previous next

An account of Fort Chene.

We take the following spicy account of Fort Chene from the columns of the New Orleans Crescent:

The vast swamps that flank the Louisiana coast, cut up into marsh islands of every conceivable shape and size by tortuous bayons and lagoons, that interlace each other in the most inextricable manner, afford many inlets of approach to our towns and valuable sugar plantations between this place and Texas.--This portion of the Mexican Gulf coast and its estuaries were surveyed for the United States Government in 1858; but in the year 1857 a much more complete and thorough survey was made for the Navy Department, the expedition being engaged for eight months in the work, and acquiring a more general and perfect knowledge of this great wilderness of mud and water than even the Acadians whose little cottages dot the stray oases of dry ground. The triangulations, measurements and soundings, taken by this surveying party, are all on file in the Navy Department at Washington, and copies of them, as a matter of course, are on board of every blockading vessel along that coast.

At the same time it may easily be supposed that our Government was acquainted with the same subject, and that Gen. Twiggs has had his eyes upon every vulnerable point along our Gulf line, and is rapidly preparing them for defence against nautical raids for the destruction of our property.

Forts have sprung up from swamps, and batteries loom up along bayous as it by the waving of some magician's wand. The lazy alligator, who ever saw more of civilization than the swift skimming of an adventurous brogue, now gapes in wonder at the tramping sentry who paces his newly-made shell-walk, and the white crane starts up in a flutter of apprehension as it discovers the grim muzzles of cannon peering over innocent-looking grassy mounds. The quick sounds of the drum answer to the gentle lashings of the lagoon, and the shrill notes of the clarion at earliest dawn startle the birds from their rest.

This is a curious and interesting region, the vast and partly unknown Gulf swamp of Louisiana. To explore it requires compass and quadrant as much as to traverse the ocean, and a boat can journey for days and weeks through tortuous bayous and lakes, and lagoons, without reaching any definite place or direction, unless guided by some old hunter who knows the route well, or by solar observations. In fact, the interlacing and branching inlets form a perfect labyrinth, whose intricate ways might bring the inexperienced voyager back to the point the started from after days of toilsome progress. Illustrative of this, there is a singular belief among many of the simple-hearted Arcadians of Terrebonne that at night a ghostly canoe, impelled by a ghostly occupant, skims with almost lightning speed over the still waters around the Bœnt, the Penchant and the Chene, forever winding in and about the maze of bayous. This "flying Dutchman" of the swamp they explain to be the spirit of a hunter who got lost among the meandering estuaries, and who, after his powder gave out, finally died a miserable and lonely death, unable to find his way to succor. And his spirit, they say, finds the swamp its purgatory, and is vainly trying to make its way out of the bayous to the consecrated precincts of a cemetery.

It is in the very heart of this swamp, upon a narrow, marshy point, where a broad bayon branches off into two important channels, that Fort Chene stands, defended by the Perseverance Guards, from this city; and thither our wondering "local" took his way a few days since to see something of this strange locality, and learn how "the boys" were enjoying themselves. From Brashear City the means of communication is by a little steamer in the Government employ, that is said to travel easily upon a heavy dew, which is an advantage in a locality where few can tell the line of demarcation between what is undoubtedly water and that which may be complimentarily termed land. The not over-swift Emma passes through several luxuriant sugar plantations, and then enters the unmitigated swamp, to bring you in a few hours to Fort Chene.

Here, by the labor, first of the slaves sent from neighboring plantations, and afterward of the hardy volunteers from the precincts of No. 13's engine-house, we discover a fine fortification, mounted with heavy guns, that commands an important entrance from the Gulf, where a mile or two of the enemy's approach can be raked by our shot and shell. A moat that has become the favorite playground of sportive young alligators, protects the glacis, and the rear approach is held by a stout palisade, loop-holed for musketry. A shell-walk for parades around the barracks and hospital, and a narrow plank path around the point for the sentries, are the only places outside the fort where there is no immediate danger of sinking up to the waist. While this prevents the possibility of a land assault, it also gives to the defenders, in the event of an attack, the alternative of victory or the Tortugas.

The barracks are well built of rough plank, outwardly resembling very much the hotel extensions at watering-places, but inwardly surpassing those bachelor retreats in the way of neatness, order and comfort. The hospital is a small cottage still further back from the fort than the barracks, with a pleasant portico-in front for the use of convalescents. It had but three inmates yesterday, and those were getting along favorably. With a very slight stretch of the imagination a person here could imagine himself a sojourner for pleasure at a fashionable watering-place, where his physician insisted upon regular hours and diet, and plenty of active exercise. It is a noticeable fact that many of the soldiers at this place find it impossible to button the jackets that fitted them so easily before they left the city. The bathing and fishing is unexcelled.

Capt. John Rareshide, with Lieuts. H. L. Blow and Henry and Edward Rareshide, have effected great things at this post, and their efforts have been heartily met by the co-operation of Sergeants Taylor, Harsey, Savage, Lardner and Winue, and every man of the command. The strictest discipline is maintained and cheerfully accorded by the volunteers, who have but to know a wish of their officers to execute it. The drill, police management, and every camp duty is fully up to the regular standard, and if the enemy ever do accord the Perseverance boys such a favor as to call upon them, we think they will soon wish they were in Dixie.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Terrebonne (Oregon, United States) (1)
Louisiana (Louisiana, United States) (1)
Brashear City (Louisiana, United States) (1)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Winue (1)
Twiggs (1)
A. W. Taylor (1)
Savage (1)
John Rareshide (1)
Edward Rareshide (1)
Lardner (1)
Henry (1)
Harsey (1)
H. L. Blow (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1858 AD (1)
1857 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: