Tag Archives: Fort Pickens

Lost Magazines on the Beach, and We aren’t talking Cosmo

The National Park Service’s Gulf Island National Seashore– which includes a number of coastal defense positions and Third Period forts (Barrancas and Pickens) around Pensacola, Florida as well as Fort Massachusetts on Ship Island off Gulfport– has closed a section of Perdido Key.

The reason? Almost 200 19th century shells, some still live.

Via NPS: 

Following Hurricane Ida, military munitions were discovered near the far end of the seashore’s Perdido Key Area. This event has resulted in a temporary closure of the area, with an abundance of caution should there be additional undiscovered munitions still buried.

The area where the munitions were found is closed and marked with signs. Visitors walking or boating in this area are prohibited from entering. Staff will be monitoring and patrolling the area regularly.

“The park continues to monitor the area for newly discovered munitions and will secure the site(s) should any be found in the future,” said Darrell Echols, GUIS Superintendent. “Our goal is to ensure that the area is safe for the visitors and staff, and that cultural resources are protected.”

More than 190 cannonballs were detonated in September within park boundaries with help from other federal agencies. No more unexploded ordnances have been identified. Munitions found within national park boundaries are considered cultural artifacts and are protected by law. It is illegal for the public to harm, deface, damage, or remove these items.

It’s a shame that some of the shells weren’t saved, as surely not all were live, but I guess the NPS has enough on hand for their exhibits. Plus, if they would have said some weren’t dangerous, you can bet the would-be collectors would be sifting Perdido Key until all the Sea Oats were gone and the key itself washed away.

However, as someone who has grown up in the shadow of Vicksburg, Port Gibson, and the Battle of Mobile Bay battlefields, I can vouch that there are hundreds of old shells on mantles across the Gulf South– many still with fuzes.

Not saying it’s the safest thing in the world, and I wouldn’t recommend it, just making a statement that they are more common than you think.

Getting the creeps at Fort Morgan

Every year the good folks at Fort Morgan run a historic nighttime tour around Halloween focusing on the more morbid side of things there. As the fort is 200 years old (construction began in 1819) and was the centerpiece in the Battle of Mobile Bay in August 1864 as well as being garrisoned off and on from the 1830s through 1945, there is a lot to hear and see. As a bonus, these tours often open up sometimes closed areas of the fort, which is always a treat.

Besides, as I made the Fort central to the plot of my 2013 zombie novel (shameless plug), it just made sense.

I caught these images during the tour, which was very worthwhile, so if you can take advantage of the event or others like it, please find the time to do so.

Inside the casemates before sunset

The handprints inside the usually sealed magazine of Battery Duportail, a reinforced concrete, Endicott Period M1888MII 12-inch disappearing gun battery at Fort Morgan. These are about 12 feet off the ground and were made by gunners moving around about stacks of 268-pound shells and tons of bagged powder with their sweaty, chemical-laden hands forever staining the salt and calcium of the walls. The battery was decommissioned in 1931.

Dylan Tucker, Cultural Resource Specialist, Fort Morgan, portraying Confederate B. Gen. Richard Lucian Page, the Virginia-born former U.S. Navy officer who resigned his commission in 1861 to join the Confederate Navy, only to be saddled with an Army command that was on the receiving end of 3,000 shells from the USN!

Overlooking the Endicott-era Portland concrete battery towards Mobile Bay at dusk

Now to try to get to Fort Pickens, who has a similar program, next October…

Battery Langdon, Fort Pickens, NPS photo

Who wants some postcards?

I like estate sales and enjoy attending them as I tend to find great old knives, militaria, and firearms up for grabs. One sale I recently attended was for a late local Biloxi-area photographer who took a number of images up and down the Gulf Coast in the 1970s and 80s that were turned into postcards. Apparently, as part of his payment, he got a stack of each postcard that was printed. While a lot were your standard lighthouse-shrimpboat-sand dollar-bikini girl scenes, there were also some military subjects that I picked up.

I got a *stack* of each of these five.


They are detailed as such:

“The 6-inch disappearing rifle located at Battery Cooper in Fort Pickens. The uniforms shown were from the late 1890s. The Fort only saw about 60 hours of combat; that during the Civil War. “

U.S. Air Force Armament Museum outside of Eglin AFB, showing a B-17, F-4, and T-12 “Cloudmaker” 44,000 lb bomb

USS Kitty Hawk underway. No note as to when the image was taken but she still has A-7 Corsairs and SH-3 Sea Kings on deck and CIWS aft, so I am guessing mid-to-late 1980s.

“Pascagoula” showing the mouth of the river at Ingalls-Litton’s East Bank with the USS Wisconsin (BB-64) berthed undergoing her post-mothball modernization 1987-88. I attended her recommissioning as a kid! An LHD (likely Wasp) and a late batch VLS CG-47 are visible in the postcard on the West Bank, though I can’t tell which numbers

Fort Massachusetts on Ship Island off Gulfport. This image is pre-1998 as the island has changed significantly since then. Everything to the right of the fort is now underwater due to Hurricanes Georges and Katrina and the casemates are currently very close to the beach at high tide

Bottom line, I am never going to use several hundred postcards, so I am bundling one of each of the above (five in total) together to send for free to anyone that wants a set. So if you want a set of the five above, email me your shipping address at: egerwriter@gmail.com and I will drop an envelope in the USPS mail box headed your way.

Be advised some of these are 30-40 years old and, while they never took up store space or were circulated, they were not stored in museum conditions (rusty old filing cabinets marked “NASA Marietta”). But they are free and I will not use your address for anything but scribbling it on the envelope.

Did I mention they are free?

Warship Wednesday May 4 2016: The original Wahunsenacawh

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday May 5, 2016: The original Wahunsenacawh

NHC Catalog #: NH 48103

NHC Catalog #: NH 48103 (click to big up)

Here we see the U.S. Navy’s Susquehanna-class sidewheel steam frigate USS Powhatan photographed during or just after the Civil War. She gave some 35-years of hard service and had the likes of Commodore Perry and Adm. Porter hoist their flag from her at one time or another.

In an effort to modernize the sail-powered fleet of the 1840s, the Navy built two 229-foot Mississippi-class 2nd rate paddle frigates followed later by seven 265-foot Franklin/Merrimack-class 1st rate steam screw frigates in the 1850s.

Sandwiched between these two classes were the USS Susquehanna and her near-sister Powhatan. Although both used the same steam plant designed by Chas Haswell, Engineer in Chief of the Navy, and overall layout, they were built at two different Naval Yards with class leader laid down at New York while Powhatan‘s construction began at Norfolk on 6 August 1847. This led to slight differences between the two ships in both dimensions and armament.

Powhatan was the first Navy ship named in honor of 16th century Native American Chief Wahunsenacawh, whose name was held by the English in Virginia to be “Powhatan” and is best remembered as the father of Pocahontas.

Our paddle frigate was some 253-feet in length and used dual side-mounted paddlewheels (with 23×10 foot buckets on each radial) driven by twin engines to make 11-knots when all four of her copper boilers were lit. A three-masted auxiliary sailing rig could carry her at less to conserve coal. She was heavily armed compared to other navy’s frigates, with a single 11-inch and 10 9-inch Dahlgrens as well as some smaller mounts, a Marine detachment and small arms for her nearly 300-man crew.

Commissioned 2 September 1852, she soon sailed for the far-off East India Squadron where she served as Commodore Matthew C. Perry’s flagship for his 8-vessel task force on his epic second visit to Japan.

Commodore Perry's second fleet. Left to right, Susquehanna, Saratoga, Saint Mary's, Supply, Plymouth, Perry, Mississippi, Princeton-View from the vessels composing the Japanese squadron.

Commodore Perry’s second fleet. Left to right, Susquehanna, Saratoga, Saint Mary’s, Supply, Plymouth, Perry, Mississippi, Princeton-View from the vessels composing the Japanese squadron.

While in the Far East, she escorted the first Japanese ambassador and his staff to the West Coast, fought Chinese pirates off Kowloon alongside the British, and generally waved the flag all over the Pacific.

In a Chinese port, 1859. From a painting made in China, 1859. Artist may be Edward Trenchard, Babylon, New York. Description: Catalog #: NH 42663

In a Chinese port, 1859. From a painting made in China, 1859. Artist may be Edward Trenchard, Babylon, New York. Description: Catalog #: NH 42663

Undated image of USS Powhatan in Hawaii, 1860. Courtesy Asian Art Museum. via Navsource

Undated image of USS Powhatan in Hawaii, 1860. Courtesy Asian Art Museum. via Navsource

When the Civil War erupted, Powhatan was back in U.S. waters under the command of one Lt. David Dixon Porter. As the Southern states dropped out of the Union, the chain of Army forts securing their seacoast and interior went with them, abandoned to their fate by U.S. forces.

A few notably remained occupied including Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor and Fort Pickens controlling the entrance to Pensacola.

Well old Bill Seward, Army Capt. Montgomery Meigs– an Army engineer reporting to President Abraham Lincoln directly– and Porter coughed up an idea to resupply Pickens on the low-low, escorting troops under Col. Harvey Brown of the 5th Artillery Regiment and supplies from New York on the steamer Illinois.

Without the augmentation and Brown’s leadership, the fort would have fallen. With them, it remained a vital Union base in the Gulf of Mexico from which the New Orleans and later Mobile campaigns could not have been launched.

Photo #: NH 59114 Relief of Fort Pickens, Santa Rosa Island, Fla., by the United States Fleet, April 17th 1861 Line engraving published in The Soldier in Our Civil War, Volume I, depicting the scene off Pensacola as USS Powhatan landed Federal troops to reinforce Fort Pickens on 17 April 1861. Features identified in text immediately below the image are (left to right): USS Powhatan, USS Wyandotte, Fort McRae, Entrance to Harbor, Fort Pickens, Encampment of Confederates, Lighthouse, Steamer Illinois, and Navy Foundry. (Click to big up)

Photo #: NH 59114 Relief of Fort Pickens, Santa Rosa Island, Fla., by the United States Fleet, April 17th 1861 Line engraving published in The Soldier in Our Civil War, Volume I, depicting the scene off Pensacola as USS Powhatan landed Federal troops to reinforce Fort Pickens on 17 April 1861. Features identified in text immediately below the image are (left to right): USS Powhatan, USS Wyandotte, Fort McRae, Entrance to Harbor, Fort Pickens, Encampment of Confederates, Lighthouse, Steamer Illinois, and Navy Foundry. (Click to big up)

Porter of course went on to become only the second U.S. Navy officer ever to attain the rank of admiral, after his adoptive brother David G. Farragut

Porter of course went on to become only the second U.S. Navy officer ever to attain the rank of admiral, after his adoptive brother David G. Farragut

Powhatan then made good use of her speed provided by her 2x 31-foot paddlewheels to run down the rebel steamers Dick Keys and Lewis and pursue the raider CSS Sumter throughout the West Indies before joining the blockade of the Southwest Pass of the Mississippi, retaking the schooner Abby Bradford on 15 August.

Photo #: NH 59568 Rebel Steamboats Overhauled by United States Men-of-War in the Gulf. Line engraving published in Harper's Weekly, 1861 depicting the capture of the Confederate steamers Dick Keys and Lewis by USS Powhatan and USS Brooklyn, off Mobile, Alabama, on 7 May 1861. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Photo #: NH 59568 Rebel Steamboats Overhauled by United States Men-of-War in the Gulf. Line engraving published in Harper’s Weekly, 1861 depicting the capture of the Confederate steamers Dick Keys and Lewis by USS Powhatan and USS Brooklyn, off Mobile, Alabama, on 7 May 1861.

Photographed during or after the Civil War. Description: Catalog #: NH 48102

Photographed during or after the Civil War. Description: Catalog #: NH 48102

Transferring to the blockade off Charleston in 1863, she captured the blockade-runners Major E. Willis on 19 April and C. Routereau on 16 May before another tour in the West Indies and taking part in the capture of Fort Fisher.

Following the end of the War, she was dispatched back to her original Far East duties, arriving 22 June 1866 in San Francisco, serving as flagship of the South Pacific Squadron through 1869.

At the New York Navy Yard, after the Civil War. Photograph by Hatton, 15 City Hall Sq., New York City. Description: Courtesy of A. A. Hoehling, 1989. Catalog #: NH 96669

At the New York Navy Yard, after the Civil War. Photograph by Hatton, 15 City Hall Sq., New York City. Description: Courtesy of A. A. Hoehling, 1989. Catalog #: NH 96669

Aging and following a refit in New York, she joined the Home Squadron by 1870 and spent the next two decades conducting cruises of the Caribbean and North Atlantic, often being tapped as a Squadron flagship.

These were the salad days of her life and a series of images from this period give a window into the life of Uncle’s bluejackets in the 1870s and 80s.

Marines at quarters by the after battery, circa 1870-89. Note Civil War era uniforms, Springfields and bayonets. Description: Catalog #: NH 86046

Marines at quarters by the after battery, circa 1870-89. Note Civil War era uniforms, Springfields and bayonets. Also note the “P” on her whaleboats. Catalog #: NH 86046

Ship's baseball club poses by the bridge during the 1870s or 1880s. Note breech of 9" Dahlgren gun at left. Description: Catalog #: NH 86051

The Powhatan Pirates! Ship’s baseball club poses by the bridge during the 1870s or 1880s. Note breech of 9″ Dahlgren gun at left. Catalog #: NH 86051

Second battalion seamen in formation by the after battery of 9" guns circa 1870-89. Notably, Powhatan landed her Marines and a large number of volunteer sailors to help capture Fort Fisher during the war-- armed with pistols and cutlasses. Description: Catalog #: NH 86050

Second battalion seamen in formation by the after battery of 9″ guns circa 1870-89. Note the hammock bedrolls stacked in the background– sucked for you if it rained or you had heavy seas. Notably, Powhatan landed her Marines and a large number of volunteer sailors to help capture Fort Fisher during the war– armed with pistols and cutlasses. Catalog #: NH 86050

Ship's coal passers 1870-89, note pig iron ballast at right. Description: Catalog #: NH 86053

Ship’s coal passers 1870-89, note pig iron ballast at right. Description: Catalog #: NH 86053

Bayonet exercise on board, 1870-89. Each ship of the period was expected to be able to land up to a third of their crew to fight ashore as light infantry. Description: Catalog #: NH 86055

Bayonet exercise on board, 1870-89. Each ship of the period was expected to be able to land up to a third of their crew to fight ashore as light infantry. Description: Catalog #: NH 86055

However, things were not always quiet in the peacetime Navy.

Powhatan Rides out a cyclone off Cape Hatteras, 13-14 April 1877. Print by G.T. Douglass. Copyright 1877 by E.H. Hart, New York. Description: Catalog #: NH 86042

Powhatan Rides out a cyclone off Cape Hatteras, 13-14 April 1877. Print by G.T. Douglass. Copyright 1877 by E.H. Hart, New York. Description: Catalog #: NH 86042

Three of her crew earned rare peacetime Medals of Honor in the 1870s: Landsman George W. Cutter, Coxswain William Anderson and Seaman Joseph B. Noil.

Noil, a Canadian by birth who signed up during the Civil War, recently came to light for his action off Norfolk 26 December 1872.

Seaman Joseph NoilAs noted by Capt. Peirce Crosby, commander of the Powhatan:

On yesterday morning the boatswain, I .C.[sic] Walton, fell overboard from the forecastle, and was saved from drowning by Joseph B. Noil, seaman, who was below on the berth deck at the time of the accident, and hearing the cry ‘man overboard,’ ran on deck, took the end of a rope, went overboard, under the bow, and caught Mr. Walton, who was then in the water, and held him until he was hauled into the boat sent to his rescue. The weather was bitter cold, and had been sleeting, and it was blowing a gale from the northwest at the time. Mr. Walton, when brought on board, was almost insensible, and would have perished but for the noble conduct of Noil, as he was sinking at the time he was rescued.

Noil, promoted to *Captain of the Hold, was presented the MOH in 1873. However, when the hero passed away at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington D.C. in 1882, he was buried in the hospital cemetery with a misspelled headstone and no mention of his service.

(*in the old sailing Navy, then as now you had Chiefs who were responsible for various departments, for instance: captain of the forecastle, captain of the afterguard, captain of the hold, captain of the maintop, captain of the foretop, et. al. That of Captain of the Hold was the senior seaman rating attached to the provision party vested with responsibility for stowage and care of the holds. Later known up to 2009 as the Storekeeper (SK) rating, is today the Logistics Specialist (LS) whose still uses the old rate’s crossed-keys badge)

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This was corrected in a graveside ceremony last week attended by Noil’s family, Chief of Navy Reserve Vice Adm. Robin Braun and Canadian Defense Attaché Rear Adm. William Truelove, CMM.

“Your shipmate is not simply someone who happens to serve with you,” Braun said. “He or she is someone who you know that you can trust and count on to stand by you in good times and bad and who will forever have your back.

“So, by […] rededicating his headstone, we are not only correcting a wrong, we are highlighting and reinforcing the eternal bond which exists between Shipmates-past, present, and those yet to come. And, although I-or any of us-did not know him, we are his Shipmates-and, 134 years after he passed, we have his back.”

As for Noil’s vessel, Powhatan was decommissioned, 2 June 1886 and sold to Burrdette Pond of Meriden, CT., where she was scrapped in August 1887.

Both Admiral Farragut and Porter were remembered on a postal stamp along with their closely associated flagships-- including Powhatan

Both Admiral Farragut and Porter were remembered on a postal stamp along with their closely associated flagships– including Powhatan, though screw-driven Hartford is the only ship pictured.

Powhatan‘s sister Susquehanna was laid up in 1868 until she was sold for scrapping on 27 September 1883 to E. Stannard of New York City.

Since then, no less than four ships have carried the name Powhatan on the Navy List; one a World War I troopship and the other three all tugs of various kinds, the last of which, USNS Powhatan (T-ATF-166), was transferred in 2008 to Turkey where she continues to serve as TCG Inebolu.

Specs:

Pen and ink drawing by Samuel Ward Stanton. Catalog #: NH 65479

Pen and ink drawing by Samuel Ward Stanton. Catalog #: NH 65479

Displacement 3,980 t.
Length 253′ 8″ deck
Beam 45′
Draft 18′ 6″
Propulsion: 2 Steam engines, 4 boilers, 1,172 hp, side paddlewheels
Speed 11kts
Complement 289
Armament:

One 11″ Dahlgren smooth bores
Ten 9-inch Dahlgrens
five 12-pdrs

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