Fort Massachusetts
Ship Island, Mississippi
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Ship Island has played an important role in the history and settlement of the middle Gulf Coast. First named in 1699 by French explorers for the deep water anchorage for ships, the island soon became an important port for French Louisiana. Many colonist took their first steps on American soil on Ship Island and indeed it was the "Plymouth Rock" of the Gulf Coast. During the war of 1812, 60 British ships, with nearly 10,000 troops, rendezvoused at the island prior to their unsuccessful attempt to capture New Orleans. In 1862 Admiral David Farragut's union assault fleet before the attack on New Orleans used Ship Island. The island became a prison for Confederate P.O.W.'s and a base for the U.S. Second Regiment (Louisiana Native Guards), one of the first African American combat units to fight in the Civil War. The island has shifted to the south and west over the years and was cut in two during 1969's Hurricane Camile's 200 mile per hour winds and 30 foot storm surge.

Sea Gull waiting for a hand out before leaving for boat trip out to Ship Island

Fort Massachusetts as seen from a couple of miles off shore

Entrance to the fort

Plaque with names of Confederate prisioners who died on Ship Island during Civil War

A view down into water supply for the fort

Dirt and grass above the arches was used to catch and hold rain water to create a fresh water supply

Side wall of fort.

Cannon destroyed in early 1900s for scrap

View to the east. When fort was built it was just 500 yards from eastern edge. Much farther today. The fort didn't move, the island did.

View down into fort

Pelicans sailing out over the Gulf

Mississippi Sound side of fort

American flag flying over fort

Detail of outside wall

The center of the fort (ground level)

The lower level (lighter color) brick was from St. Joesph Brick Yard in Slidell. It was the level build by the Confederates. The Union built the darker part.

Oven used to heat cannon balls to make "hot shots"

Only remain cannon in fort

Looking to the west towards light house and Confederate cemetary

Diagram of where fort "was" when built. The northern side of the island is now right us aganist the fort.

Louisiana History (homepage) is Copyright 2000 by Greg English