be a LOT of folks lining up to help then.

As for other happenings climate and weather wise, some scientist friends of mine have been expecting a big cool down in the Earth due to volcanic eruptions, solar activity, ice core data, and so on, and I got to say they've been on point so far. Such changes could provided a winter good enough down yonder to help cleanse the place of water moccasins in the next two or three years.

Paying for it? Online fundraiser, plus making sure your volunteers have their own equipment. Owners of back hoes could write it off on taxes for charity.
 

Lubliner

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Weren't these forts subject to flooding? I know you mentioned the dyke Farragut took out and the latrines of the fort flooded. But a heavy storm surge, spring run-off, or just inundation would put these under water, wouldn't it?
Lubliner.
 

Rusk County Avengers

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Weren't these forts subject to flooding? I know you mentioned the dyke Farragut took out and the latrines of the fort flooded. But a heavy storm surge, spring run-off, or just inundation would put these under water, wouldn't it?
Lubliner.
Considering the soil, the river, the ocean, erosion, and many other factors its safe to say that entire region will sink eventually.
 

NFB22

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The Third System defenses stopped at New Orleans. I think all the upstream defenses were built for the Civil War. That's a great point - the New Orleans defenses were critical.
I feel like it would have been happy feasting on the Mississippi unless some naval opposition force had managed to have been there much like if the Japanese had wounded Pearl Harbor more significantly in 1941 and left the west coast wide open. It's a big "what if" but intriguing to think about
 

jrweaver

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Eh, if the landowner would like to see preservation work done free of charge....

It'd have to be in the coldest winter months of the year for safety snake wise, (not saying much in that part of the country), with a lot of snake away thrown out the day before just in case. I know I've killed a lot of water moccasins with a shovel, but armed guards, and or folks with revolvers loaded with snake shot would handle that issue.

Looking at the pictures, and satellite images of the fort, bare minimum on heavy equipment would be two back hoes. Getting them out there could be done with a rented barge. Bare minimum on people working would probably be around 20 people, and also for safety no one wondering off alone. It could conceivably be done over the course of 3 or 4 years, working weekends in the winter, or even two weeks a year. Come summer rain and other coastal happening would probably help clear the fort after the ground's been turned up, but in that case supports would need to be placed everywhere around the fort, especially where digging has taken place.

Another big safety concern would be all the unexploded ordnance, but experts could be had if they're allowed to take them home. Be a LOT of folks lining up to help then.

As for other happenings climate and weather wise, some scientist friends of mine have been expecting a big cool down in the Earth due to volcanic eruptions, solar activity, ice core data, and so on, and I got to say they've been on point so far. Such changes could provided a winter good enough down yonder to help cleanse the place of water moccasins in the next two or three years.

Paying for it? Online fundraiser, plus making sure your volunteers have their own equipment. Owners of back hoes could write it off on taxes for charity.
I'm in! I'm old, but not feeble and I certainly know how to handle a shovel. I've got snake boots and would love to be part of it. I wouldn't be much good at organizing it, living six hundred miles away, but I sure can participate and provide my own equipment - and equipment for others as well. I've got some power tools to eliminate vegetation and have done a lot of that kind of work at other forts. I could do two weekends in a row and spend the week in between down there looking at other forts! I'm retired so a little limited on funds, but could kick in some money for the project.
 

jrweaver

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I feel like it would have been happy feasting on the Mississippi unless some naval opposition force had managed to have been there much like if the Japanese had wounded Pearl Harbor more significantly in 1941 and left the west coast wide open. It's a big "what if" but intriguing to think about
It is certainly interesting to think about. I've read a couple of "alternative histories" - not the political stuff that changes what happened, but rather what-if novels such as Led Deighton's SS-GB about the Nazis taking over Great Britain - and they are interesting to strike up the imagination. I really think a foreign invader would have a really rough time getting past our coastal defenses at New Orleans. The Fortifications Board knew the importance of that city and put a lot of resources there - six forts and three other fortifications - to make sure that didn't happen. Remember that part of the Union capability during the Civil War rested on the fact that the attackers had all the fortification plans and even used the engineers that built the forts in designing the attacks. Additionally, the Confederacy had very limited resources spread over a very large area. In the case of a foreign invader, the roles would have been reversed with the attackers having limited resources (due to distance from their home bases) and would be blind to our defenses. They were a reasonable well-kept secret when it came to details.
In his 1821 Report, Bernard outlined a strategy of how to attack New York City and what our response would be prior to the Third System. It might be fun to build a strategy for an invader attempting to take New Orleans and play it out with the Third System in place!
The following graphic is one that I put together for a presentation on the defenses of New Orleans. The green arrows indicate the three principal routes of attack that a foreign invader might use in staging an attack on the city. Note that Ship Island (location of Fort Massachusetts) is where the British staged their attack during the War of 1812, and Bayou Bienvenue (location of Battery Bienvenue) is the route they used toward the city. Note that they didn't even try to attack Fort St. Philip, even though Fort Jackson didn't exist at that time.
New Orleans Defenses.jpg
 
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