|~ & ~
|For generations, New Orleanians have flocked to the Mississippi Gulf Coast
to enjoy the glistening white sand beaches and a host of outdoor activities.
The Coast has changed a great deal over the years. However, if you're in
the mood for recalling past vacations, there are still a few things that
haven't been washed away (or replaced by condominiums or casinos).
One of those is Ship Island, home to Fort Massachusetts.
My son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter recently visited Ship Island
and kindly took pictures of Fort Massachusetts, so I could create a page
and share them with you. Thank you so much, Jim, Pam & Sarah!
|Approach to Ship Island
The island is only accessible by boat and is about a 50-minute boat ride
from Gulfport, MS. Ship Island is actually not one, but two barrier
islands. They are still generally known as "Ship Island" (although one
is now officially named West Ship and the other East Ship), because
the two used to be one before Hurricane Camille split the island in 1969.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina submerged and reduced the size of East Ship
Island. West Ship Island has long been a popular tourist destination and
is the site of Fort Massachusetts.
Because the island had the only protected, deep-water anchorage for
ships between Mobile Bay and the Mississippi River, it was named Ship
Island by French explorers. Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville first charted
it in 1699, and he and brother, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville,
used it as base of operations while exploring the Mississippi River.
The significance of the island is sometimes overlooked, but Ship Island
became a critically important port for immigration to French Louisiana.
So many colonists took their first steps on American soil at Ship Island
that some have called it the "Plymouth Rock" of the Gulf Coast. French,
British, Spanish, U.S., Confederate and Union flags have all flown
over Ship Island.
|Recognizing Ship Island's importance to the defense of New Orleans,
in 1856, the U.S. government, ordered construction of a fort.
Building began in 1859 and was completed in 1866. During the Civil
War, Confederates held the island for a short time, but soon
abandoned it, at which time, the Union forces gained control.
In 1862, Ship Island was used as the staging area for the Union's
capture of New Orleans. 18,000 Union troops were stationed on
the island, among them, the 1st Louisiana Native Guard, one
of the first African-American regiments in the U.S. Army.
Construction of the fort halted at the beginning of the war, but
was continued after the Union troops secured the island.
Additionally, more than 40 new buildings were completed
during the war.
After the Civil War, the fort was kept in readiness, but no other
military units were ever sent there. The Ship Island lighthouse
keeper became the fort's caretaker in 1903.
By the 1960's, the fort, sitting right at the water's edge, had begun
to show the effects of Gulf tides and salt air. "Save the Fort" was
launched by private citizens and their efforts led to the
establishment of Gulf Islands National Seashore.
The photos in the section below were taken in August, 2016.
|From the Past
|This Ship Island lighthouse was
built in 1853 and stood until 1886.
|This lighthouse, constructed in 1886, was
accidentally burned down by campers in 1972.
|Vintage Photo Credits:
Coast.Guard@Wikimedia.Commons#1, Coast.Guard@Wikimedia.Commons #2
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