Tag Archive | military history

Circus Trip 2018: Fort Knox

Day 54, Friday, September 7, 2018
Fort Knox State Historic Site, Prospect, Maine

First off, I just want to say that this is the “other” Fort Knox, and it is actually the original Fort Knox.  The one that most people think of when they hear Fort Knox is the one in Kentucky, which is adjacent to the United States Bullion Depository, which holds about half of the United States’ gold reserves. So now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s move on!

This Fort Knox was built between 1844 and 1869. After the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, there was some considerable anti-British sentiment lingering.  The Aroostook War in 1838-1839 revived that sentiment when military troops and civilians in Maine clashed with the British troops and subjects in New Brunswick; it was essentially a border dispute fueled by valuable lumber.  Never heard of the Aroostook War, you say?  Well, you may know it as the Pork and Beans War – because of course the mainstay of a lumberjack diet was said to be pork and beans (stay with me here, it gets better!)…  So apparently there were disputes over timber when some Canadians cut some trees on land that the Americans considered their land.

Then a hapless black bear wandered along and just wanted the lumberjacks to leave, or was looking for a meal; the bear was not interviewed about his side of the story….  So the bear comes along and attacks three Canadian lumberjacks and badly injures two; the Canadians then shoot and kill the bear.  The American lumberjacks nearby hear the gunfire and think the Canadians are shooting at them, so they shoot back. Thankfully no one was injured (by the gunfire at least).

Obviously, tensions are pretty high at this point and both sides start mustering militiamen in the area…  Diplomats got involved and saved the day, negotiating a treaty that would set the border in Maine, mostly along the St. John River, but also throwing in some border clarifications in New Hampshire, Michigan and Minnesota too.  And you thought these insane omnibus bills that Congress passes were a new thing, but nooo… This treaty also created a joint naval system between the Americans and the British to suppress the African slave trade off the coast of Africa.  Because, of course that seems related!

Tensions remained though, and a few years later the Americans started building Fort Knox along the Penobscot River.  Fort Knox was the first fort to be built entirely of granite and is nearly unchanged from the time that it was built.  It was never totally completed, and although it never saw battle, it was manned by regiments during the Civil War and the Spanish American War.  When the U.S. Government declared it excess property in 1923 and sold it, the State of Maine picked it up for a song, paying only $2,121!

These days it is operated as a State Historic Site and nearly the entire fort is open to the public!   I enjoyed wandering around and checking out all the rooms.  There is even a hot shot oven, designed to heat up cannon shots to fire at ironclads.

In 2018 when I visited, an $8 ticket got you access to Fort Knox and the Penobscot Narrows Bridge Observatory.  What a deal!  And one final side note – I ate lunch that day in the picnic area at the park, and this adorable little guy was really, really hoping to grab a snack!  Don’t worry, I didn’t feed him, but I did get some photos of his antics!

Circus Trip 2018: Indiana Military Museum

Day 28, Sunday, August 12, 2018

Vincennes, Indiana

Sunday morning was my last day in Vincennes.  Although I loved the town, I needed to keep moving east!  I did want to visit one last place before I headed out; the Indiana Military Museum.

This museum is obviously a labor of love for a military collector.  They had thousands of artifacts displayed, packed in a series of display cases and floor space.  They had weapons, vehicles, uniforms and other military artifacts.  They also had crossover items, including needlepoint and sewing made by the spouse of veterans, military movie memorabilia and an assortment of eclectic items that once belonged to Indiana Veterans.

The highlight of the museum was Sergeant Carey, a Veteran volunteer who showed me around.  He served from 1957 to 1963, then rejoined 20 years later and served for another 13 years.  He took so much pride in his volunteer assignment, and truly enjoyed pointing out some of his favorite pieces.

The photographs of New York City and the Twin Towers taken by astronauts orbiting the earth on the morning of 9/11 made me emotional.  Watching the smoke swirl up into the sky from space was heartbreaking.  There was a cargo dump truck that is one of only three known in the world.  They even have a glass eye from the late 1800s!

An antique glass eye

Outside the museum, there are a number of planes, helicopters and tanks on display.

I enjoyed wandering among the exhibits and seeing pieces of military history up close.  I could have spent much more time there, but I needed to get back on the road!