15 May 2011

Earthen Fort Visit

We went to visit a fort. My love, myself, and three friends. It was a long drive out to the coast, and we got an early start on the day.

Finally, we're there. Ocean air blows into our faces when we get out of the car. I love the plants, windblown from living at ocean's edge. They hold the sand in place as best they can. Of course, the huge rocks the humans added keep the island in place, too. People forget that nature has been moving around these islands for centuries, back and forth, towards the mainland and out to sea.

We walk around and bit and make our way to the visitors center. There's a mini museum about the fort and a bit about the war. I explain to my friend a bit about why the war started, who the two sides were, and why there was a fort here (he's from India, and they don't learn much US history). There are letters from the families of commanding officers. There are examples of the weapons, the ships, the uniforms, and what the battlefield looked like (in miniature). My friend thinks the uniforms look too similar. I remind him that one side had much nicer fabric and plenty of weapons in store. The other side had to gather things up almost from scratch.

We decide to go on the walking tour. First, there's a video. It's not too bad. There are pictures from the battle, old music. It's narrated by historians.

Outside we go, hoping there's shade enough to not get sunburned on our walk. The tour guide is friendly, funny, seems to really love the fort and its history. He's good people.

When built, it was one of the best forts. Only two sided, but strategically placed. It was modeled after a Spanish fort, earth pushed up into walls and battlements.  Even though only half of one wall is left, it's still impressive. The other wall has since been taken over by the waves (shifting islands). Part of the remaining wall was flattened to make way for an air force training landing strip for some more recent war, the Great One or maybe the second.

We find some shade. The military still technically owns the land. The park service rents it for one dollar a year. "Not a bad price," our guide says, "But we would have to give it up in time of Pacific war. The entrance to this river is still strategically valuable."

Move to a new position, and there's thankfully more shade. The man in charge, general I think he was, left his wife across the channel with their children to watch the battle. Turns out that was a good choice for them. They loved each other. You can read it in his diary, his entries and her comments on some pages. Playful love.

The attackers had ten times as many people. And they had naval support. Boats shelled the fort for hours. The fort didn't have as fancy cannons as the boats had, so they couldn't fight back. The boats' cannons had better range. When the shelling finished, the land forces charged. There's less marsh now, so attacking soldiers would have had even more trouble getting to the wall than our wood bridge path gave us.  Worts, those are cool plants. There are some really tall and rather wide worts. They can only get that tall when there's enough water, and that wide when there's enough shade. The further from the bridge, the smaller the worts are.

The cannon is being repaired, so we can't get up to the battlement today. There are some really good pictures though, so we look at those. It was one of the first battles to be photographed. And the photographer was really good. We're lucky. This battle has a lot more details than others from the time period.

Just think, man-made hills. How much sand and dirt did they have to move around to build their fort. How many military men did the work and how many slaves? Big portions of the hills are hollowed out, storage and shelling shelter. Even with days of shelling, the earthen walls barely looked dented and none of the men inside were hurt.

So many lovely Live Oaks. They take a special shape near the ocean. The ones closer to the edge all have a tilt that looks like their constantly being blown over by the wind. In a way, they are.
The ones nearer the middle still stretch out their arms wide, but their leaves are a bit smaller, waxier, and thicker than their inland cousins. Strong, beautiful trees. My favorite trees.

"Well, any more questions?" No one can think of any thing. "Alrighty, well I hope you enjoyed your tour. Be sure to take a look around inside if you didn't get a chance before. Sorry the table's speaker's broken. Anyway, if you've enjoyed your visit, think about making a donation."

Buttercups next to the steps. Well, they look like buttercups, but I can't be sure. Do buttercups grow so close to the ocean? Cute anyway. "Jess, are you stuck?" I point out the flowers, then move on.
There's another cannon near the path back to the visitor's center. Some kids are having their picture taken with it. I remember having my picture taken with a canon when I was a kid. Another fort, another time, another story.

The theme for Jingle Poetry's Potluck this week was Fortresses, Palaces, Castles, and Royal Houses. All I could think about was how much my boyfriend loves visiting forts. We recently visited one, and I thought I'd write about it. I know this isn't poetry, but it is what came to me. Perhaps I'll make it a poem tomorrow.

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