In this month’s edition of ghost town trails, we will visit Fort Macomb, an abandoned Civil War-era fort in Louisiana. It is a long way east (about 1,700 miles, actually) from the Techatticup Mine, featured last month.
Fort Macomb history
The United States built Fort Macomb in 1822, just seven years after British forces invaded the New Orleans area from the sea, at the close of the War of 1812. The intent of the new fort was to prevent a similar occurrence in the future.
It was originally named Fort Wood in 1827, and renamed Fort Macomb in 1851, for General Alexander Macomb, who was a U.S. Army General.
The small fort was designed like a pie wedge with the curved front containing cannons facing the channel. The curve overlaps the two straight walls, forming demi-bastions. At the salient of the two straight walls is a full bastion facing landward. The fort was surrounded by two wet ditches (moats) with extensive outworks between the ditches. On the parade grounds inside the fort stands a citadel, a defensive barracks in the event the walls were breached by attacking forces.
Early in the American Civil War, a Louisiana garrison took control of and occupied the fort starting on January 28, 1861. In 1862, the Union Army regained control of the fort while also occupying nearby New Orleans.
In 1867, the barracks caught fire, after which the fort was largely abandoned by the U.S. Army. It was decommissioned in 1871. Since then, time and hurricanes have taken their toll on the abandoned fort. (Source Wikipedia)
Fort Macomb used for filming scenes
Over the past ten years, the fort has been used for filming scenes from the following:
- The climax of the first-season finale of the 2014 television series True Detective was filmed on location at Fort Macomb.
- This site was also a filming location for the television series Into the Badlands in 2015.
- In 2016, Beyoncé filmed portions of her critically acclaimed visual album, Lemonade, at Fort Macomb.
- Episode 17 of Season 4 of NCIS: New Orleans used the location for a concluding scene.
If the fort looks familiar, now you know why.
Fort Macomb – Our discovery and visit
Most of my ghost town adventures take place in the 11 Western states, where the Western Expansion created many boom-and-bust towns, mining camps and railroad outposts. Unfortunately, the eastern United States, being more populated and settled for much longer doesn’t contain as many opportunities for ghost town enthusiasts like me.
Surprise discovery east of the Mississippi
My wife and I recently found ourselves in New Orleans heading east toward Biloxi, Mississippi. Doing an online search for things to see and do along the way, I came across an obscure mention of an abandoned fort named Fort Macomb. The first entry I found mentioned it was on private property and permission must be obtained to visit. However, another entry mentioned the state of Louisiana has come into possession of the site. Other entries were from bloggers that had visited the site conveying their experiences. “Flying” to the site via Google Earth on my smartphone provided a satellite view showing the outline of the old fort walls covered by brush.
Since we were short on time and needed to get going, I didn’t research accessibility further. Fortunately, it was along our route so it would be easy to stop by and see if we, too, could explore.
Time to explore!
Navigation delivered us to the side of a moat with the fort visible on the other side. Again, using Google Earth satellite view on my smartphone, I could see a nearby road that provided access to the fort. Soon we were driving through two open, unposted chain link gates, arriving within feet of the heavy wood entry doors to Fort Macomb. The gates to the fort were also open and unposted. Now it was time to explore!
Walking through the gates was like entering a scene from an Indiana Jones movie. Gnarled vines hung across brick arches which provided access to darkened corridors, while trees and brush partially obscured other features of the old fort. I could hear the words of Harrison Ford, saying “I hate snakes,” while I looked for booby traps afoot. Luckily, I didn’t encounter any snakes or booby traps, but instead marveled at the brick work, cannon ports and other well-preserved details of the fort. Even the arched tracks on the floor which allowed swivel cannons to pivot were intact and visible. What an unexpected treat this was for an adventurous RVer like me.
Fort Macomb – Getting There:
I normally provide precise information on how to reach the ghosted places I write about. If you are an “easy chair explorer” it’s no big deal. However, in this case, I am going to make those that want to explore in person do a little research. Given the site has not been heavily vandalized or graffitied, I want to do my part to keep it that way. I have found that the unsavory types that would do such things won’t take the time to do their own “homework”. Trust me, it wasn’t hard to find the information and/or coordinates online.
The State of Louisiana owns the property, not a private party. Generally, state land is open to public use, but I can’t find a specific government-issued reference regarding the fort. Those that do a little research will find many people have visited the site in person without incident. As mentioned, at the time of my visit (March 2023) the gates were open and the site was not posted against trespass.
Disclaimer – As with exploring any abandoned place, your safety is not assured. Possible hazards include falling debris, poisonous reptiles, trip hazards, uneven walking surfaces, poor lighting, unsafe structures, sharp objects, etc. If you choose to explore, it is at your own risk and peril.
There are multiple RV Parks to the west of the Fort Macomb site. The nicest of the bunch is New Orleans RV Resort & Marina.
The nearest public-operated campground is Pearl River Campground, which is part of a WMA (Wildlife Management Area). Learn more here.
If you like that stuff and already down south, I’d recommend Fort Morgan way down south in Alabama. Near Gulf Shores.
Built to protect Mobile Bay.
Well taken care of I think it was free.
Thomas, it was too far to drive from where we were staying in Biloxi. We did drive out to Fort Gaines though which is just across the mouth of the bay from Fort Morgan. Hope to visit Fort Morgan on our next visit to the area. Thx!
Thank you for this story!
Looks just like Fort Pulaski in Savannah Ga. It’s a National Park site and a really interesting place to visit for the whole family.