Thursday, September 21, 2017

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: 24% [?]

Mars Bluff Bomb Crater

Posted by Stu On June - 28 - 2012

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Photos from June 2011

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Another find due to geocaching.  I wanted to make a day trip out of our visit to South of the Border, and I happened to notice this oddity was just outside Florence.

On March 11, 1958, an Air Force pilot heading to England accidentally dropped a bomb on the community of Mars Bluff.  Nobody was killed, but the home of Walter Gregg was leveled, and some of his family members were hurt in the blast.  Although often referred to as an “atomic” bomb blast, the nuclear core of this bomb was thankfully not in it when it was dropped.

Getting to the bomb crater site was rather tricky.  We had to park in an abandoned trailer park, which had several uncovered manholes on its “roads.”  An overgrown path first led to the foundation of the destroyed home and then to the bomb site.  We were surprised to see the site is somewhat maintained, complete with a wooden replica of the bomb and a board with information about the incident.

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The bomb crater itself was not exactly what I was expecting.  It’s only a few feet deep and looks more like a nearly empty pond than the site of a large explosion.  It has been more than 50 years, though, and nature is beginning to reclaim the blast site.

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Popularity: 27% [?]

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: 25% [?]

Alvira

Posted by Stu On May - 3 - 2012

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Photos from May 2011

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Man, was this an adventure. When a game commissioner has to drive you back to your car, you know you had a good day.

I had read about a ghost town called Alvira which was used during World War II to produce munitions.  The government purchased the town and surrounding land via eminent domain (i.e. everyone was kicked out and given almost nothing for their land) and promised residents they could get their land back after the war.  Obviously that did not happen.

Alvira was supposed to have remnants of both its life as a quiet village and also that of its military usage.  And off we went.

My GPS and map sent us down a dirt road which eventually dead ended at a gate covered with barbed wire and a sign stating we were approaching prison property.  Deciding that this was probably not the right way in, we wisely chose to find another way.  Eventually, we wound up parking in a game lands parking lot.  Armed at this point with only GPS coordinates leading to a few geocaches, we decided to hike in.  About a half mile or so down the trail, we came across our first bunker:

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From here we eventually came across a lake.  Down another trail we came across two more bunkers.  One was sealed shut, while the other one was wide open and filled with random stuff.

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We were happy to find so many bunkers, but by this point we were wondering where the actual ghost town was.  I had seen pictures of signs for it online but had yet to come across any.  My GPS coordinates only pointed to these few bunkers, so I was clueless.  We found what looked like a main trail and walked on it for a bit.  Eventually we came to a small building, which turned out to be the office for the game commissioner.  We went in and asked the people inside if they knew where Alvira was.  They told us the town itself was just up the road a bit, along with the ruins of two churches and some cemeteries.  We mentioned we had found a few bunkers on the way in.  One of the guys responded with, “Of course you did; there’s over 140 of them.”
We then said we weren’t completely sure where we were in relation to our car; we were a bit lost by this point (hey, it happens).  One of the workers gave me a map of the game lands that had all the known bunkers marked on it.  From this we figured out where we parked.  One of the guys was heading home and offered to drive us out to our car.  On the way to our car, we passed by the sign for Alvira (posted at the top of this article).
Once back at the car, we retraced the roads and paths the commissioner drove.  Along the roadway near the commissioner’s office, we found a few foundations of what I’m guessing were houses.  There were a few markers with numbers and letters on them as well.  A few bunkers were along this dirt road as well, though they were mostly sealed shut.  Some were vandalized pretty badly too.

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Down the road even farther, we passed a few cemeteries.  The one at the very end of the road is what drew our attention, however.  Pillars and plaques from an old church still stood, though in bad shape.  Almost nothing was left of the church itself, other than some rubble from its foundation.
Behind this area we found yet another barbed wire fence, with the prison off in the distance.

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Overall, despite the blunders we made (not having enough information, getting lost, etc.), this was an enjoyable trip.  There wasn’t as much of the actual town left as I had hoped, but the number of bunkers made up for that.

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Popularity: 37% [?]

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: 26% [?]

Fort Knox

Posted by Stu On December - 27 - 2008

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Fort Knox was constructed beginning in 1844 to help prevent any potential invasions from Britain. This part of Maine was invaded by the British during both the Revolution and the War of 1812, and the area was also open to border disputes between the US and Canada. Much like Forts Armistead and Mott, men were stationed here during the Spanish-American War. Also, much like the aforementioned forts, it never saw battle. Another fine example of a “just in case” fort.

This is the first ever place I’ve been to where bringing a flashlight is actually encouraged.


View of the fort’s front from across the river in Bucksport


View of the fort from atop the Narrows Observatory

All in all, it’s just about the same as every other fort I’ve been to, with the exception that they encourage you to explore it. Just about the entire place is open to visitors, so you can spend a decent amount of time here. And yes, you probably will want a flashlight.


View of Bucksport, across the river.

Popularity: 13% [?]

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