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Forts that once protected New Orleans are now history crumbling away

Published: May. 9, 2022 at 10:15 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - They are crumbling relics of some of the region’s most historic sites.

Some are literally falling apart, others have already sunk into the surrounding swamp.

Many say more care is needed, to preserve historic assets that once protected us.

At one time it was a remote outpost where soldiers guarded one of the main entries to a busy port.

“New Orleans being one of the most significant cities in the United States at the time and was probably the most fortified of the cities in the U.S.,” Berthelot said.

During a period when foreign powers, challenged a growing young country, Fort Pike was built at great expense as part of a new national plan to protect the nation’s expanding shoreline.

American forces and a ragtag army cobbled together by Andrew Jackson had just defeated the British in Chalmette, and lessons learned dictated where the forts were built. But Louisiana is losing unique historic assets.

In St. Bernard Parish, 166-year-old Fort Proctor is now surrounded by water in Shell Beach. Near Phoenix, 323-year-old Fort de la Boulaye has washed away in Plaquemines Parish; all that remains is a historic marker. Many other forts, once vital to our protection, are in jeopardy.

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Pike guarded the rigolets’ entry to New Orleans, while Fort Macomb protected the entry at Chef Pass. They are closed to the public, as water encroaches from all sides, not far from where another fort, Petite Coquille once stood, but has now disappeared.

“These are among the oldest structures in the state of Louisiana. they are representative of an era in American history that’s incredibly important for us to remember,” Morgan said.

Historian Marty Morgan says African American slaves built forts, that were later used to train newly freed slaves to fight during the civil war.

“This is everyone’s history and we need to remember this history. Otherwise, we will just find ways of justifying allowing them to collapse,” Morgan said.

Katrina flooded Forts Pike, and Macomb, and weakened the mortar between bricks.

FEMA paid to have metal support beams erected to support one of Fort Pike’s outer walls but many say more help is needed.

Both forts are closed, but groups may request special tours, which happens about four times a year at Fort Pike.

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