Fort Jackson, Louisiana

jrweaver

Corporal
Joined
Dec 9, 2020
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.
View attachment 389456
Note that Fort Wood is the original name of what is now known as Fort Macomb.
 

J. D. Stevens

Corporal
Joined
Dec 11, 2016
Location
Deep In The Heart of Texas
Top notch thread and pictures. Your descriptions and sketches provide excellent information. I have never been, but read some time ago they would open Ft Jackson a couple times a year for specific events or reenactments. If they have something in the future, I was planning to visit.

Although not CW forts, there were three large forts on Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula which I explored extensively in the 50's and 60's. Each of the forts included both the large mound and open type gun emplacements. On Galveston were Ft Crockett and Ft Travis, but are mostly gone today. The gun emplacements at Ft Travis on Bolivar are still there, but fenced off where you can no longer go inside.
 

jrweaver

Corporal
Joined
Dec 9, 2020
Top notch thread and pictures. Your descriptions and sketches provide excellent information. I have never been, but read some time ago they would open Ft Jackson a couple times a year for specific events or reenactments. If they have something in the future, I was planning to visit.

Although not CW forts, there were three large forts on Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula which I explored extensively in the 50's and 60's. Each of the forts included both the large mound and open type gun emplacements. On Galveston were Ft Crockett and Ft Travis, but are mostly gone today. The gun emplacements at Ft Travis on Bolivar are still there, but fenced off where you can no longer go inside.
Thank you!
There was a Third System fort planned for Pelican Spit on Galveston Island, but Texas seceded from the Union before construction began - they were just gathering materials. The Confederates built a battery there during the Civil War, but no fort was built. After the Endicott Report of 1886, all of our coastal defenses were reimagined and open, concrete gun batteries took the place of closed forts. These batteries were armed with rifled steel cannon that had way more firepower and range than the iron cannon used previously. Many Endicott Period batteries stand within Third System forts or right next to them - often both. This type of fortification continued in use, with changes in armament, up until the 1930s when what are now known as WWII defenses were designed. Many of these were casemated - given overhead protection due to the invention of warplanes - but retained the concrete construction methods. In the WWII program, the armament was simplified. Massive 16-inch guns provided defense against battleships and heavy cruisers, while rapid-fire guns, usually 3-inch or 5-inch, provided defense against patrol torpedo boats and minesweepers. Many of these emplacements still exist today.
In 1950, the Coast Artillery Corps was disbanded and our coastal defenses became missile systems, managed by the Air Force. Fixed fortifications became a thing of the past in the United States.
The chart below, taken from A Legacy in Brick and Stone, is a brief timeline of the periods of fortification.
Periods of Fortification Chart.jpg
 

Rusk County Avengers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 8, 2018
Location
Coffeeville, TX
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.

All we'd need is a base to build up an association or whatever to get folks together, land owners permission and support, and folks with heavy equipment to volunteer.

I've no idea how to go about that! Its all doable, just a question of putting out a call after the landowner says "Sure! Why not?" which I have no inkling if that could be arranged.
 

Lubliner

Captain
Forum Host
Joined
Nov 27, 2018
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
All we'd need is a base to build up an association or whatever to get folks together, land owners permission and support, and folks with heavy equipment to volunteer.

I've no idea how to go about that! Its all doable, just a question of putting out a call after the landowner says "Sure! Why not?" which I have no inkling if that could be arranged.
All we need? Do you believe the Parish or Ward or District of the State of Louisiana will not require any form of permit? The red tape on such a project regardless of private property is incalculable. You can't even put up a shed in many parts without a building permit.
But after reading through the previous post by @jrweaver I came to the question of pillboxes and WWII fortifications, asking if he has any special studies completed in that European sector?
Lubliner.
 

jrweaver

Corporal
Joined
Dec 9, 2020
All we need? Do you believe the Parish or Ward or District of the State of Louisiana will not require any form of permit? The red tape on such a project regardless of private property is incalculable. You can't even put up a shed in many parts without a building permit.
But after reading through the previous post by @jrweaver I came to the question of pillboxes and WWII fortifications, asking if he has any special studies completed in that European sector?
Lubliner.
Sorry, no I don't. I have some pictures of pillboxes in San Francisco area, at Fort Cronkhite, but they are not anything that I have studied.
IMGP2939.JPG

IMGP2940.JPG

Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures while I was inside!
 

jrweaver

Corporal
Joined
Dec 9, 2020
Sorry, no I don't. I have some pictures of pillboxes in San Francisco area, at Fort Cronkhite, but they are not anything that I have studied.
View attachment 389476
View attachment 389477
Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures while I was inside!
This is another WWII-era battery for 16-inch guns, Battery Townsley north of San Francisco. It has been completely renovated and a 16-inch gun is on site, located in the same position where it stood while awaiting its carriage.

The southern gun position. There were two 16-inch guns mounted in the battery.
IMGP4160.JPG

Entrance to one of the gun positions
IMGP4165.JPG

A 16-inch gun tube, like the tubes that were emplaced here
IMGP4172.JPG

One gun position
IMGP4166.JPG

A view from the gun position, looking south toward the entrance to San Francisco Bay. The Golden Gate is to the left of the picture. A glimpse of one tower of the bridge is visible.
IMGP4184.JPG
 

Rusk County Avengers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 8, 2018
Location
Coffeeville, TX
All we need? Do you believe the Parish or Ward or District of the State of Louisiana will not require any form of permit? The red tape on such a project regardless of private property is incalculable. You can't even put up a shed in many parts without a building permit.
But after reading through the previous post by @jrweaver I came to the question of pillboxes and WWII fortifications, asking if he has any special studies completed in that European sector?
Lubliner.

Everywhere I ever worked that was rural in Texas and Louisiana permits of the kind your mentioning was never a problem. Most places wouldn't require a permit at all for what I said, except perhaps river related stuff as this is the Mississippi River. One other red tape we'd have to worry about is that Fort St. Philip is on the National Historic Registry, but due to the circumstances of ownership and so on, I don't think that's be a problem.

But its like my Daddy always said: "Ain't no sense in worrying about legalities till you got the job ready to be worked on."
 
Joined
Sep 28, 2013
Location
Southwest Mississippi
I think that's more on the French colonists that founded an entire city beneath sea level.
That's one fact I've never understood.
Why did they select a site below sea level ?
Bienville's engineers were very educated men.

Being below sea level remains New Orlean's largest challenge even today (during hurricane season).

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.

Yep. Gators are there, but are not a threat (unless someone has been going out there to feed them over the years).
Normally a wild alligator is more cautious of humans than we are of them.

However, Water moccasins are an entirely different hazard.
And to me, much more dangerous than any alligator.

But yeah, I would also love to see this fort even partially restored or at least stabilized.
 

jrweaver

Corporal
Joined
Dec 9, 2020
That's one fact I've never understood.
Why did they select a site below sea level ?
Bienville's engineers were very educated men.

Being below sea level remains New Orlean's largest challenge even today (during hurricane season).



Yep. Gators are there, but are not a threat (unless someone has been going out there to feed them over the years).
Normally a wild alligator is more cautious of humans than we are of them.

However, Water moccasins are an entirely different hazard.
And to me, much more dangerous than any alligator.

But yeah, I would also love to see this fort even partially restored or at least stabilized.
The reason that they chose a spot below sea level is that they had no choice. There isn't anyplace below New Orleans that high and dry! If they wanted to protect the city from someone coming up from the Gulf, they had to build on low land.
 

NFB22

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jun 21, 2012
Location
Louisville, KY
That's one fact I've never understood.
Why did they select a site below sea level ?
Bienville's engineers were very educated men.

Being below sea level remains New Orlean's largest challenge even today (during hurricane season).
From what I've read, some of New Orleans was actually above sea level when the French founded it but over hundreds of years the ground has subsided and continues to do so today.
 

jrweaver

Corporal
Joined
Dec 9, 2020
From what I've read, some of New Orleans was actually above sea level when the French founded it but over hundreds of years the ground has subsided and continues to do so today.
I don't know about New Orleans, but Fort Jackson was below the level of the river when it was built. The first thing built was the dike to hold back the river. The first thing attacked by the Union mortar boats was the dike, flooding the fort.
 
Joined
Sep 28, 2013
Location
Southwest Mississippi
The reason that they chose a spot below sea level is that they had no choice. There isn't anyplace below New Orleans that high and dry! If they wanted to protect the city from someone coming up from the Gulf, they had to build on low land.
Thanks !

But I'm still confused about choosing a site below sea level.

The French established their first Mississippi River settlement in what is now Natchez, Mississippi . . . almost two years before the New Orleans site was chosen.

Natchez was a few hundred miles up river from NOLA, and situated on an almost 300 foot vertical cliff.
This French outpost . . . Fort Rosalie . . . successfully helped to control river commerce in New France
(From Canada to the Gulf of Mexico) until around 1763.

Then the British took charge of the area following their victory over the French after the latest "spat" between those two nations.


If one is familiar with the lower Mississippi River, there's really nothing to defend until one approaches the area north of New Orleans.

Thanks again.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Sep 28, 2013
Location
Southwest Mississippi
From what I've read, some of New Orleans was actually above sea level when the French founded it
You're correct.

The famous French Quarter has alway been a few feet above sea level.
It makes no sense looking "up" at the river, but I'm not a geographer or an engineer.
:bounce:
If you remember all of the news broadcasts from the 2005 Hurricane Katrina devastation, that section of New Orleans was "bone dry".

It was not even "damp".
 

J. D. Stevens

Corporal
Joined
Dec 11, 2016
Location
Deep In The Heart of Texas
fort planned for Pelican Spit
I have the plans for the fort intended on Pelican Spit (basically nothing but a sandbar in the bay) until the CW began. They had done preliminary work such as warehouses, quarters for workers, the chief engineers home, and had begun sinking pilings before work stopped. I also have a sketch and description of the battery the Confederates built. In later years the spit became the Quarantine Station for immigrants coming into the port of Galveston. When they began dredging the Houston Ship Channel and Intercoastal Canal, the mud was dumped between the spit and a small island. Today Pelican Island is fairly large with a bridge connecting it to Galveston Island and what was the spit is now called Seawolf Park.

WWII-era battery for 16-inch guns, Battery Townsley north of San Francisco.
The pictures you posted look much like the main battery of Ft Crockett about 53rd St, just behind the Seawall. It was several hundred feet long with a covered gun emplacements on both ends. It cost too much to tear down, so they just built The San Luis Resort and Conference Center on top of it. The gun emplacement on the south end is still visible from the street today. Sorry to say, I do not have pictures of what they looked like back in my younger years.
 

jrweaver

Corporal
Joined
Dec 9, 2020
I have the plans for the fort intended on Pelican Spit (basically nothing but a sandbar in the bay) until the CW began. They had done preliminary work such as warehouses, quarters for workers, the chief engineers home, and had begun sinking pilings before work stopped. I also have a sketch and description of the battery the Confederates built. In later years the spit became the Quarantine Station for immigrants coming into the port of Galveston. When they began dredging the Houston Ship Channel and Intercoastal Canal, the mud was dumped between the spit and a small island. Today Pelican Island is fairly large with a bridge connecting it to Galveston Island and what was the spit is now called Seawolf Park.


The pictures you posted look much like the main battery of Ft Crockett about 53rd St, just behind the Seawall. It was several hundred feet long with a covered gun emplacements on both ends. It cost too much to tear down, so they just built The San Luis Resort and Conference Center on top of it. The gun emplacement on the south end is still visible from the street today. Sorry to say, I do not have pictures of what they looked like back in my younger years.
Thank you for the information on how many preparations had been completed. I read about that in an engineers report a long time ago, and decided not to include the fort in the first edition of Legacy. That decision stuck for the second edition as well. Once I had made that decision, I stopped researching it - in hindsight probably not a good decision. I made a similar decision at Fort Stevens on the Columbia River, as it was just a battery - not a fort. I was trying to control the length of the book and had to make some hard decisions regarding what to include and what not to. The second edition still was pushing 400 pages with 440 illustrations! With it being full color, that really drove up the printing cost and therefore the price that the publisher set for the book.
I have seen the plans, also many years ago, but do not have a copy myself. I visited the area, again years ago, and saw that nothing remained of the pilings or the Confederate battery.
I also looked at the Endicott and WWII structures. Both were built on standardized plans, which is why the ones in San Francisco look so much like the ones on Galveston Island. Battery Townsley is a different design, but the differences are subtle. It was considered "experimental" and was larger than most 16-inch batteries. After construction, the engineers determined they could cut down the size, and subsequent designs were smaller.
On a CDSG trip years ago I visited Townsley and then either that day or the next day, visited Fort Funston, a 16-inch battery in the city of San Francisco. Seeing the two in such temporal proximity allowed me to see the differences in size, even though they are not in "my" period. This past year I had the same experience with two Third System forts - Clinch and Gaines. They are near twins, and I visited them one day apart. That allowed me to see the subtle differences between the two forts, and the fact that the artillery in one fort was upgraded after the Civil War and the artillery in the other was not. I had missed that fact during previous visits to the two forts, because the visits were weeks or months apart.
 

jrweaver

Corporal
Joined
Dec 9, 2020
Thanks for posting this I have been interested in this fort for some time and would love to visit it at some point are there any good books that discuss this Fort?
Trying not to be self-promoting, but my book, A Legacy in Brick and Stone, is probably your best source. It's available directly from me or from the usual sources. I'm at [email protected] if you are interested. Other than that, there are some out-of-print books that are available used, such as New Orleans: America's Most Defended City by Codman Parkerson.
 

gentlemanrob

Brigadier General
Forum Host
Joined
Apr 11, 2016
Location
South Carolina
Trying not to be self-promoting, but my book, A Legacy in Brick and Stone, is probably your best source. It's available directly from me or from the usual sources. I'm at [email protected] if you are interested. Other than that, there are some out-of-print books that are available used, such as New Orleans: America's Most Defended City by Codman Parkerson.
I will keep that in mind thanks for letting me know.
 

jrweaver

Corporal
Joined
Dec 9, 2020
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.
I haven't heard of that happening, but that doesn't mean that it didn't happen. I do know from my work on the FEMA project that the Katrina storm surge was the biggest one on record. The locals indicated that a major storm surge was uncommon in that area.
 
Top