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The forts that once protected New Orleans are now crumbling


NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) — These are crumbling relics of some of the region’s most historic sites.

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

Many say more care needs to be taken to preserve the historic assets that once protected us.

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

“New Orleans was one of the most important cities in the United States at the time and was probably the most heavily fortified city in the United States,” Berthelot said.

During a time when foreign powers were challenging a young and growing nation, Fort Pike was built at great expense as part of a new national plan to protect the nation’s expanding coastline.

American forces and a motley army assembled by Andrew Jackson had just defeated the British at Chalmette, and the lessons learned dictated where forts were built. But Louisiana is losing unique historical assets.

In St. Bernard Parish, 166-year-old Fort Proctor is now surrounded by water at Shell Beach. Near Phoenix, the 323-year-old Fort de la Boulaye was washed away in the parish of Plaquemines; only a historical marker remains. Many other forts, once vital to our protection, are in danger.

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Pike guarded the entrance to the gullies at New Orleans, while Fort Macomb protected the entrance to Chef Pass. They are closed to the public, because the water encroaches on all sides, not far from where another fort, the Little Shell, once stood, now disappeared.

“These are among the oldest structures in the state of Louisiana. they are representative of a time in American history that is extremely important for us to remember,” Morgan said.

Historian Marty Morgan says that enslaved African Americans built forts, which were then used to train newly freed slaves to fight in the Civil War.

“It’s everyone’s story and we have to remember that story. Otherwise, we will just find ways to justify their collapse,” Morgan said.

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

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

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

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