Sunday, June 24, 2018

Brunswick Town and Fort Anderson Ruins

Posted by Stu On April - 10 - 2015

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Photos from June 2013

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Old Brunswick Town predates the American Revolution and was once an important port along the Cape Fear River.  The growing size and importance of nearby Wilmington chipped away at Brunswick’s significance and population.  In 1776, the British attacked the town and scattered its few remaining residents, and the town was never rebuilt.  During the Civil War, the site was used to construct Fort Anderson.  Once nearby Fort Fisher fell, the Union then set its sights on Fort Anderson, ultimately pushing out the Confederates and claiming the fort.

Many of the foundations of the town have been excavated and restored.  Walls from the St. Philips church still stand.  A trail runs through the site with signs describing the businesses and dwellings of the town and even runs along and on the mounds of Fort Anderson.  The visitor’s center offers a small museum with artifacts found on the site.

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For more information, check out Brunswick Town & Fort Anderson’s official site.

Popularity: 14% [?]

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: 26% [?]

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: 27% [?]

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: 31% [?]

Fort Delaware

Posted by Stu On September - 21 - 2005

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The back of the fort as seen from Fort Mott.

We noticed on one of our visits to Fort Mott that a ferry runs among 3 forts: Forts Mott, Delaware, and DuPont. I found out Fort Delaware is on its own island, Pea Patch Island, in the middle of the River. It is only accessible by the ferry and is where the Civil War soldiers buried at Finn’s Point came from. We tried to board the ferry once, but it stopped its route early that day due to “bad weather” (which lasted a whopping 15 minutes). So we tried again 2 weeks later and finally got there.
Once on the island, we were greeted by a tram of sorts, which drove us right up to the fort entrance; I was surprised to discover the fort has a moat around it. To the right are the remains of 2 batteries, and off to the left are reconstructed barracks (the prison and original barracks were dismantled not long after the Civil War ended).


The batteries


The reconstructed barracks

A small portion of the barracks may have been remade, but the fort itself is pretty much in the same shape as it was during its prime in 1864. The floors and walkways are pretty uneven as a result. There are a few people dressed in Civil War-era clothes who can tell you more than you care to know about the fort. One woman bragged about the 40+ flush toilets – “not even Mr. Lincoln has those in the White House.” There are tours, but we chose to walk around on our own, as we most always do.


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The concession guy was definitely not in 1864 character.

Popularity: 12% [?]

Finn’s Point

Posted by Stu On May - 20 - 2004

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Finn’s Point National Cemetery is small….not even 5 acres in size. When you first enter, you don’t see too many stones. But once you get to the back corner of the graveyard, you find out why; there is a very tall (85′ tall) memorial in the back for the 2,436 Confederate soldiers buried here. A smaller monument near the front of the cemetery lists the 135 Union soldiers interred here as well, 30 of whom were never identified. This cemetery is one of just a few in the entire country to have soldiers from both the North and South.
Finn’s Point also has 13 German POW’s, along with soldiers killed in action and veterans from other wars.


The Confederate Monument


Just one of the name plaques. From what I saw, there were 7 more.


The Union monument


The German POW’s corner


I thought this was an awesome name.

There were 7 signs with poetry on them. I took a pic of the last one.

Popularity: 10% [?]

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