Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wednesday Western- The Western Civil War Stronghold

The courtyard and tiers of Fort Point
During my vacation last week, I visited Fort Point located under the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge. While I found everything about the fort fascinating, the fact that stuck in my head was the fact it was considered a stronghold during the Civil War.

Officer's quarters
The building of Fort Point began in 1853 by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It was situated to defend the maximum amount of harbor space with one artillery tier as close to the water as possible to use the cannon balls ricocheting across the water. Ninety foot of cliff was blasted down to fifteen feet above sea level. The walls were seven feet thick.  A multi-tiered casement allowed for heavy gun power.

Many unemployed miners were among the 200 men who worked for eight years to construct the fort. The first cannon was mounted in 1861. Col. Albert Sidney Johnston, commander of the Department of the Pacific ordered the first troops to the fort, then resigned his commission, joined the Confederate Army and was killed at the Battle of Shiloh in 1862.

Enlisted men's quarters
During the Civil War artillery-men stood guard. There were as many as 500 men from the U.S. Artillery, the 9th U.S. Infantry and the 8th California Volunteer Infantry garrisoned at the fort. Being so far from the actual war the soldiers spent their days in drills, artillery practice, inspections, sentry duty, and maintenance chores.Enlisted men bunked 24 to a casemate on the third tier; officers had single or double quarters on tier two.

The round bases held the cannons
The fort never saw battle. The Confederate raider CSS Shenandoah planned to attack San Francisco, but while in route August of 1865  learned the war was over.

The other information I found interesting dealt with the way the harbor was protected. There were five cannons strategically placed about the harbor. If a ship made it through the first two situated at Fort Point and Lime Point directly across from one another, there were three more; Angle Island, Alcatraz, and Point San Jose situated in a way to take down any intruders.

The solid rock circular stairway 
On October 16, 1970 a bill was signed by President Richard Nixon to make Fort Point a National Historic Site. It is a well preserved piece of our history.

Being a person who is always interested in how people lived and the day to day necessities, I looked for the privies which were said to be on all levels. I decided they were there the rooms directly behind the stairways on either end of the fort. They were rooms with no windows and the doorway was boarded up. Only a small corridor from either side of the stairway gave access to the room.


MK said...

Great post Paty! I knew nothing about this Civil War Fort. Thank you for sharing--looks like a trip worth making.

Paty Jager said...

Hi MK, I didn't either until this trip. I'd heard of the civil war reaching Texas and the like but never thought that they would worry about the west coast. But it is where the gold was being found and the confederates could have used more money to furnish their side with better weapons and food.