A piece of forgotten history – Fort Macomb and Fort Pike

Little-known Louisiana military history

I’m a history nut and love learning about how people lived in centuries past. European history, in particular, intrigues me because of the antiquity of the cultures there. American history, on the other hand, has never appealed to me, outside of the military history of the nation.

So when I was invited on a shoot of the old, abandoned Fort Macombe outside of New Orleans, I couldn’t resist. I had seen the old fort, which is gated off because of its dilapidated condition, on a fishing trip (a launch is located right next door), but I didn’t know a thing about it.

The other photographers — David Morefield, Tim Stanley and Jeremy Mancuso — and I captured some great images during our time there.

And I couldn’t wait to look up information on the old military outpost.

Turns out it served a vital role following the War of 1812, during which the British sacked the United States capital and attacked New Orleans. Here’s a rundown of its history:

The fort overlooks Chef Menteur Pass just to the east of New Orleans, and it was designed to guard one of the naval access points to Lake Pontchartrain and, thus, to the city. It was completed in 1822 on direction from President James Monroe, and was named after Major General Alexander Macomb, who served as the United States Army commanding General from 1828-1841.

It is one of several forts designed to provide New Orleans complete protection from naval attack. The nearest sister installation is Fort Pike, which was built to guard Rigolets Pass.

Fort Macomb was built on the site of what previously was known as Fort Chef Menteur, and the new installment was initially named Fort Wood. It was renamed Fort Macomb in 1851.

The walls of the fort are 40 feet thick, and the roof is covered with a thick layer of earth There was a moat around the facility, with access gained via a drawbridge, The moat remains on all but one side.

The fort was taken by Confederate States of America forces during the opening days of the Civil War, but was retaken by the federal Army when New Orleans fell in 1842. The Confederates, however, destroyed the guns and burned all the wooden structures before they surrendered the fort. Despite that, Fort Macomb never saw any substantial action during Civil War.

The site now belongs to the State of Louisiana, but it is not open to the public because of the deteriorating condition. In fact, many of the doorways are collapsing because the granite lentils were long ago stolen.

Click here to view my full online gallery.

About Andy Crawford

Andy Crawford has been a photographer and writer for more than 20 years, with thousands of images and articles published in magazines and newspapers around the country. He now focuses on Louisiana photography, landscapes, HDR photography, urban prints and other fine art photography. He also is a portrait photographer.