Cannon atop Fort Macon still point protectively toward Bogue Sound. Grassy knolls covering this five-sided garrison stretch to tidal marshes, a strange mash-up of military and maritime. During the Civil War, Fort Macon guarded the Confederacy’s deep-water port access until Union troops pummeled its 4.5-feet thick walls 560 times in 1862 with new rifled cannon. After the war, the fort was occupied by the US Army and served as a military prison until 1877. Today, the site is the second most-visited state park in North Carolina.
Winds rip off the Atlantic and scream across Bogue Banks.
Grains of sand attack my eyes like shards of glass,
destroying my peaceful beach stroll.
I escape by trekking inland over the dunes to the old fort.
Locals warned me not to go there, but I must find shelter.
Reaching the deserted stronghold, I hurry inside.
Despite sitting vacant for decades, it stands solid and imposing.
Descending through the old stone entry, it’s easy to imagine soldiers once garrisoned here. Were they fearful of battles to come? ...
Suffering under harsh sea winds? ...
Unrelenting heat? ...
Families and children also lived at the fort throughout its 100-year history.
And surely the good citizens from nearby Beaufort and Moorehead City
crossed the sound to visit or sell their wares.
A deafening Crack! slashes the quiet,
like a lightning strike coming too close on a summer evening.
I peer out a window to the ditch and moat.
That green lawn atop the fortress is bathed in brightest sunshine.
Not a storm cloud to be seen.
Bah! Must be wind knocking something that jangles my nerves.
Here it comes again. And louder!
Curiosity overcomes my trepidations.
Scurrying outside to find the source of the noise,
I rub my eyes and stare.
Summer’s sun must be spinning my noggin because ...
--- Can it be!?! ---
... Union soldiers steadily advance
toward the entry gate I passed through seconds ago.
At the other end of the long field,
Confederate soldiers return fire.
Rifle blasts are daggers to my ears.
Smoke curling from muzzles presses against my face like a wet cloth.
I watch war’s true horror play out before me.
Soldiers on both sides fall mortally wounded.
This is not the stuff of video games or toy play figures.
Get a grip, I steel myself.
This cannot be.
I blink again, and when I open my eyes…..
Soldiers disappear. Rifles gone.
Only silence and stretches of wind-whipped grass.
I laugh it off. Just shore breezes and sun playing tricks.
Time to head back to the beach and make my way home.
The persistent beat of a drum wafts up from the corridors below.
An old-timey fife lightly pipes a wistful melody.
I hear you warning me:
Noooooo, don't go!
Nothing good ever comes of investigating weird, inky places alone.
But the music is a siren's call,
luring me to twisty passageways once again.
When the concert ends, I can't help myself.
I applaud the performers.
They nod and beckon me
to join their eternal music series.
Last night’s feast of fried bay scallops and biscuits,
with a side or two of local brew,
obviously are taking a toll on my senses!
I sprint from the fort.
Stumble across the dunes, running hard and out of breath.
Collapse in the safety of the beach, where shore winds are strangely quiet.
My imagination must be working overtime.
Nobody roams the old fort, I assure myself.
A whisper carries on a gentle breeze and tickles my ears ….
Are you SURE?
What old or historic places have you visited? Could you imagine what is was like for the people who lived there? Please share your experience in the comments section.
Title Photo: Kevinbercaw, CC BY-SA 3.0
Story and Photos: Cat Michaels
Grateful to my writerly/photographer pal, Auden Johnson, for showing me how photo tales can be creative and fun.
Thanks to Fort Macon State Park, Atlantic Beach, NC, and local history re-enactors for my images and inspiration.
Learn more @ https://www.ncparks.gov/fort-macon-state-park
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