Saturday, November 28, 2009
Built in 1817, historic Old Baldy Lighthouse has stood watch over North Carolina's famed Cape Fear region for more than 190 years.
The waters surrounding Bald Head Island are among the most historic in the South. It was here that the "gentleman pirate" Stede Bonnett finally met his match and the notorious Blackbeard once cruised the hidden inlets of the Cape Fear River.
Because the stretch of coast was so treacherous in the days before modern navigational systems, the U.S. Government selected Bald Head Island at the mouth of the Cape Fear to become the site of an important lighthouse. The original structure was endangered by erosion less than ten years after it was completed, so the tower was taken down and the materials used in 1817 to build the Old Baldy Lighthouse that stands today.
There is no way to know how many storms, hurricanes and gales the lighthouse has weathered over the years. It also weathered the storm of the Civil War. The Confederates built Fort Holmes on Bald Head Island as one of a system of forts that helped keep the Cape Fear open to blockade runners until nearly the end of the war.
Old Baldy Lighthouse today is a fascinating historic site that draws visitors from around the world to Bald Head Island. To learn more, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/oldbaldy.
Friday, November 27, 2009
One of the most unique historic sites in the South is located just off U.S. Highway 231 in Ozark, Alabama.
Built in 1852, historic Claybank Church is one of the last standing antebellum log churches in Alabama. Its hand hewn log walls remain remarkably preserved and the interior of the structure has been restored to give visitors a chance to walk into the past and see the environment in which our ancestors worshipped.
Although it was not originally affiliated with a denomination, the Claybank Church eventually became a Methodist congregation. It survived the destruction of the guerrilla war that took place in South Alabama from 1863-1865 during the final years of the Civil War and remained in use until a new sanctuary was built for the congregation during the 20th century.
In addition to the church itself, this remarkable historic site includes the old Claybank Cemetery, where the resting places of many of South Alabama's early pioneers can be seen. Both Confederate and Union soldiers from the Civil War are buried there.
To learn more about Claybank Church, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/claybankchurch.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Rising 160 feet above the waters of Pensacola Bay, the beautiful old Pensacola Lighthouse has been a Florida landmark since 1859.
Built under the supervision of John Newton, who later became a major general in the service of the Union during the Civil War (he commanded the "Iron Brigade" at Gettysburg after the death of General John Reynolds), the lighthouse has a long and colorful history.
Seized by Confederate forces just two years after it was finished, the light was darkened and its lense removed to prevent Union ships offshore from using it to assist in navigation. Southern troops constructed an artillery battery at the base of the tower and it figured prominently in the massive bombardment that took place at Pensacola in November of 1861. Union gunners across the bay at Fort Pickens targeted the tower and it withstood the shock of at least six direct hits by heavy cannonballs.
After the Confederates evacuated Pensacola in early 1862, the lighthouse was repaired and its lens was replaced. It remains in operation today, although it was automated some years ago.
Numerous stories surround the historic structure, including local tradition that it is haunted by several ghosts. In fact, the tower was featured this week on the popular SyFy Channel program "Ghost Hunters."
To learn more about the historic Pensacola Lighthouse and to see additional photographs, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/pensacolalighthouse.