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Identity Through Places

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One thing that identifies us as Americans is our history and geography. We are rapidly losing our identity. Is it no wonder that we are losing our historical places too?

Places and artifacts define our American identity. I just need to repeat the names and you will recognize them. The Revolutionary War—Yorktown—Independence Hall in Philadelphia—The declaration of Independence—the Constitution. The White House—the Capitol—the Washington Monument—the Lincoln Memorial. The Civil War—Gettysburg—War of 1812 Battle of New Orleans—Fort McHenry—Fort Morgan.

Fort Morgan from overhead, guarding the entrance to Mobile Bay since 1834.

Who? What? What is Fort Morgan? You may not have heard of it before, but it was a pivotal spot during the Civil War, which also defined who we are as a country. Fort Morgan at the opening of Mobile Bay in Alabama was a coastal fort that protected the bay and shipping lanes for 133 years. The naval battle here in August 1864 resulted in a Union victory that helped ensure President Lincoln’s reelection and sealed off the Confederate’s access to a large port city on the Gulf of Mexico. This battle sealed the fate of the Confederacy. Both sides fought bravely and are remembered by their descendants on both sides. The Civil War and reconstruction following the war defined the character and culture of the south, and redefined the identity of the people living there.

No, it is not named after Robert W. Morgan, although I am sure he would no stop you from believing that. It is named after General Daniel Morgan from the Revolutionary War who defeated the redcoats at the battle of Cowpens.

Civil War camp; a popular program when I worked at the fort.

Unfortunately, Fort Morgan is in danger. If we lose our places, we have lost another part of our identity. The fort is now on the list of top 10 most endangered battlefields by the Civil War Preservation trust.

I worked at Fort Morgan for two and a half years, so I am very familiar with its history and what is endangering it. Hurricanes in 2004 and 2005 were not very kind to it. Over the last few decades buildings and structures have disappeared because of storms. Now the brick fort itself is in danger. The eastern wall has serious cracks and separation from years of erosion.

Rasome Clarke was stationed at Fort Morgan, and the only survivor of a boat that capsized in Mobile Bay in January 1835. At the end of the year he would be one of the only survivors with Major Dade's defeat by the Seminoles in Florida.

Budget crises with the government of the state of Alabama have ensured that no funds have ever been extended for preservation of the site in the last 30 years. No funds have been allocated to repair roads or modernize the restroom. I totally blame the state government for the state of Alabama for letting the park become in danger of being lost. Every employee who worked there that I knew did their best to help the fort out, but they are not the ones who have the money to repair needs in the park.

Answers are not easy. But we may be able to help in any small way possible. If there is a historic site near you, volunteer to help them out. These days every park needs some help with shrinking numbers of staff and smaller budgets. Even painting a building or mowing grass will help them out. Don’t let your history disappear. If we lose our historic places, we lose our identity. What do we have left after that?

Senior Officer's Quarters at Fort Morgan built around 1898. This building has since suffered major damage from Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Current Location:
Ranger Ranch
Current Mood:
refreshed refreshed
Current Music:
some vague rock&roll
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On June 19th, 2006 03:20 am (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
Mobile bay
Doesn't Mobile Bay go even futher back in history as the place Mudoc landed when he ws fist looking for a home?
[User Picture]
On June 19th, 2006 11:35 am (UTC), seminolewar replied:
Re: Mobile bay
The history does go further back, but unfortunately Prince Modoc landing there is a myth created in the 1950s by the caretaker, Hatchett Chandler.

Chandler created many stories and myths about Fort Morgan to generate tourism. Anything from the first white baby born in North America, to Andrew Jackson firing the cannon shot during the War of 1812 that sunk the British ship Hermes resulting in the Brits deciding to give up North America.

Many of Chandlers stories can easily be disproven by historical record. The problem is that he published his fanciful tales in a book, "Little Gems of Fort Morgan" and had copies given to every school child in Alabama as well as sending copies all over the country.

As far as the Prince Modoc tale, the story has been researcher by the fort curators as well as university professors, combing national archives and welsh records. There is absolutely no evidence that Modoc ever landed at Mobile Point. The only source of Modoc landing is from Hatchett Chandler himself. It appears that Chandler just made up the story using a vague reference that had no mention of Mobile Point.

Prince Modoc is a somewhat legendary/mythical character of which little facts are known, much like King Arthur. Wales was never known as a major seafaring power, which leads doubt to making a trans-atlantic voyage and back in the 12th century.

Unfortunately Chandler created a myth that has no basis in fact, that people insist on perpetuating today.
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On June 19th, 2006 03:34 pm (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
Just shows you how much I know. I have never researched the guy, just what I have read here and there. I know angela has read a lot about him. That may have been where I got my information. Love reading your stuff
[User Picture]
On June 19th, 2006 04:22 pm (UTC), seminolewar replied:
Re: Moblie
Don't worry. A lot of people believe the Prince Madoc story.
It is on a lot of genealogy web sites with a photo of the historic marker that Chandler put up, even after a hurricane took out the marker 20 years ago.
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