In a special 4th of July tribute, WGNO salutes New Orleans own Fort Pike, weathering history to keep American independence secure.
Fort Pike history guide Art Schick says after the war of 1812 the United States built coastal fortifications to stop the British should they attack again, “Not too many people know that this was the first one to be built in the whole system. Guns the whole way round to cover the whole water way out here.”
The dug out defense armament was called Fort Pike for American Brigadier General Zebulon Pike who Pikes Peak in Colorado is also named after, “The British fleet. If they would have went this way they would have took New Orleans. Cause this wasn’t here,” says Schick.
In the war of 1812 Pike served as deputy quartermaster in New Orleans but was later killed in battle attacking York in present day Toronto.
Schick says Fort Pike became the prototype for all other United States coastal fortifications, “Back then they had a draw bridge here. It was double moated. They had officers’ quarters up here on the top.”
In the 1830’s Fort Pike detained Seminole Indian prisoners before tribes were sent further west, “Just the Seminoles, “ says Schick. “ They had brought them in from Florida. They were incarcerated here and performed ceremonies because of their chief.”
Union forces took control during the civil war and trained artillery, including African American troops.
The fort was abandoned in 1890, and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.
In all the years Fort Pike stood guarding the city of New Orleans, never once did Americans need to fire upon an enemy.
“No action out here at all as far as battles or skirmishes,” says Schick who reminds visitor’s that Fort Pike’s biggest bombardments come from Mother Nature, “You had Katrina. You had Gustav. You had Tropical Storm Lee that closed it up for a while. And then we had Isaac last year. So we don’t know what this season is going to bring.”
For the first time since Isaac Fort Pike is re-open, re-born and re-addressing a pivotal era of New Orleans past, “At least they go home with a little bit more of history of the New Orleans area than they did when they got here.”
Fort Pike State Historic Site is open. Operating hours, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays.
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