Friday, June 12, 2009

Barrier island

The island that I sail to is a barrier island. It used to have a light station with a keeper's house and several outbuildings.

Now the old lighthouse is all that remains, and it sits about 300 yards offshore of the island, isolated due to heavy erosion and completely surrounded by water. The waves and shifting sands eradicated visible traces of what used to be there.

The history of the island has interested me for some time. During the Civil War, the island was heavily fortified by Confederate forces to defend the harbor, with the fortifications centered on Fort Wagner.

A Union assault against Battery Wagner attempted to capture the Battery and the remainder of the low, sandy, flea infested island (know locally as Coffin Island due to its use as a Lazzaretto and leper colony prior to the war). After a heavy naval and land bombardment, as assault force led by the 54th. Massachusetts, a black regiment of free men from the North, went in with fixed bayonets to storm the fort. The fighting was fierce and the 54th Massachusetts saw heavy casualties. The ill-fated assault was depicted in the movie Glory.

Eventually, the Confederates abandoned Morris Island due to heavy shelling by Union forces on Battery Wagner. The Union forces used the island to install a gun crew for a cannon, known as the Swamp Angel, that was used to fire on the city. The Swamp Angel sent 16 shells into the city resulting in heavy damages.

Most of the island eroded away after the war and the site of the Fort is today underwater. There are some traces of the Swamp Angel Battery still remaining though. Relics are occasionally found there.

Plans to commercially develop the 125 acres of high ground on Morris Island as a luxury residential area resulted in several groups fighting to have the island declared a national historical park. Fortunately, a non-profit private land conservation organization purchased the island so that it will be preserved and protected from development.

This afternoon I'm doing an educational outreach program for 50 Brownie scouts on Morris Island. I think that I'll focus more on the critters found on the barrier island beach. The island has about 3.5 miles of beach. It's a great place to find shells, ancient shark's teeth, Clovis spearheads, starfish, and other sea life that is left on the beach by the receding tides.

Palmetto trees, cedar trees, and other remnants of a scrub-shrub habitat have fallen and lie like bleached bones from the effects of erosion. The interior of the island has vegetation, mosquitoes, biting flies, deer and small mammals. It's a great opportunity to get to one of my favorite spots, help educate some young ladies, and get out of the office on this beautiful Friday.

Have a good one yourself.


  1. I am super envious of your Friday.

    One thing I learned last weekend was how technologically advanced the weapons of the Civil War actually were. Even though a lot of the fighting was with bayonet, the different cannon/arty options surprised me.

    It's a shame that we dedicate resources to develop ways to make cannons better, even back then...

    Hope your weekend is enjoyable.

  2. The pictures are amazing - I too am envious of your get up and go spirit! Have a wonderful weekend.

  3. Sounds like a lovely time and a great way to be of service.

    I hope your program and your day work wonderfully...

  4. Sounds like an awesome Friday! Enjoy it and your weekend!

  5. Sounds beautiful.

    Have fun with the brownies--that should be a really fun time!

    Good weekend to you.

  6. I was lucky to spend the day outside also, sans biting flies and very few mosquitoes.
    I bet you are a great teacher.

  7. wonderful pcitures Syd, looks very inviting. I know the brownies will surely have a memorable day with you.Brownies was a fun time for me as well when I was a wee one.. You are the right one to teach them.. Have fun. ENJOY your weekend and thanks for sharing it. SMILES

  8. The sands of time have not been kind to the lighthouse. Mindful of the erosion along the Houston Ship channel.

  9. i love your fascination with history, mu daughter is an honors history geek in HS right now but she talks about it all the time, what an amazing thing to know ones history. we took a drive out to wamego kansas a while back and stopped at the beecher bible and rifle church. wes asked me if i knew why they called it that and i said no and adrianna shouted out oh i do, that is part of the underground railroad and they used to hide rifles in crates line with bibles to fight the people looking for runaway slaves. i guess the pastor of the church would smuggle the guns and it was really cool to hear all this from my little girl. growing up on the west coast we never heard of the little places like this, we read about the underground railroad and all but not putting a place to a name that was cool.

  10. I really love ther way you write about places, the history, the descriptions, the indepth understanding of plants and wildlife. And always the sea...

  11. What a great place and some superb photography. Good post. Have a good weekend Syd

  12. Sounds like you like an idyllic life. I especially love the last picture of the driftwood and it gives me a great idea for a blog entry. Thanks, Syd.

  13. Nice post on barrier islands. It is amazing how dynamic they are. Most of us humans just can't seem to accept that.

  14. OMG, that is otherworldly. I bet ghosts walk there, aplenty.

  15. I just love it when you talk civil war:0

  16. Well I hope that you had a great day, I love picking up shells n stuff from the beach. It's certainly something I never grew out of as a kid.

    What a great way to spend your day.


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