October 02, 2018

The History of Fort Carmick

In the years following the Battle of 1812, the US Government embarked on an ambitious program to better fortify and protect their territorial waters. In the closing days of the war the Americans had triumphed in the Battle of New Orleans, but at too great a risk. Inadequate coastal defenses had enabled the British to reach and assault the fortifications of New Orleans.

In order to prevent such a scenario ever occurring again, key locations on the surrounding lakes and waterways became sites of a defensive network of forts and batteries. These would deter attack from hostile foreign powers and render impotent the efforts of those unwavering in their ambition.

One such location now hosts Fort Carmick, named in honor of Daniel Carmick, an officer in the United States Marines Corps and hero of the Battle of New Orleans. With expansive views over surrounding waterways, and fire support from a parallel battery, Fort Carmick is capable of projecting its power over a wide expense of territory.

The peace of mind enjoyed by those living in the shadow of Fort Carmick was shattered during the Civil War. Following the fall of New Orleans to the Union in April 1862, Confederate forces withdrew up the Mississippi River toward Baton Rouge, leaving many of their coastal fortifications isolated. Later in 1862, the Fort was wrested from the Confederacy during a brief and bloody siege.

The Fort stayed in Union hands throughout the rest of the war. Its secure location enabled the expansion of nearby iron works and arsenals, equipping the Union for their campaigns throughout Louisiana and Mississippi. In peacetime, it became an important bastion of Federal Power during Reconstruction.

This brought affluence to the region. Military industry brought in railroads faster than elsewhere in Louisiana. This broadened horizons of trade for all manner of other local businesses, an effect that intensified when geographic changes caused the river to silt and shallow; the place would have dried up if not for the lifeline of the railway.

But the fort, and consequently the railroad, had brought in more than wealth. A former prisoner-of-war camp in the fort's vicinity was developed into a penitentiary. Traditionalists wary of industry were correct in saying criminals were being brought in by the carriage.

Fort Carmick outlived its usefulness and today, stands derelict. Peacetime rendered it superfluous, after the end of Reconstruction the need for a garrison was eliminated. Geographic changes in the river had undermined the usefulness of its position. Subsequently, numerous hurricanes battered it, causing irreparable structural damage. The fort was quietly decommissioned in 1885, and left to sink back into the mud. The locals still scrape by a living, wary of the fort which built their town and doomed them to irrelevance.

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