Built after of the War of 1812, Fort Massachusetts is situated on West Ship Island, part of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Heritage Area, and is open to the public. About 12 miles from Biloxi sits a desolate barrier island only accessible by boats or passenger ferry. Looking at a map, Ship Island does not seem like much, but its great historical significance is evident once taking a closer look.
Built after of the War of 1812, Fort Massachusetts is situated on West Ship Island, part of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Heritage Area, and is open to the public. The breathtaking views and historical significance make it well worth the trip while getting to relax while cruising over the open water.
Because of its strategic location, building Fort Massachusetts was also not an easy undertaking. But, it was important to the United States War Department as it was tasked with defending our coasts with a system of masonry fortifications. The harsh environment, hurricanes, yellow fever epidemics and the Civil War made construction very difficult for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.
In addition to its important location, the fort was built because of its natural deep water harbor on the north side of West Ship Island. Ships could come and go with ease and no man made dredging was required.
At one time, the island acted as a bustling small city, with soldiers and sailors unloading supply ships, cleaning stables, guarding prisoners, cooking meals, tending the sick and digging wells in the sand. Federal military convicts, political dissidents, and Confederate soldiers were imprisoned at the Fort during the Civil War. In 1862, Civilian detainees arrived after the Union capture of New Orleans.
The brick walls holding Fort Massachusetts together were completed in 1866, and the structure remained in use until 1903. Despite its retirement as an official U.S. military installment, those brick walls have stood the test of time. In addition to all the man-made challenges faced in the past, Hurricanes Cammille and Katrina did considerable damage to the structure, but its still stands today.
Scheduled tours of Fort Massachusetts are offered in the spring, summer, and fall. Call 228-230-4100 for more information.