Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fort Ticonderoga

Posted by Stu On August - 27 - 2013

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Photos taken October 2011

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Fort Ticonderoga, if even mentioned in any of your US History textbooks, was probably briefly brought up for a sentence or two in a chapter about the American Revolution.  The fort was actually built by the French during the French & Indian War (or The Seven Years’ War for you non-Americans) and was originally named Fort Carillon.  The French, outnumbered four to one, managed to repel an initial British attack, but then surrendered the fort later in the war.  I’d crack some joke about the French surrendering, but the French-Canadian part of me won’t permit me to do so.

The fort was significant during the American Revolution.  Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys (militiamen) managed to capture it from the British.  Some of the cannons and other weaponry from the fort were then brought to Patriots in Boston to help drive British troops out of Boston, ending their occupation and control of the city.

Fort Ticonderoga would switch hands again.  Not far away from it is a hill known as Mount Defiance.  The British dragged cannons to its top and aimed them at the fort.  The Americans retreated and once again the British controlled the fort.  After the American victory at Saratoga, however, the war began moving south, and Fort Ticonderoga had little importance.  Eventually it was abandoned and stripped.

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So…  French, then British, then American, then British.  Then… nobody cares anymore, so let’s abandon it.  Got it?

Much of the fort has been reconstructed.  Monuments to soldiers from both wars can be found on its grounds.

This monument honors the Marquis de Montcalm for defending the fort against the initial British invasion (the guy who was outnumbered 4 to 1):

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This is a monument dedicated to the Black Watch, or Scottish regiment, during the French & Indian War.  The Black Watch is sometimes referred to “The Ladies from Hell” due to their kilts and intense fighting.

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These and other monuments can be found on the road leading to the fort.  To walk the actual fort grounds costs a reasonable admission fee.

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The inside of the fort serves as a museum. Also on the grounds is The King’s Garden.

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Popularity: 19% [?]

Fort Fisher and the Hermit’s Bunker

Posted by Stu On May - 3 - 2012

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Fort Fisher photos from May 2010
Hermit Bunker & Grave photos from May 2011

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This wound up being a 2 part trip.  My wife and I have been vacationing in southern North Carolina for a few years.  While looking up things to do, both traditional and nontraditional (you can only go to Myrtle Beach so many times), I found something about Fort Fisher, which saw some combat during the Civil War.  This was somewhat intriguing, but what was even more interesting was something being mentioned about a hermit living in a World War II-era bunker near the fort.  So off we went.

The fort has a small but informative museum regarding Fort Fisher’s history and involvement with the Civil War and World War II.  We walked around the fort grounds for a bit.  There wasn’t all that much – a few cannons and some mounds.  No signs indicated anything about a WWII bunker or a hermit.  After going to the nearby state aquarium (that had an albino alligator), we resumed our search for the elusive bunker but came up empty.  Running out of daylight, we decided to do some more research and try again next year.

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The following year, we were much better prepared.  With coordinates and geocaching hints, we had a much better idea of where we were going.  We parked near the beach access and walked down the beach.  Eventually, a boardwalk led the way.

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As we progressed, the flies became more unbearable.  Finally, we reached the bunker, which was much smaller than I expected, and not necessarily what I think of when I hear the word “bunker.”  By this point, the flies had left, but immediately upon arriving at the bunker site, we were attacked by the largest, most persistent swarm of mosquitoes I have ever encountered.  Seriously.  Just in the area in front of the bunker.  How does that work?

I quickly snapped pictures of the outside of the bunker, the inside, a plaque on it, and a sign to the sign which I’m guessing highlighted the life of Robert E. Harrill, the Fort Fisher Hermit.  I’m not really sure, to be honest, because I didn’t get to read it.  I took my 4 pics and hauled out of there.  We must have killed a hundred mosquitoes each.  Our arms were literally covered in them.  Interestingly, just a few yards away from the hermit’s homestead, the mosquitoes stopped following us.

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Robert Harrill lived in this tiny building for nearly 15 years; all it took for me was about 30 seconds to decide to vacate.  Considered somewhat of a philosopher, he received many visitors during his time as a hermit.

We learned Harrill’s grave was found a few miles from Fort Fisher (he was found dead in his bunker in 1972).

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I found it interesting that Fort Fisher’s official website mentions nothing of its hermit.  Little indication is given as to where exactly the bunker is, and it seems a private group provided the signage and plaques in his honor.  Robert’s story, and his final dwelling, are fairly elusive to the casual tourist.

Perhaps that’s the way he would want it to be.

Popularity: 16% [?]

Fort Mifflin

Posted by Stu On May - 13 - 2010

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Fort Mifflin is a unique and, sadly, little known point of interest in Philadelphia.  It’s right on the Delaware River; it’s actually next to the Philly Airport.  It is a bit of a pain to find, though.  You’re definitely going to want to look this one up first.  There is also a small admission fee; well worth it though.

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The fort’s former hospital, now the ticket & info office.

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Outside the fort’s wall.  Notice the plane coming in.

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All around the fort’s perimeter is very swampy, hence the area’s name of Mud Island.

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The fort was built in 1771 and was used by the military up until 1952.  It served some purpose for every war within that time span.  Although there are several, the two big reasons this fort is so famous come from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
During the Revolution, the British invaded and ultimately captured the city of Philadelphia in 1777.  General Washington used Fort Mifflin as a distraction and ordered it manned until the very last possible moment of escape.  He knew he was outnumbered and under-supplied; fighting full force in Philly would have been suicide.  For five weeks, the British pounded Mifflin, with many of its buildings being reduced to rubble.  The fort’s official website states “It is the site of the largest bombardment the North American continent has ever witnessed.”  Holding Mifflin allowed Washington’s army to escape and flee to Valley Forge; it’s almost certain that if the fort fell sooner, the Revolution would have been much shorter with very different results.
During the Civil War, the fortress was used as a prison for captured Confederates, so it’s no surprise there are ghost stories surrounding the place.  The most famous involves the hanging of William Howe, a Union deserter convicted of murder.  He was held in what is known as Casemate #11.  His signature can still be seen on the wall inside.  He’s said to still haunt the fort, especially the casemate.  When I went, there were actually 2 ghost hunters trying to record voices inside the casemate.
There are, of course, many other supposed ghosts haunting the place.

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Finally heading through the gate…

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Officers’ Quarters & Soldiers’ Barracks

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Quartermaster’s store.  Now a gift shop.  Closed when I went.  I really wanted a magnet :/

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Commandant’s House.  The inside was being restored during my visit…

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Guessing that’s what the place’ll look like after renovation…

Some more outside shots before heading underground to infamous Casemate 11…

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Entrance to Casemate 11

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Some of Howe’s writing.

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End of the casemate.  Imagine this as your prison cell.

Lots of places on the grounds where you can go underground…

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Like I mentioned earlier, the fort served as a prison during the Civil War.  Mister Howe may have gotten special treatment and had his own casemate, but that wasn’t the case for the Confederate prisoners.  6 casemates were used as prison cells.

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The barracks and officers’ buildings serve as a museum, with artifacts, models, and even a small display of photos of TV’s Ghosthunters when they came to visit the fort.

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Ghosthunters stuff

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For admission, hours, directions, and all that jazz, check out Fort Mifflin’s official site.

Popularity: 19% [?]

Mohegan Bluffs

Posted by Stu On February - 1 - 2010

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Photos taken May & October 2009

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Simply put, this is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.  Mohegan Bluffs, found on the southern end of Block Island, drop down nearly 200 feet to the beach below.  Centuries ago, much of the Mohegan tribe was forced over the cliffs by the Manisee tribe in a battle over control of the island.  Nowadays, the beach is an idyllic and somewhat secret tourist destination.

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There are over 100 steps that lead down to an overlook.  From there, it’s a bit of a challenge to reach the beach.  This is one of the few places I’ve been where a rope has been provided; there’s a piece of rope tied from near the bottom of the deck down to what looks like an old mast to help visitors get to the beach.

Also worth noting is that it’s somewhat of a popular custom to stack rocks or make things out of things washed ashore.

I admit, pictures do little justice; I’ve shot some videos and am hoping to post them sometime.

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Popularity: 20% [?]

Sugarloaf Massacre Monument & Grave

Posted by Stu On January - 27 - 2009

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Found along Walnut Avenue in Conyngham is a small, seemingly overlooked Revolution-era monument. Near this site on September 11, 1780, Captain Daniel Klader and his men were ambushed and slaughtered by a group of Tories and Seneca. Chief Roland Montour was also among the mob.
That Montour name sound familiar? It should. Just 2 years earlier, his sister-in-law started a massacre of her own.

So the monument itself is pretty boring, you probably think. I, to an extent, agree. Good thing there’s more.

There is a very small trail behind the marker leading into the woods. The trail goes perilously close to a house and I was initially hesitant to follow it. Good thing I did, because at its end is Danny.

The rest of his men are supposed to be buried nearby. This was the only stone I saw though.

Popularity: 16% [?]

Antietam Battlefield

Posted by Stu On April - 26 - 2007

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I’ll admit I know very little about this particular battle and have just recently begun reading about it. My interest in the Civil War has grown significantly in the past few years. Since I’m a Yankee, I have, as far as I know, only 2 battlefieds near me – Antietam and Gettysburg. I’ll get to Gettysburg sometime soon hopefully. I figured since I was already in Maryland this one particular time I might as well go see Antietam.

Antietam was the single bloodiest day in the Civil War, with over 23,000 casualties. Although the Union prevented the Confederacy from advancing northward, they failed to stop them from retreating back to Virginia. The Union’s semi-victory at Antietam convinced Abraham Lincoln to announce the Emancipation Proclamation. Clara Barton, the founder of the Red Cross, cared for soldiers at this battle and has a monument there.

The self-guided car tour is about 8½ miles. It’s mostly monuments and signs, so if you have no knowledge or interest in the battle or war you probably won’t care to go. The cemetery at the end is a must see though.
We went during the first week of April, and the weather was pretty odd. While the day before was nice, we were greeted with random snow at the battlefield.


Monuments & signs line the roadside.


Bad photo of Clara Barton’s monument.

The Mumma Cemetery. The Mumma farm was burned down by the Confederates. Since it was destroyed by the South, the Union wouldn’t reimburse the family.

The tour ends at the Antietam National Cemetery. It contains 4,776 Union soldiers (over a third were never identified) and over 200 soldiers from other wars. A large statue of a Union soldier is in the center of the cemetery and the graves make a horseshoe around it.

Popularity: 28% [?]

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