Thursday, January 20, 2011

January 20, 1861 - Mississippi Seizes the Fort on Ship Island

Fort Massachusetts (NPS Photo)
January 20, 1861

For several days, bodies of armed men had hovered around the construction crews that were working to build the still unnamed fort on Ship Island, Mississippi. Two groups of armed men had arrived on the island, raised a flag and left ten volunteers there, but otherwise had not interfered with the construction project. That changed on the January 20, 1861:

As no interference was attempted on their part, operations were continued, so as to close the works as  rapidly as possible. On the morning of the 20th instant, a third armed body of men took forcible possession of the works and engineer property at Ship Island. From that moment I considered myself relieved from all connection with those works. - Lieutenant Frederick E. Prime, U.S. Army, January 30, 1861
Fort Massachusetts (NPS Photo)
Mississippi had been the second Southern state to secede from the Union, but had moved slowly to secure possession of the Federal military installations in the state.

The fort on Ship Island, later known as Fort Massachusetts, was a horseshoe-shaped masonry fort that was designed to guard the approaches to Biloxi and other points on the Mississippi coast. The fort was located at the western end of the wind swept island. When it was seized by local troops in 1861, it had been completed only to the level of the lower gun ports. 
The fort is now open to the public as part of Gulf Islands National Seashore. Please click here to visit the National Park Service's website for more information.

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